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Computers & Looms - All Fiber Arts

A history of computers and looms, and what they have in common.  


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Computers and looms - updated page

Computers and Looms

Did you know that the loom and the computer are related? In 1740 Jacques de Vaucanson designed the first usable automated draw loom. The control system he employed in his design was a metal cylinder with studs, similar to the cylinders used for player pianos. Later in 1801, Joseph-Marie Jacquard further developed this idea and simplified the automatic loom through a system of perforated cards.

jacquard loom
His father was a weaver, and his invention simplified complex treadling sequences. His Jacquard loom became the precursor to the computer. The holes in the cards controlled which shed rose in a particular pattern sequence - similar to the system of punch cards in early computers.

With the invention of the automated Jacquard loom, came the threat of unemployment. The silk weavers threatened Jacquard with death, and his looms were sold as junk.

In the early 1800's Charles Babbage invented a steam driven machine to calculate numbers.
babbage18.jpg, 79510 bytes
Charles Babbage's Difference Engine
Science Museum
London England
The idea to use punch cards for information input into his analytical machine (which was his 'second generation calculating machine after the difference engine) was Babbage's, being inspired by Jacquard's loom design. Babbage actually visited the silk weaving studions in Lyon to see the Jacquard looms in action.
Ada Lovelace was a publicizer of Babbage's ideas and designs about automated computation.
IBM was born from the tabulator (sorting information recorded on punched cards) designed by Hollerith to deal with data collected for the 1890 US census. He was an ingenious engineer, but not a good salesman, so in comes Thomas Watson and Charles Flint (a super salesman and an archetypal capitalist) and the birth of IBM in the early 1920's. The punch cards were replaced by microprocessors and here we are now, connecting via the Net. Whether we working at our looms, designing our drafts in the latest weaving software or are surfing on the internet, it seems that the two are connected.

Many thanks to Anneliese Recklies for editing and providing additional information regarding this article.

More about Computers and Weaving

Mechanical Aids to Computation and the Development of Algorithms
The textile industry was the motivating force for the development of modern day computing or data storage.

Computer: Looking back
J.A.N. Lee's column in Computer, relates the development of the Jacquard loom to IBM's mechanical card-processing machines.

Introduction to Programming
Hand weavers, realized the cards possessed a value separate from the machine. The cards contained the pattern for the cloth, instructions for the machine and were the first examples of what we would call a program.

The Jacquard Loom
Although weaving is an intricate and delicate task, it is also repetitive. Joseph Jacquard automated the patterning through his system of punch cards.

Math & Weaving

Jacquard Looms

Computers and Looms


Handweaving Books

Weaving for Beginners: An Illustrated Guide (Peggy Osterkamp's New Guide to Weaving Series) Provides beginners with the information they need to weave in a clear and enjoyable step-by-step way. UK: Weaving for Beginners
The Handweaver's Pattern Directory Introduction to the tools, equipment, fibers, and yarns used with four-shaft looms, this reference features patterns for 600 different weaves, including twill, zigzag, diamond, herringbone, and block UK: Handweavers Pattern Directory
The Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns A thousand different patterns on more than 25 weave structures. UK: 8 Shaft Patterns
The Weaver's Companion (The Companion Series) Information on looms, yarn, methods of warping, drafting, troubleshooting, planning, and fabric finishing. UK: Weavers Companion
A Handweaver's Pattern Book A collection of 377 patterns for four-harness weaving, organized in groups of similar designs. This is one of the first weaving books I bought and it is still one of my favourites. UK: Handweavers Pattern Book
The Magic of Handweaving About the art of hand weaving, including the history and heritage of this timeless art, how looms work, what tools and equipment to use, the basics of good technique. UK: Magic of Handweaving
The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs and Materials This book covers basic subjects such as warping a loom and making bobbins of weft, as well as more elaborate, highly decorative projects: baby blankets, shawls, table cloths, and linen hand towels. UK: Big Book of Weaving
The Treasure Chest of Swedish Weaving Complete pattern drafts for rugs, curtain, table cloths, towels, bedspreads. UK: Treasure Chest of Swedish Weaving
Hand Weaving Patterns From Finland UK: Handweaving Patterns from Finland
Keep Me Warm One Night: Early Handweaving in Eastern Canada Coverlets & other items, including clothing, primarily of the 19th Century. UK: Keep Me Warm
Manual Of Swedish Handweaving A comprehensive book on handweaving in general which draws on the Swedish handweaving tradition, looms, charts, diagrams, weave composition patterns, technical drawings. UK: Manual Of Swedish Handweaving
Swedish Handweaving 180 handweaving patterns for pillows, curtains, blankets, rugs: 4 harness twills, honeycomb, lace, rosepath, extended point twills, damask. UK: Swedish Handweaving
The Weaver's Book: Fundamentals of Handweaving UK: Fundamentals of Handweaving
Key to Weaving: A Textbook of Hand-Weaving Techniques and Pattern Drafts for the Beginning Weaver A definitive guide to handloom weaving: step-by-step instructions, intricacies of color, fiber and how to use them effectively. UK: Key to Weaving
Weaving For Worship Handweaving for Churches and Synagogues UK: Weaving for Worship
Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age From the Industrial Age to the Information Age, connecting the loom to thefirst proper computer. UK: Jacquards Web
Mastering Weave Structures How to design threadings, channel the design power of the tie-up, and make the most of threading options, as well as understand fibers, setts, and color interactions. UK: Mastering Weave Structures
Favorite Scandinavian Projects to Weave: 45 Stylish Designs for the Modern Home A collection of 45 different furnishing textiles: colorful blankets, fanciful table runners, classic curtains, and embroidered hand towels. UK: Favorite Scandinavian Projects to Weave
Rug Weaving Techniques: Beyond the Basics Concise instructions and explanatory diagrams techniques for plain weave, twill and block weaves. UK: Rug Weaving Techniques
Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom The small, portable rigid heddle loom can be used to easily produce loose, drape-friendly fabric as well as dense, sturdy material. UK: Weaving Made Easy
The Weaver's Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom Techniques include leno, Brooks bouquet, soumak, and embroidery on fabric. UK: Weavers Idea Book
Collapse Weave: Creating Three-Dimensional Cloth Collapse cloth when removed from the loom and washed, takes on an entirely different appearance as the threads draw up and create puckers. UK: Collapse Weave
The Weaver's Studio: Doubleweave How to weave a tube, and a tube within a tube. UK: Doubleweave
Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving Wonderful projects and plain-weave variations, this user-friendly guide covers choosing, setting up, and weaving on a rigid heddle loom. UK: Hands on Rigid Heddle
The Woven Bag: 30+ Projects from Small Looms (Writers Digest Guides) Each bag is created using small looms, such as potholder looms, frame looms and knotted mesh looms. UK: The Woven Bag

