Velvet Weaving (part five)

The Jacquard Mechanism, ConclusionVelvet 5 - 1

Photo #1 shows the Jacquard mechanism’s “knives”. When a needle goes through a hole in a card, it pushes its corresponding knife over onto the bar adjacent to it. Then the whole frame with all the bars and knives is lifted, thus raising only the knives that are hooked onto the bars. This happens when the weaver steps on a treadle (peddle). (In the photo it appears that the knives are all in position to be hooked on the bars, but they are not. It is the angle of the photo that is deceptive, I think.) [click photos to enlarge]
Velvet 5 - 2Velvet 5 - 3Photo #2 shows one of the knives. If you zoom in you can see the hook on one end. Photo #3 shows the threads of the pile selected by the Jacquard mechanism (often called a machine) and a wire being inserted.

Velvet 5 - 4
Photo #4 shows the middle part of the loom. There are two sections and each one has its own Jacquard machine. They called them the big machine  for the pile warps and the little machine for the foundation warps.

One section is made up of wooden frames and can be seen more clearly in the photo. There are 8 of them. The foundation warps are threaded in this section.

The second section is in front of it. You can see wooden bars with cords on them. There are 8 bars. This is the section where the pile warps are threaded. Look closely and you can see that this front section is lifting all the gold pile warps. In the next shed, (formed by the next card positioned in the Jacquard mechanism) just the selected pile warps from the Jacquard machine will be lifted and a wire will be inserted– seen in Photo #3. Remember, the weaver stepping on the treadle activates the Jacquard and moves the next card with its holes into place.
What is Velvet 5Photo #5 shows the big velvet piece seen in the first of the velvet posts. Since it is such a tall pattern (maybe 20 inches) many, many cards are needed because there are so many different rows in a single repeat. You can see how important the Jacquard invention was because once the cards are punched a design can be repeated over and over. In the drawloom days, each shed had to be made by the draw boy every time.

If you have any questions let me know and I’ll try to answer them in part six.

Velvet Weaving (part four)

The Jacquard Mechanism – part one

For each row of weaving, the warp threads need to be separated to make the space for the shuttle with the weft to pass through. This post is about how the warp threads are raised and/or lowered to form the spaces for the shuttle. The space is called the shed. This is a term weavers use often when talking about things. When the shuttle is thrown through the shed, the weft thread is going over and under the warp threads: the “over, under” that is “weaving”.  Remember the term: shed. You can see a good one in Part Three, Photo #5. [click photos to enlarge]
Velvet 4 - 1
Photo #1 shows several looms in the studio where I took a 3-day workshop at the end of our tour: we call it “Lisio” but the full name is: Fondazione Arte Della Seta Lisio and is located in Florence, Italy.

All of the looms have the mechanism to make the sheds on top of the loom. Notice the loom with the ladder. Jacquard is the name of the mechanism. It replaced draw looms where a draw boy or girl sat on top or at the side of the loom to raise the required threads for the patterns.

The Jacquard mechanism works with punched cards that select which warp threads are to be raised or lowered.

There are needles in the mechanism and if a needle goes through a hole in a card, a warp thread is moved. Where there is no hole the warp thread stays at rest. One card is needed for each shed of weaving. For long repeats or big patterns many, many cards are needed because there are many rows in one repeat of the design.  In photo #1 you can see some cards hanging at the top of the loom. They are seen in photos of the looms in previous posts, as well.

(Looms are similar to computers in that the warp threads are either up or down, which can relate to the 0’s and 1’s of the computer. Early computers used punch cards, too)

Photo #2 shows the velvet that we wove in the Velvet 4 - 2workshop—a necessarily simple pattern for us to do in only one day. You can count the 10 horizontal rows of pattern in one repeat.

(If you zoom in you can see our cloth was all loops or uncut pile. That’s because we couldn’t be trusted to weave the threads tight enough to secure them into the foundation. If we had cut the loops and the pile threads were not secure enough in the foundation, we would have cut all the pile threads themselves. We were warned that the worst sound is hearing the weights from the spools drop to the floor indicating that all the threads were cut and were coming out of the loom. It could take weeks to get them all threaded into the loom again.)

