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History of Weaving

Development of textiles background to accompany a hands-on lesson involving looms.

Sandra Geil

on 10 February 2016

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Transcript of History of Weaving

Industrial Revolution

During this time the task of weaving cloth began slowly to move away from the family unit into specialized work places.
The Middle Ages
The Middle Ages
During the Neolithic Era mankind developed great skill in weaving cloth. Every household produced cloth for their own needs.
Neolithic Woven Cloth
Modern Warp Weighted Loom
During the early Neolithic Era simple weaving looms—man made tools to hold the warp (vertical) threads snugly in order, allowing the weaver to insert the weft threads—were developed.
Neolithic Era
The Neolithic Era
20,000 to 30,000 years ago early man developed the first string by twisting together handfuls of plant fibers.
The Development of String
Upper Paleolithic:
The Old Stone Age

Spinning and Weaving
The First Industrial Revolution
The History of Textiles
The Fates (or Moirae) are the three sisters, robed in white, who decide on human fate. Lachesis sings of the things that were, Clotho those that are, and Atropos (or Atropus) the things that are to be. Of the three, Atropos is the smallest in stature, but the most terrible and feared.

Atropos is said to be the eldest, the best and the shortest of the sisters. Clotho is the "spinner" and Lachesis the apportioner of lots. The thread of life is spun upon Clotho's spindle, measured by the rod of Lachesis and finally snipped by the shears of Atropos, the inevitable one. Their priests and ministers were always oracles, seers and soothsayers.
The early 1800s saw the development of the Jacquard Machine. This revolutionary machine used a punch card mechanism to operate the loom and is credited as the basis of modern computer science.
The Jacquard Machine
Fly Shuttles
The invention of the fly shuttle removed the need to have a weaver place the weft (vertical) thread into the warp (horizontal threads) by hand.
The Industrial Revolution (1760-1815)
Young men working in a textile mill– one to weave and one to tie off broken threads. Notice they wear smocks to keep their work clean.
Cloth weaving became a mechanized industry with the development of steam and water powered looms.
The Industrial Revolution (1760-1815)
Guild workshops were home-based businesses where cloth was produced.
Guild Workshops
During the Middle Ages the Craft Guild system developed. A weaving guild was an organized group of people involved in producing cloth. The Weaving Guild was made up of guild workshops.
Guild Structure
This tapestry shows a royal woman and her ladies-in-waiting performing the tasks needed to produce fabric.
The ladies are carding wool (2), spinning(1) and weaving(1).
Cloth weaving during the middle ages developed swiftly. Weavers developed many clever changes to the original frame looms and shed loom systems.
The Middle Ages
Weaving cloth remained an activity associated with the family unit for thousands of years.
Neolithic Woven Cloth
A = A cord or rope is used to tie the loom to a tree or post.
B = End bars are used to hold the warp (vertical threads) to the upper and lower ends of the loom.
C and D = Shed rods maintain the crossing of the warp's threads.
E = The heddle rod lifts alternate threads of the warp.
F = The batten helps to separate alternate threads of the warp to allow the bobbin (G) to pass through them. The batten can also be used to tighten the weft (horizontal threads) as they are woven.
G = The bobbin, containing the thread of the weft, passes from side to side between the warp.
H = This belt is worn around the
weaver's back and connects her to
the loom. The weaver controls the
tension on the warp by leaning
backward or forward.
The Back Strap Loom
consists of sticks, rope, and a strap that is worn around the weaver's waist. This strap is how the back strap loom received its name. This simple technology means that almost anyone can own a back strap loom and that the loom can be set up almost anywhere. This mobility allows the weaver to work indoors or outside, at a
neighbor's house or in the
marketplace, while keeping
watch over the children or
while chatting with friends.
And the backstrap loom
can be adjusted to fit any
weaver, from the child
learning to weave to an
dult master weaver.
Native American Looms
Northern European Warp Weighted Loom
Warp Weighted loom from a Greek Vase
The Warp Weighted Loom
is made from large wooden poles tied together
in a rectangular
shape. The
poles can be
mounted on a
wall or dug into the ground
to make a freestanding loom.
The Horizontal Ground Loom
is a simple arrangement of sticks and poles driven into the ground. The weaver measures out the length and width needed for weaving the cloth and drives the sticks firmly into the ground.
Two early weaving looms are the horizontal ground loom and the warp weighted loom.
Neolithic Era
Preparing thin bundles of plant material and stretching them out while twisting them together produced a fine string or thread.
The Development of String
Coarse fabric, made from grasses and leaves, was the first step toward the development of the textiles we use today.
The History of Weaving
Weaving—the lacing together of threads and yarns to form cloth—has developed over thousands of years of discovery and experimentation.
The History of Weaving
Medieval Tapestry that depicts the three fates.

