Development of the Jacquard Loom

Jacquard weaving cards in the Museum of Scotland
Jacquard weaving cards in the Museum of Scotland

The jacquard hand loom developed out of the draw-loom, a type of shaft loom. This is quite a long story, by the 2nd century BCE the Chinese were using the draw-loom to weave elaborate brocades. Technology travels and in the 17th century French draw-loom weavers in Lyon were able to weave an inch of elaborate silk brocade in a day.

The inevitable drive to make production quicker and easier led to new developments. In 1725 Basile Bouchon, being the son of an organ maker, was familiar with the pegged cylinders used in musical boxes and barrel organs. He developed a loom using perforated paper loops and needles for selecting cords to raise the warp ends.

In 1726 Jean-Bapiste Falcon made it quicker to change a design on the loom by substituting perforated rectangular paper cards attached to one another for the paper loops. In 1745 Jacques de Vaucanson developed this to create an automated look using a perforated cylinder, hooks and needles to select and raise the warp threads.

Joseph Marie Jacquard combined several of the mechanisms developed by Bouchon, Vaucason and Falcon. In 1790 Jacquard invented the Jacquard attachment, a head sitting on top of the loom, making his name synonymous with this type of loom. Looms with jacquard heads are called jacquard looms. Some modern ‘jacquard’ looms such as my TC2 do not have a jacquard head, and can operate in studios without high roof spaces.

Jacquard’s system involves stiff cards with patterns of punched holes, rods and hooks. To raise warp threads a card is placed above a set of rods, lining up with the holes. The placement of holes allows rods to pass through the cards where there are holes. The rod passing through the card lifts an associated hook and raises a warp thread. Each row in the cards determines the threads to be lifted for each weft pick.

The jacquard weaver can develop fabulously intricate designs by tying hundreds of cards together in a sequence.

The developments Joseph Marie Jacquard and his predecessors made to the lifting devices and operation of looms allowed a single weaver to quickly produce complex patterned cloth. In one hour he could now weave what had formerly taken 24, revolutionising textile production.

Modern mills have jacquard looms with as many as with over 20,000 warp ends all controlled individually. Imagine the potential!

Watch the studio TC2 digital jacquard loom at work. Read my jacquard article for the Journal for Weaves Spinners and Dyers,and my previous blog post describing what a jacquard loom is

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