Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Weaving Harris Tweed

This evening I finally got my Hattersley loom working - with help from an expert.  I have now managed to weave some tweed.  It is not without flaws, and is unlikely to achieve the Harris Tweed certification standard, but at least I am managing to make the loom function as it should.  Perhaps the second half of the bale will be adequate.

For tweed to be certified as Harris Tweed there are several criteria that have to be met.
  • the entire process from dyeing the wool to finishing the cloth must be carried out in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland
  • the yarn used must be 100% pure new Scottish wool
  • the tweed must be hand woven to a suitable standard at the weaver's home (or in my case, my mother's home - which is mine when I am on the island.)
Once these criteria are met, the tweed will be stamped with the orb trade mark and labels issued according to the number of metres of tweed.

I hope that I will soon be in a position where I can start using it for some of the things we make.  In particular, my plan is to weave tweed that we can use for making our scarves, wraps and Hebridean Hoods as they have fringes.  I can incorporate the fringes as I am weaving rather than having to fray off the ends as I would with tweeds bought off the roll at the mills.  I am also looking forward to having tweeds which are unique to us.

The loom will take up to 80 metres length of warp and the weave pattern has to be the same for the entire length but it doesn't all have to be woven with the same weft.  I can chop and change to my heart's content.   There is a system on the loom for weaving patterns with different colours - a chain of small plates with holes in them.  There is a locator hole at each end of the plate and then there can be either 1 hole or two in between these. If there is one hole on the left the shuttle box will move forward one colour, if the hole is on the right it will move back and if there are two holes, it will stay on the same colour.  By arranging the plates in a particular order and putting colours into the shuttle box in a set order some very complex patterns can be woven.  However, I plan to just get to grips with a single weft colour before I try out that side of things!

I have just uploaded a video clip - very short - that shows me pedalling the loom.  It can be seen here -

In the meantime, I will still have to buy my tweed from other people as I certainly can't produce enough to keep the Anna Macneil team going.  I doubt that I will ever get to the stage where we can be self-sufficient in tweed - and anyway, I don't really want to spend my time weaving plain colours, but I really am looking forward to being able to say that I made something from weaving the cloth through to finished product.

Saturday, 11th August - Update

I have surprised myself!  And impressed myself too!   I have finished weaving the warp that was on the loom.  It didn't take as much energy as I had anticipated - or perhaps it was the thrill of achievement that provided the adrenaline to keep pedalling.  I estimate that it is taking me 20 minutes to weave 1 metre of tweed, but I am not sure how much the tweed shrinks when it is finished - the metre may end up at 80cm.  By the end of the tweed I had got to grips with repairing broken warp ends, going back a little if I had run out of weft and how to keep an eye on the weft so that I didn't run out.  I reckon at least 20 metres of what I have woven will be good quality tweed.
One picture shows the roll of woven tweed at the front of the loom, the other the back beam, with the warp still tied on but nothing left wrapped around the beam.

So, first thing Monday morning I will start preparing a new warp.  I think I will go for an olive green warp this time but it depends how many full cops of yarn I can find in the right colours.  Watch this space!

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