Weaving has been around since the approximately 6000 B.C. much after spinning. Manufacturing fabric involves two basic processes, spinning and weaving. Spinning involves making threads out of raw fibers like cotton. Once the threads are made, they are woven with the help of looms. The early looms were simple boards or frames with hooks are each end.
Usually, simple forms of textile weaving involve two threads meeting at perpendicular to each other. Over the years, the kinds of looms have changed and have given way to more complicated designs with ways to produce a variety of woven cloth. The textile industry saw took a leap with the invention of jacquard looms which made complex designs possible with the help of punctured cards dictating the design to be produced on the fabric. Looms are either hand-operated by artisans or mechanized in textile mills. We shall talk about the kinds of manual looms here.
A loom is a machine that holds various threads together in certain angles that allows for the threads to crisscross each other at right angles while interlacing between each other. The number of threads used for per inter lacing depends on the kind of fabric that one is looking to make. One of the most complicated and time-consuming steps of weaving is setting up the loom for weaving the kind of cloth that one wants to make. In present day, the jacquard loom is one of the most used looms in the textile industry. Every loom operates on similar principles by using some basic tools. These form the basic parts of every loom.
In a loom, one set of threads are laid parallel on the loom and are called ‘warp’. Another set of threads, called the ‘weft’ threads, go over and under the warp threads, over and over again, back and forth, weaving out lines of woven fabric. The weft meets the warp at right angles and are woven through by way of either fingers, a needle, or a hook. However, taking long lengths of weft over and over again interlacing through the warp is extremely tiring, time-consuming and not effective in terms of making intricate designs. This is the step where the ‘shuttle’ comes into play.
A shuttle is a small piece that has the weft threads wrapped around it and spooled up, so that the small piece can be simply passed through the warp back and forth every time a new row starts effectively without causing any disruption in the fabric. The shuttle is moved from one end to the other through the shed. Shedding is the process where two harnesses holding the warp threads alternatively separate the warp threads creating a gap in the middle where some warp threads form the upper shed and the others form the lower shed. This is formed when the two harnesses move in an upward and downward motion. When the gap is created between the alternative warp threads held apart, the filling threads are put in by the shuttle to produce the fabric. This is the filling insertion. The beat-up is performed by another piece of the loom which beats the filling threads into the fabric leading to a compact design. This entire process is done while the warp threads are let off from one end and the completed fabric is taken up on the other end of the loom.
These are some of the basic motions and processes every loom has in order to weave any simple or complex fabric. For a variety in designs, the jacquard loom has punch cards which relay the designs made initially on graphs to be depicted on the fabric when woven. The design is then transferred from the graph paper to the punch cards which are guidelines for which thread is to be passed through which hole in the punch card at which time to create the design on the woven fabric. It is amazing how one small design requires numerous punch cards to ensure that the correct design is woven.
Setting up the loom with all its parts is the most difficult part. Once that is set up, it is amazing how many kinds of fabric a loom can churn out. Depending on the number of threads, the quality and type of threads and the expertise of the weaver, a cloth can be a magical experience created by beautiful mechanics of a machine.