Velvet 4 - 3Photo #3 shows the pattern graphed out on what is called point paper. Each horizontal row on the paper represents one card which is for one row of weaving, or one shed. We sat at a machine and punched the cards, making a card for each row of the pattern. We punched holes in 10 cards for the 10 rows of the pattern for the pile warp for our cloth.

Photo #4 shows the cards we punched being stitchedVelvet 4 - 4 together which will then go onto the Jacquard machine. Each card is for one shed for the insertion of one wire. A previous post has a photo of a wire being inserted in one of the sheds for the cloth we wove. Photo #5 shows our teacher on top of the loom, putting our cards into the Jacquard mechanism.
More about the mechanism in the next post.

Velvet 4 - 5

Weaving Velvet (part three)

Looking at the Threads on the Loom

All looms do two basic things:

  1. A loom must hold the warp threads under tension. The warp threads are the ones put on the loom. (The weft threads are the ones that go over and under the warp threads during weaving. A shuttle holds the supply of weft thread.)
  2. A loom must have a mechanism to raise and lower threads to form the openings through which the shuttle will pass with the weft thread. This opening is called the shed.

Velvet 3 - 1
Photo #1 shows another loom. Notice the gold threads coming from the back of the loom. These are the warp threads for the foundation or ground cloth. You can see the threads are under tension: not loose or sagging.  [click photos to enlarge]

Below the warp threads, notice the spool rack holding the warp threads for the pile.

Notice the cards with holes hanging from the top of the loom midway between the front and back of the loom. These are part of the mechanism to raise and lower threads and will be the subject of another post.

Photo #2 shows a close up of a single spool,Velvet 3 - 2 one of many that are on the spool rack that holds the warp threads for the pile.

Photo #3 is a closer view of the foundation threads wound on the beam at the back of the loom. You can see that the tiny threads need to be very orderly and on tension or you would have spaghetti at the back of the loom—a huge mess that would prevent any weaving at all.
Velvet 3 - 3
Photo #4 shows both sets of warp threads comingling and going into the center of the loom. This is the area where the mechanism raises and lowers threads for weaving. More about this in another post. The foundation warp threads in this case are black with white threads at the edge and the pile warp threads are a mixture of colors.
Velvet 3 - 4
Photo #5 shows another loom with a white foundation warp with a green edge. Notice that some of the white threads are up and some are down. This forms the opening where the shuttle with the weft will go which is called the shed. If you look carefully you can see that the gold pile warps are in the bottom of the shed. The sheds need to be clean so the shuttle can be thrown into the space—another reason that the warp threads are on tension.
Velvet 3 - 5

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

What is Velvet and How it is Made? (part one)

Several people have asked how velvet is made and what is velvet so I thought I’d make a few posts to explain things in lay terms.  [click on photos to enlarge]

What is Velvet 2We talk of velvet being a pile fabric, meaning there are threads projecting from a ground or foundation fabric. There are three “effects” in the patterned velvet in the first photo. This is similar to what we saw being made. There are areas of what we normally think that velvet is: sort of furry tiny hairs. There are areas where there are tiny loops projecting from the foundation and there are areas where only the foundation cloth shows without any pile. Velvet that we normally see is all the furry kind of pile. This type in the photos is called “voided velvet” which means that there are areas where there is no pile. In the voided areas, the pile threads are woven into the foundation, usually so they are not visible on the surface.
What is Velvet 1Here you can see loops and furry velvet and the foundation. When velvet is woven, wires are woven into the cloth forming loops. The loops are cut with a razor blade sliding on top of the tiny wires. Sometimes the loops are not cut and remain as loops.

This photo shows What is Velvet 3cut and uncut pile. It is surprising how different the color looks in the cut and uncut areas. This is used a lot in the kind of weaving we saw. I’ll tell more about the wires and cutting in a later post. In this photo you can see that the pile comes up out of the foundation cloth.