Linen Weaving

Linen from flax seed to woven cloth Learn about flax cultivation, processing and spinning, natural and synthetic dyeing, and weaving and finishing linen cloth. UK: Linen from flax seed..
How to weave linens UK: How to Weave Linens
Reflections From A Flaxen Past : For Love of Lithuanian Weaving Flax tools and faces from archival photographs; textile images and patterns. UK: Reflections from a Flaxen Past

Rug Weaving Books

Making Rag Rugs: 15 Step-by-Step Projects Step-by-step instructions for 15 rugs that are hooked, prodded, clipped, or braided. UK: Making Rag Rugs
The Rag Rug Handbook Rag rugs from basic information to drafts for 20 traditional two- and four-shaft patterns. UK:Rag Rug Handbook
The Braided Rug Book: Creating Your Own American Folk Art The classic guide to an enduring American craft - Beginners will learn about wools and other materials, how to care for finished rugs, and how to recognize a quality rug. UK: Braided Rug Book
Twined Rag Rugs: Tradition in the Making Twining done with rag strips is an effective technique for making sturdy objects like rugs, bath mats, baskets, and bags. UK: Twined Rag Rugs

Weaving Videos

Warping the Loom Back to Front - A DVD Workshop with Peggy Osterkamp This workshop thoroughly explores the process of dressing a loom by yourself, from back to front. UK: Warping the Loom

Silk Textile Books

The Silk Weavers of Kyoto: Family and Work in a Changing Traditional Industry The makers of obi, the elegant and costly sash worn over kimono in Japan, belong to an endangered species. Tamara Hareven integrates historical research with intensive life history interviews to reveal the relationships among family, work, and community in this highly specialized occupation. UK: Silk Weavers of Kyoto
Silk Paper: A Guide To Making It And Using It In Textile Art the basic methods for creating silk paper in step-by-step detail to create flat and 3D designs, from framed pieces to jewelry. UK: Silk Paper
The Book of Silk Following the Silk Road from China and Japan through Asia into Europe, the story is as variegated as the rich colors, weaves, and embroideries that were used for the ceremonial or everyday accoutrements of the wealthy and powerful. UK:Book of Silk

Weaving and Dye Books

Woven Shibori (The Weaver's Studio series) Unlike traditional shibori, which uses stitches placed by needle on commercial cloth in the dyeing process, the "stitches" used in this new process are woven directly into the cloth, thus becoming part of the cloth's construction. UK: Woven Shibori

Weaving Books: Kindle

Small Loom & Freeform Weaving Kindle version Included are 30 small weaving projects, some of which can easily be completed in an evening or weekend. UK: Small Loom and Freeform Weaving
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