Weaving Velvet (part two)

The Velvet Loom and the Weaving Process
Velvet 2 - 4
This first picture shows a velvet loom. The front of the loom is seen on the right side of the photo. This is where the weaver stands and steps on one of the two treadles (peddles). The treadles can be seen in the lower right hand corner hanging from 2 cords. Here, the second treadle is hidden behind the one you can see. They protrude out from the front of the loom.  [click photos to enlarge]

At the back of the loom:Velvet 2 - 3
The most noticeable part of the velvet loom is the rack of spools at the back of the loom. There are hundreds of them filled with silk threads that make up the pile.

At the front:
The weaver stands at the front of the loom. She (women weavers today) throws the shuttle filled with the silk weft thread to weave the foundation cloth and puts wires in the areas where the pile will be. After weaving in a few wires, she pulls out a wire for the uncut pile and she passes a blade over the wire where the pile is to be cut.

The sequence is:

  1. Step on a treadle and throw the shuttle to weave the foundation or ground cloth. (More about this in a later post). The shuttle (holding the weft thread) weaves over and under the foundation threads (warp threads) on the loom. The pile threads (from the spools) are also woven into the foundation on the loom to secure them into the cloth at this time.
    Repeat for maybe 3 rows, or so, depending upon the weave structure of the foundation.
  2. Step on the other treadle and only the pile threads coming from all the spools that are required for that row of the pattern are lifted.
  3. Put a wire under those raised threads for the pile areas. If there are to be cut and uncut areas, a second wire is inserted under those threads in the area where the cut pile is to be. See photo #3. Velvet 2 - 5Repeat steps 1-3 until several wires have been inserted.Photo #4 shows 4 wires that have been woven in. Notice at the left ends of the wires that 2 wires are L-shaped and 2 wires are straight. The wires with the L shape at the ends are ones for the cut velvet. The other ones are for the uncut velvet and are straight so they can be pulled out, leaving uncut Velvet 2 - 1loops.
  4. Remove the first wire if the loops are to be uncut.
  5. Slide the blade over the wire that was inserted for the cut pile to cut the threads looped over the wire. See photo #5. Cutting is a tricky business. There are grooves in the tops of the wires that are used for the cut pile areas. The wires for the uncut areas are smooth.
    Velvet 2 - 2

6 thoughts on “Weaving Velvet (part two)”

  1. Hi. I’m looking for a good image of velvet weaving to use in an incoming exhibition at a nonprofit museum. Would it be okay if I used one of your images in the exhibition?

  2. Thank you for a wonderful description !! I am delighted!!
    Please tell me where I can buy these wires with the grooves and a special knife?
    I live in Ukraine, we have no such products on offer.
    Thanks for the help!

    • No one would part with them in all the places in Italy we visited. I only wanted one, but they were too precious. Peggy

      • This is very interesting! I’ve been looking into how to weave velvet recently, and I was wondering if you’d found any sources for pile wires (or workable substitutes) since this article was written?

        If you could describe the cross-section of the wires that would also be helpful. Are the wires round, oblong, half-round, etc.? Are the grooves incised or rolled?

        • Sorry I can’t help at all. I tried to get one wire from the weavers but they were too precious. And I haven’t thought about velvet since my posts.


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