This last photo shows part of a piece I bought. What interested me is that there was so much voided area and none of the dark magenta threads showed—they were visible on the wrong side but nearly completely hidden on the front of the fabric. This piece would be labeled voided velvet with all cut pile. I bought one repeat of the fabric it measures 24” wide and 26” high.
What is Velvet 5

In future posts I will tell how the velvet is made: the loops, the cut and uncut velvet and the voided areas. The looms we saw and weavers were amazing. It was wonderful to see the complicated looms and patterns that were being woven.

Last Day in Florence

It was hard to say the final good byes to the last of our tour group– 4 of us stayed on for 3 intensive days at Fondazione Arte Della Seta Lisio outside of Florence. Lots of textile people have come here to learn about Jacquard looms, velvet, and other complex textiles. We all just call it Lisio. [click photos to enlarge]
Last Day in Florence 3
However, the first picture shows the view from my hotel window in Florence. It is in a great location. I have walked several times to the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. Hotel Loggiato Serviti. It is 5:00, my window is open I hear church bells and a soprano operatic singer singing her scales and warming up hitting the high notes. A bird is chirping, too.
Last Day in Florence 1
Last Day in Florence 2The second and third pictures are of the velvet the 4 of us wove–one of the weavers there wove some, too, so we would have a piece big enough to take home. Cutting it off the loom is often celebrated but we were too eager to get our hands on it. We cut it into 4 swatches. I was lucky and got a piece with a selvedge.
Last Day in Florence 4
The blue fabric is a new velvet woven at Lisio made to look old. Just like we like jeans to look old today, textile designers have woven fabrics to look older for centuries!

Last Day in Florence 5The swatches are velvets that we used to analyze different kinds of velvet. It was a challenge to find the fine threads with out little magnifiers. Our teachers were great and made lots of diagrams and drafts so we could see the different constructions.

It’s 5:45 now. The bells are ringing again and they did at 5:15, too. Lovely, lovely. I am pretty tired, so it is a treat to help myself with some sort of toy, like lelo gigi, and relax in my room and hear the bells. And yes, the singing is still going on.

Off by myself tomorrow for the CinqueTerra area to relax.
Going home on the 28th.

Weaving Velvet Ourselves

Here is the school outside of Florence where we spent 3 days learning hoe to design and weave velvet and how to analyze old velvet textiles. It has been a wonderful experience and hard brain work. This photo shows the velvet we were weaving. I hope to send more pictures of us at the loom and our teacher working on top of the loom when things got a little out of whack. The red velvet is one we analyzed. The graph and card is the design of the velvet we wove.  [click first photo to start slideshow]

Velvet and Venice, Too

Velvet and Venice 1Our first stop was to a workshop that looked out on a canal that made handwoven velvet on old, old looms. There were 15 looms and 5 weavers. The looms survived because long ago Napoleon forbade any weaving in Venice so the looms were idle for all that time. It was fabulous as always to see the big velvet looms and the weavers. This company has been in the family a long time and is doing contemporary designs as well as traditional ones. It seems like a very vital business. They have decided to only weave velvet by hand because power looms can weave all the other types of fabrics.

Velvet and Venice 3
Then a friend and I had a lovely lunch complete with a little orchestra playing beside us on San Marco Square. I had wanted to get a chance and sit out and watch the pigeons and the people and this was the perfect place.

[click photos to enlarge]

We then took a boat to the island of Murano to see Venetian glass and to see some glass blowing. This photo shows a little typical Venice-like scene on the island.Velvet and Venice 4

Tonight we were lucky to get a ( very bad) seat at the Velvet and Venice 5Teatro La Fenice to see the opera Madama Butterfly. The inside of the opera house is quite grand. The singing was great but I didn’t like the costumes, set, or the production. Interesting that the super titles were in Italian and English. I loved, loved the beautiful music. Then we took a boat home and looked in the windows of the grand palatial places on the canal.

Looms, Oh My!

Looms Oh My 1Today we visited the Rubelli weaving mill in Como. The modern mill was awesome beyond words. This picture shows one aisle of huge looms weaving fast and loud. The cords going up to the ceiling are the cords that lift the individual warp threads at lightening (?) speed. One woman “manned” all these at once, watching to see that all were going all right. Occasionally a loom would be stopped and needed tending. The looms in the aisles were faced inwards where the women could tend them. I can’t remember how many looms there were–maybe 30 or 40.

