The Jacquard loom is called the forefather of automatic calculators. Computers, for instance. This was indeed the very first machine which could read the information contained on a punched card. But let’s see how Jacquard weaving works.
The 5 stages of Jacquard weaving
The machine invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard had such a remarkable success because it made the production even of extremely complex patterns simpler and faster. Before this extraordinary invention, looms needed a lot of heddles to move warp threads, because these had to shift independently of one another. So the people working at each loom were at least two: a weaver and an assistant, whose task was to set the heddles going at the right moment.
To solve this problem, Jacquard designed a device which works as follows:
the threads which must work together are collected in the same heddle and joined to a counterweight by means of a string hanging from above. You can see these strings in the photo on this page;
each string is connected to a series of punched cards, placed on a rotating cylinder. The holes on every piece of pasteboard correspond to the pattern which will appear on the fabric;
the holes on the pasteboard let only the corresponding counterweights fall: if the card has a hole through which the string can pass, then the weight falls and lift only the warp threads connected to it. All other warp threads remain where they are;
the weft threads can thus interweave with the weft and create the pattern;
after that, the weaver pushes this weft yarn with a beater and makes the punched cards move forward. So the strings find new holes and the pattern can keep on growing.
In this way, a loom can be simply operated by a single weaver, who doesn’t need someone to move the threads for her: the Jacquard loom can do that automatically.
In a word, it was a revolution: this was the first machine which could automatically repeat a series of actions. But what did this innovation mean, for Tessitura Bevilacqua?
The production of Italian Jacquard fabrics at Tessitura Bevilacqua
The 18 looms of our weaving room are all equipped with this machine, ever since the Tessitura was born, in 1875.
They’re the devices which let us produce 35-40 cm of velvet a day. It’s a handwork, anyway, because these looms are handled by our weavers, who must cut velvet by hand, too.
How do we take care of them? By using punched cards made of cardboard even in the 21st century, and by replacing their broken parts with those we collect from our other machines.
This is why we can still produce high-quality upholstery fabrics up to the tradition they represent.