The Hattersley Domestic Loom was the mainstay of the Harris Tweed industry for the best part of the 20th century and a few still remain in use today.
Introduced after World War 1, the Hattersley Mark I helped ex-servicemen who had lost hands and arms to earn a living through weaving. Its rate of production was superior to the wooden hand looms that preceded it and it was capable of weaving more complex patterns.
The loom was powered by foot treadles and the shuttle was thrown automatically as the tweed was woven. The first 30 of these looms arrived on the islands in 1919, of 36 inches reed space and single shuttles and was added to with the first six shuttle, 40 inch reed space looms which arrived in Stornoway in greater numbers in 1924. It is this version most commonly used loom in the islands and in use today.
The basic Mark I loom was treadle operated and the amount of effort to start the machine from rest, and to keep it in motion, varied from loom to loom, dependent on how well it has been erected and tuned. The shuttles that flew back and forth contained pirns of yarn, usually wound by a young assistant in the family to earn a little pocket money. Basically, no two looms feel the same to weave on – they all have distinct personalities and sound – and this is where their charm comes from.
A batch of Mark II looms were delivered to the islands in 1980 and there were number of essential differences between these and the Mark 1, namely the revolving box is of a larger size to hold a larger shuttle which can accommodate a larger weft pirn, the bottom shaft is supported by self-aligning bearings placed towards the outside of each crank and the tappets are mounted on a counter shaft which runs parallel with the bottom shaft. The new version had both advantages and disadvantages to the Mark 1.
From 1993 onwards the use of the Hattersley decline rapidly as the double-width Bonas Griffiths loom was introduced to produce and wider, lighter cloth of greater size to meet industry demands. However a number of weavers still work the old loom and the single width cloth remains in demand and of great value to traditional tailors and fashion designers the world over.