They still use an old technique used early on in power looms to stop the loom by cutting off the power if a thread breaks. This is done by having every warp thread go through a metal thing. If a thread breaks, it goes slack and the thing falls down which breaks the current. It was interesting that the old technique is still in use. An order takes 6 weeks from start to finish with the actual warping and weaving taking 4-5 days.

Looms Oh My 2


This picture is of an old hand woven velvet loom. Rubelli mill had 3 or 4 but only one weaver who wove for us. These are wonderful looms and make beautiful velvet cloth.

[click photos to enlarge]


pLooms Oh My 4

Then we went to the Museo Studio Tesuto to the Ratti Foundation to see their huge collection of fabrics. Mr. Ratti collected fabrics and samples from dealers and by buying old mills themselves and their archives. He was interested in them to use for inspiration for designing textiles. At the foundation we were taken back behind the scenes inside to the storage rooms and shown fine examples of old velvet fabrics.

Looms Oh My 3The Foundation is right on Lake Como. The picture here is from their building. There is another Ratti center at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Both very well funded. It was dark with a bit of a moon over the lake when we left in a small bus to take us to our hotel in Milan.Looms Oh My 5



It was a busy day with 3 trains to catch to get to Genoa, Milan, then Como. Another good day.

To Zoagli (the Italian Riviera, I think)

Zoagli 1Today we traveled north along the coast up to south of Genoa to the tiny town of Zoagli where we will see some velvet weaving tomorrow. This first picture is of the town and entrance to the Zoagli Hotel where we are staying, over looking the water. Our train passed the lovely little villages of the Cinque Terre (5 villages) where I will come at the end Zoagli 2of the trip.

 [click photos to enlarge]

Here is the patio off my room and the view of the Mediterranean.

The next two pictures are from Lisio, the school where we visited the other day. Here is a draft we studied in a

Zoagli 3heavy-duty drafting lesson for velvets which took a lot of brain power. I loved the little old loom in the last picture because of all the heavy weights dangling off of the back of the loom. Click to get a close up of those Zoagli 4weights.

Day 5 – Our First Velvet

Weaving Velvet - Peggy Osterkamp Blog > click to enlarge
Weaving Velvet – Peggy Osterkamp Blog
> click to enlarge

Today we visited a velvet workshop and school in Florence. The looms were awesome and too big to grasp for me to photo just yet.

Velvet on Loom-Closeup of Rods
Velvet on Loom-Closeup of Rods

We’ll see more velvet looms as we travel around. Besides seeing velvet being woven on huge Jacquard looms, we saw old examples from their archive–and we got a serious lesson in analyzing and some drafting these complex fabrics.

After the tour, 4 of us will be taking  a 3-day workshop at the school. We’ll punch the cards and weave a variety of velvets ourselves– with very knowledgeable teachers who are English speakers.

School Name

I look forward to coming back and digging deeper into learning about how the gorgeous velvets are woven.

They provided each of us with a study guide for the analysis  of 4 different types of velvet.  It was a challenge to wrap my head around their way of drafting besides the complicated weaves. The photo of the study guide gives the official name of this world famous organization.

Another Weaving Tour – This Time to Italy!

In a little over a week I’m going to Italy on a Textile Society of America tour: Velvet in Italy: Florence, Zoagli, Venice. We are going to see ateliers where they are handweaving velvet on huge, old looms.

Seems like there are always tons of things to do to get ready for a trip. I’m ticking off my lists every day. I’m working on getting photos of my work on my mini iPad to show people I encounter on the tour.
iPad Translation App
Today I mastered the use of this iPad app translator.   I can speak English and hear the Italian translation. How neat is that?

Velvet Weaving > click to enlarge
Velvet Weaving
> click to enlarge

Here is a picture of the velvet piece I wove after the class with our tour leader, Barbara Setsu Pickett in 2006. We made our loops with 2 brass bars and cut the loops using a blade passing between the two bars. I loved playing with cut and uncut areas and voided velvet areas where all the pile threads were incorporated into the foundation.