Kenny: Weaving Harris Tweed on an old loom

Kenny Maclennan
Harris Tweed weaver
Isle of Lewis

Favourite thing: Hattersley loom

This is the Hattersley. When I started off weaving first of all, this is what I had. But what I had, it was older than this. This one’s got ball bearings on it; it’s much easier compared to what I had when I started weaving first of all.

“It was my mother that taught me how to weave”

I started weaving when I left school. You’ll see bearings in there in the axles there. Now the loom I had didn’t have any of this. This was my mother-in-law’s loom. She was weaving here and my own mother had one exactly like this. It was my mother that taught me how to weave. And when I got the new double-width loom, I just didn’t have the heart to throw this out at all. I couldn’t. It’s a great piece of engineering. There’s only a handful of these left on the island that still work.”

Do you use it?

“Occasionally. I made a piece… Carol (his wife) actually wanted a coat, a Harris Tweed coat and she picked up the design and I wove it on this. And she got a coat made out of it. She was quite happy with it.

“In the summer, when people are here, they come and have a look at this working. They’re fascinated by it”

I use this for the house next door here, it’s for holiday letting and in summer when people are here, they come and have a look at this working. They’re absolutely fascinated by it. They prefer this one to the double of course. Maybe you’ll understand why when you hear it working. I’ll give you a wee demo. (clattering noise) Just like a clock.

I love working with this one, occasionally. But I prefer the big double-width loom. At first, I was in two minds about getting the double width but I’m glad I did: it’s easier to work on.

“It’s made for working, this machine”

The only thing that goes wrong with this older loom, if it’s left for a long time without being working, these leather belts they dry out and go hard. It’s made for working, this machine. And I think it’s a great piece of engineering: the way everything works.

A lot of other weavers got rid of these single-width looms when the double-width came in. And I just couldn’t.”

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