The Harris Tweed® Journal

Pirn Winder

4th April

Listen to the rhythmic rattle of the pirn winder.

This machine winds the yarn onto pirns (in Gaelic known as ‘iteachan’), which are inserted inside wooden shuttles. The shuttles, which are about 30cm long, are placed into a revolving box and thrown from side to side on the loom, creating the weft – the left to right yarn. This is probably one of the biggest differences between the Hattersley single width and the Griffiths double width looms: the Griffiths has the rapier, whereas the Hattersley has shuttles.

As pirn winding cut into precious weaving time, traditionally, filling the pirns was every young islander’s first job. Some earned up to five shillings a week (almost £1 in today’s money). Iain Martin – who we see here using the machine – began at the age of five, winding them for his parents and grandparents.

Now, he winds them for his own weaving.

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Film by Alison Johnston/Encompass

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