People often ask about when and how we became weavers and where we found the looms.
The answer is quite simple - we heard about the looms through a friend in 2005, went and had a look at them in Lawrence, Rod fell in love with what he calls the "simple mechanics" of them, we bought them and shipped them to Oamaru where he restored them and taught himself to weave.
A simple answer to a journey of life, love and learning...
The History of our Hattersley Looms
We weave all our McLean & Co. fabrics ourselves on a very rare and unique Hattersley Domestic Weaving System which includes three cast iron looms and a warping mill that are operated by hand (and feet), and a bobbin winder and pirn winder which have been adapted to operate using electricity at some point in their history. Our Hattersley Weaving system is the only one in Australasia, and possibly the only intact original one left in the world.
The Hattersley Domestic Weaving System was designed by George Hattersley and Sons in Keighley, northern England in 1895, responding to a need for a compact treadle operated loom which could be used in domestic settings in remote locations to weave semi-commercial lengths of fabric, usually supplying local woollen and weaving mills. The cast iron looms were designed to take the place of wooden hand looms, and use much of the technology developed for power looms. Each of our three looms have foot pedals and are treadled which makes producing fabric easier and faster than weaving on hand looms, as all the motions of the loom are connected through a crankshaft and gear wheels.
Although it is believed these innovative looms were originally designed for the Balkans, they ended up in the Scottish Isles, particularly Lewis and Harris where they became the mainstay of the Harris Tweed industry. The first thirty looms arrived in the Outer Hebrides in 1919, providing returning WW1 soldiers with rehabilitation and a means of earning a living.
We haven't been able to find much out about our looms before 1946 when they arrived at the Riccarton Rehabilitation League workshops in Christchurch, to provide rehabilitation and employment for disabled NZ servicemen returning from WW2. They remained in Christchurch until 1970 when they were purchased by the Wellington Weaving Company and relocated to Palmerston North. In 1985 the looms were bought by Westland Tweed Ltd in Hokitika, and in 1995 they moved to Te Anau, then Lawrence, before arriving in Oamaru in 2006 in a state of disrepair.
Rod has since brought the McLean & Co. Hattersley Weaving System back into production, teaching himself to care for this unique and very special textile manufacturing system, and weave fine woollen fabrics.