I was recently in Italy working on new collections for introduction late summer 2013 and beyond. I have also been reminded that 2014 will mark my 30th anniversary in the luxury linen business, which is hard to imagine.
Since I am presently working on new jacquard patterns, I thought it might be interesting to share photos of the Italian jacquard looms that weave our designs, including the new one to be introduced this coming August. For those of you less familiar with textiles, a jacquard – or damask – is a fabric with an intricately woven pattern. The weaving process is fascinating and high-tech and the “sheds” where our fabrics are woven are very noisy and, by necessity, very clean. Large suspended vacuums move on a track above each row of looms to remove airborne lint and dust that might otherwise get woven into the cloth in production.
The entire process, from design development to finished product, can take as long a one year to bring to market. In addition to the design, color, scale and yarn size need to be confirmed, yarns in custom colors need to be dyed and the warps prepared. Many of our original jacquard designs were done on older looms with punched cards, similar to a player piano, that controlled the design. These looms were slow and could weave only 100 mt or so per day (a picture of the punch card format follows below).
The newer looms are much faster and the designs (now in disc format) are driven by computer. In simplistic form, the program controls the raising or lowering of the harness, which guides the vertical warp thread so the weft (horizontal) yarns that run side to side across the width will lie over or under the warp yarn, creating the pattern.
Jacquard loom: Showing the tall harness (pink), which controls the warp thread placement. On the loom is a classic damask pattern.
Side view of jacquard loom: showing the huge height and scale of the harness for a wide width jacquard. Most of our jacquard fabrics are 130″ wide “loomstate” (ie unfinished off the loom) and 118″ wide finished (ie; after washing and calendaring).
Close-up of the weft and computer drive: the shuttle, once made of wood and now hard plastic, is moved back and forth at high speed across the width of the fabric. The placement of the yarn over or under the weft yarn creates the pattern.
Side view of the loom showing the weft yarn feed.
Old jacquard punch card system: this is a variation of the original punch card system developed in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard in France. The loom was controlled by a chain of punched cards laced together in continuous sequence, with each row of punched holes corresponding to one row of the design. This invention at the beginning of the 19th century vastly simplified the process of weaving textiles with complex designs and was the precursor to calculating machines and thus computing.