Meet Norman Hattersley
Something wonderful, unpredictable and amazing happened in 2019.
At Easter, after loving Mull and Skye in 2018, we went to the Uists, Harris and Lewis In the Outer Hebrides.
It’s a beautiful part of the world, the weather was amazing and we loved the sights.
The beaches on Harris are unbelievably clean and the sea is so so clear it’s like the Bahamas (apparently) except that even in summer you’d need a woolly hat and a coat. We especially loved Luskentyre and Seilebost where there’s an amazing campsite in an old primary school.
As you probably know we’re big tweed fans and I love creating knitwear and clothing. As Lune Valley Textiles I have created unique ponchos, wraps and scarves since June 2018.
Well, we went to the best beach in Scotland at Luskentyre and we were told that the best weaver on Harris lived there. With some trepidation, we went to the ‘sixth cottage along’ and knocked on the shed door (because the window blind was up) and were welcomed by a twinkly-eyed septegenarian weaver called Don John Mackay MBE.
He told us about Harris Tweed and how he’d been making tweed since he was a boy. We watched him weaving, he talked us through the process and made about a metre of cloth pedalling his loom as he went.
He was chatty and friendly and let us take video and pictures alongside a slightly bemused Dutch couple.
We paid for two metres of lovely cloth...and as we did so, we saw some trainers on the bench and I asked him about them. He smiled and said that in 2003, when the Tweed industry was on the decline and many weavers had retired with no children to take over their looms, he took a call from Nike asking for cloth. Nike were going to make a trainer made from Harris Tweed and needed 20,000 metres of cloth.
Could he help them?
No. He couldn’t on his own, but if he called round and got some weavers together and decided they could meet their needs then it was a deal.
They did it.
The Harris Tweed Authority was brought back to life as part of this project and Nike called again in 2008 asking for a further 80,000 metres. The industry was brought back onto its feet and the fabric became popular once more.
Anyway, as we left Don-John’s shed I turned to Bernie, my husband, and said “I’m sorry”
He said “what for?”
I said “I want a Hattersley loom”
We returned home and I got to work...I have to say that one of my key skills is that I’m a brilliant networker and researcher. Within 3 weeks I had found out all about the looms, their models and had tracked one down to the Isle of Lewis.
Within 4 weeks we had one and it arrived, all mixed parts on a pallet!
Armed with a technical manual - The Harris Tweed Manual - written in wordy language with very few diagrams AND the help of a Navy engineer, his project manager girlfriend and a barman from our local we set to!
It took four weeks to put the 2 machines together fuelled by food, beer and laughs.
In May Half Term we returned to Harris and Lewis and went weaver-mithering, getting loads of advice and pictures from very friendly weavers...
Most shook their heads but were extremely helpful and funny.
Loads of advice and support and warnings that we can’t make.Harris Tweed because of all the rules around it:
- must be made by a human-powered loom;
- must be made at the weaver’s premises on Harris or Lewis;
- must be made from Scottish wool;
- must be finished in Hebrides.
They helped us with setting up and logistics of weaving.
The process for getting our Hattersley Domestic Loom working was circuitous and complex and we had loads of help from experienced weavers from Langholm in the Borders and the wonderful Miriam from Warrington who used to demonstrate the looms at Styal Mill for the National Trust.
Finally in the last couple of weeks we’ve had the loom working properly but we’re finding out that weaving cloth has lots of elements to it and lots of things that can change - depending on tensions, rhythm and fluidity as well as wool type and strength.
I should introduce you properly to the loom.
Although it’s a George Hattersley Domestic Loom from Keighley, we call him Norman.
That’s because when we put the last part together we found this name scratched into the wood at the front of the shaft.
Say hello to Norman Hattersley.
In just 8 months we have learned so much. I have become a tweed weaver and my husband a loom engineer! The journey has been incredible and promises to continue to be so.
In 2020 my business Lune Valley Textiles will be supplying woven fabrics for home furnishings, upholstery and clothing.
We just can’t wait!
- go to the Outer Hebrides. It’s amazing, beautiful and welcoming;
- sunsets are awe-inspiring there;
- @LuneValleyTextiles is on Instagram;
Have a look around the site!