When visiting Hawick in the Scottish Borders, one will notice the textile heritage of this town. Cashmere shops and centres, also a textile museum are spread in the town. On the Johnstons of Eligin the Cashmere visitor centre in Hawick, you will find, beside the Cashmere shop a small show to illustrate the history, a very interesting old hand loom frame.
On the identification card of the hand loom frame you will read:
Based on the 1589 design of the Reverend William Lee, this hand frame is over 250 years old and was originally designed for making stockings. Lee was an out of work clergyman who invited what was known as the bearded needle whilst working for Henry IV in Rouen, France. Queen Elizabeth I of England refused to grand a patent for this machine, fearing unemployment amongst peasant farmers, and he hence died penniless in Paris in 1611. On his return to England, Lee’s brother, James continued with development and by the mid 1600s the machinery was well established. In Scotland, stocking making became a successful business with production in Hawick commencing in 1771 and then greatly accelerated by the arrival of enterprising Englishman, John Nixon in 1774. By 1812 there were estimated to be 500 frames at work in Hawick.
This machine was converted in 1850 to knitting Shetland type lacy shawls and in 2006 Johnstons of Elgin commissioned a renovation via the world renewed and last remaining UK lace knitters, G H Hurt of Chilwell, Nottinghamshire. On a good hand frame like this a knitter could produce 60 scarves per day and this type of machine laid the foundations for all the present knitting machinery in use in Hawick today. Hand frames were gradually phased out at the end of the 19th Century in favour of power frames and these in turn are now being replaced by impressive new machines from companies such as Shima in Japan and Stoll in Germany who have developed new technology with sophisticated software to allow fast and reliable knitting of virtually any product.