The fates (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos) are dressed in contemporary clothing but carry their traditional tool and are labeled by name.
Penelope and the Suitors
J.W. Waterhouse
Date: 1912
Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 131 x 191 cm
Location: Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, UK
The device dramatically reduced the amount of work needed to produce yarn, with a single worker able to work eight or more spools at once.
Spinning Jenny
Venus diMilo: The
Spinner: touted [the
idea that] that the
famous Venus di Milo
statue, which in modern
times is missing her
arms, depicted the
Roman goddess of love
spinning. And not only
spinning as in making
yarn because that is
what people did in
ancient times to clothe
themselves, but spinning as a metaphor [for life/ the creation of life].
Venus di Milo
Spinning Woman
Jacquard Loom

Samples of brocade fabrics woven on a Jacquard Loom
Brocade Looms
The ground loom is still used today by the Bedouin weavers of Northern Africa and Southwest Asia.
The Horizontal Ground Loom
These models from Egyptian tombs—meant to ensure the occupant of the tomb was supplied with cloth in the afterlife—show the set up of an Egyptian workshop.
It is a bit crowded but one can see spinners and weavers.
Spindles in various stages of work with wool roving (unspun wool)
The long pole is a distaff – it holds the linen (flax or thistle) fibers until the spinner is ready for them.
Venus de Milo: The Spinner: The Link Between a Famous Art Mystery and Ancient Fertility Symbols by Elmer G. Suhr, New York: Exposition Press, 1958)
The Calculation ...
Presume you must weave a tabard for a tall man...
1. a loose-fitting sleeveless or short-sleeved coat or cape

2. a tunic worn by a knight over his armor and
emblazoned with his arms
3. a herald's official cape or coat emblazoned with his
lord's arms
4. a woman's sleeveless outer garment often with side
One Square Inch...
It takes me about 30 seconds to weave a square inch on the inkle/trim loom.
The length of fabric...
... for the tall man's tabard is enough to cover him from the ankle in the front, over the shoulders and to the ankle in the back--let us assume he needs two yards for the front and two yards for the back. His tabard should be a yard wide
The calculation
1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches (width)

4 yards = 12 feet = 144 inches (length)

36in x 144in = 5,184in total fabric
5,184in total fabric times the length of time it takes to weave a square inch...

2,592 minutes
2592 minutes / 60 min/ hr =

43.2 hours
(just under two days non-stop)

Is this starting to feel like a maths class?
The problems with the two day task present themselves in several ways:

Are enough spinners working to keep up with the weaver or does the weaver also have to spin?

Can the weaver only work on weaving all day without sleep?

What other sorts of tasks might the weaver also have to fit into her day?
The calculation
The calculation
The Arts and Literature

The girls in this painting are learning to use a distaff and spindle
The Industrial Revolution (1760-1815)
It is only fair since you worked through the maths...
A Sculptural reference to spinning
Painting based upon a literary reference to a patient weaver
A Mythological reference to spinning, measuring, cutting and weaving fibers
A Mythological reference to spinning, measuring, cutting and weaving fibers
Full transcript