This is a milling machine. An old one.
Part of the finishing process for woven cloth, milling involves pummelling the material in order to break up the fibres and pull them together.
The cloth shrinks slightly, becoming denser and acquiring a spongier handle. It is a mild version of what you do if you accidentally shrink a sweater in the washing machine. It is creative destruction.
Milling is one of the many processes that a weaver can use to control the finish on its cloth – from smooth to hairy, heavy to light. Begg recently refurbished this old, wooden machine because it is one of the ways it achieves its distinctive ripple finish on its scarves.
Unlike many old machines, this one seems to produce a genuinely different effect to modern equivalents, largely because of the room the cloth has to move, and its particular ‘punching’ action.
I love old machines when they have a reason to be. It’s pretty too, right?