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TITLE
Waulking ["Walking"] blankets on Harris
EXTERNAL ID
QZP99_93154_04_08
PLACENAME
Harris
DISTRICT
Harris
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Harris
SOURCE
Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Edinburgh Central Library
ASSET ID
38503
KEYWORDS
tweed
textiles
local industries
crafts
waulking
waulking songs
Waulking ["Walking"] blankets on Harris

Waulking is the process for fulling Harris tweed (making it more airtight) and shrinking it slightly. The term "waulking" dates from the 14th century and was coined by a non-Gaelic speaker who saw a waulking done by feet and modified the word "walking". In Scotland, waulking was done predominantly by hand and exclusively by women.

The women would usually sit round a table on which the tweed was placed. If the table was too small, they used a door taken off its hinges. The number of participants varied but typically, there would be a woman at each end and four of five down each side. During the waulking, each woman would pull the cloth towards her, then pass it slightly to the left before pushing it back, beating it on the hard surface. The cloth was rotated clockwise so that it was evenly processed. Waulking the cloth anti-clockwise was considered unlucky.

Waulking songs, a musical form unknown elsewhere in Western Europe, accompanied the process. These are very rhythmic and maintained the rhythm of the beating. One person would sing the verse then everyone joined in the chorus. The verses and choruses are usually quite short (sometimes only a few syllables) though there can be many of them. One of the oldest waulking songs, "Seathan" (the son of a King of Ireland) is several pages long and would take well over an hour to sing.

The waulking process could last about 2-3 hours and there would often be a ceilidh afterwards. In the second half of the 20th century machines took over the process of fulling most commercially-produced cloth and the waulking tradition is now mainly carried on by a number of societies and in some home-craft industries


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Waulking ["Walking"] blankets on Harris

INVERNESS: Harris

tweed; textiles; local industries; crafts; waulking; waulking songs

Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Edinburgh Central Library

I F Grant Photographic Archive

Waulking is the process for fulling Harris tweed (making it more airtight) and shrinking it slightly. The term "waulking" dates from the 14th century and was coined by a non-Gaelic speaker who saw a waulking done by feet and modified the word "walking". In Scotland, waulking was done predominantly by hand and exclusively by women.<br /> <br /> The women would usually sit round a table on which the tweed was placed. If the table was too small, they used a door taken off its hinges. The number of participants varied but typically, there would be a woman at each end and four of five down each side. During the waulking, each woman would pull the cloth towards her, then pass it slightly to the left before pushing it back, beating it on the hard surface. The cloth was rotated clockwise so that it was evenly processed. Waulking the cloth anti-clockwise was considered unlucky.<br /> <br /> Waulking songs, a musical form unknown elsewhere in Western Europe, accompanied the process. These are very rhythmic and maintained the rhythm of the beating. One person would sing the verse then everyone joined in the chorus. The verses and choruses are usually quite short (sometimes only a few syllables) though there can be many of them. One of the oldest waulking songs, "Seathan" (the son of a King of Ireland) is several pages long and would take well over an hour to sing.<br /> <br /> The waulking process could last about 2-3 hours and there would often be a ceilidh afterwards. In the second half of the 20th century machines took over the process of fulling most commercially-produced cloth and the waulking tradition is now mainly carried on by a number of societies and in some home-craft industries <br /> <br /> <br /> This image can be purchased.<br /> For further information about purchasing and prices please email<br /> <a href="mailto: central.edsc.library@edinburgh.gov.uk">Edinburgh Central Library</a><br />