Outer Hebrides Tour Diary – Part 7: Luskentyre

9th July 2014: Donald John MacKay MBE – Luskentyre Harris Tweed

Aggie at Luskentyre

Aggie at Luskentyre

Another sunny day, and we set out along the beach road at Luskentyre to find Donald John MacKay MBE’s weaving shed. If you haven’t heard of Donald John Mackay, here he is on an episode of BBC’s Coast:


Donald John MacKay was awarded a MBE in 2011 for his services to the Harris Tweed industry. As shown in the video above, he became famous when he was commissioned by Nike to weave Tweed for use in their trainers. Weavers across the Outer Hebrides were marshalled into action to help fulfil the massive order, which came at a time when the flagging Harris Tweed industry sorely needed a boost.

Donald John Mackay

Donald John Mackay MBE

When I arrived at Donald John’s weaving shed he had been up through the night weaving a black and white herringbone tweed, commissioned to be made in to curtains and which he had just cut off his Hattersley loom moments before I arrived.

Aggie on top of Donald John's Loom

Aggie on top of Donald John’s Loom

He was thrilled to see Aggie and told us about his border terrier puppy, who was unfortunately (for us) away having a run on the beach. It was Donald John’s idea to get Aggie up on top of the loom for an impromptu photoshoot.

Norman Mackenzie – Carloway Tweed

Ian mmmm

Norman Mackenzie

We also visited another weaver named Norman Mackenzie, who gave us an informative talk through the process of weaving from warping to weaving the cloth. I was interested to find out how a Hattersley Loom works as it is very different to my own loom. For example, it uses a pattern chain, a type of punch-card system shown in the photo below, to automatically throw the shuttles in the correct colour order.

If a new tweed is designed, a pattern chain has to be built from scratch using pliers to unlink and rejoin the metal plates to the correct order. In reality, most tweeds follow one of a handful of standard patterns (using different coloured yarn for variation), so weavers mostly get by with a set of standard chains, one for each of these patterns.

Pattern chains

Pattern chains

That evening we arrived at our next campsite, Eilian Fraoich in Shawbost, where we spent the evening enjoying a beer in the sunshine and I took the chance to finish my weaving project. By this point I had collected all sorts of items to weave into the structure, including sheep’s fleece, mermaid’s purses and a shoe lace from a lost shoe.

Complete project

My weaving project

Close up - ropes and fleece

Close up – ropes and fleece

Our campsite was also close to both the Harris Tweed Hebrides Mill and Shawbost Weavers, both of whom we were planning to visit the next day…

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One Response to Outer Hebrides Tour Diary – Part 7: Luskentyre

  1. Cynthia August 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing the result of your’collected items’ weaving project ever since you mentioned it at the start. Impressive!
    With best wishes,

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An they a’ need the wark o' the weavers.