The history of the Jacquard loom combines two seemingly unrelated industries: textile production and information technology. Read on to learn how a French invention revolutionized the production of fabric in patterns, and also inspired the development of early computers.

When Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a weaver and merchant from Lyon, patented his invention in 1804, he revolutionized the way fabric could be produced in intricate patterns. His Jacquard machine, based on earlier developments by inventor Jacques de Vaucanson, made it possible for intricate and detailed patterns to be produced by unskilled workers in a fraction of the time previously required by a master weaver and his assistant.

The spread of Jacquard’s invention caused the cost of the fashionable, highly sought-after patterned material to plummet. It could now be mass-produced, becoming available to a wide market of consumers, not just the wealthiest elite.

To weave fabric on a loom, thread (called weft) is pulled over and under a set of threads (called warp). It is the interweaving of threads at right angles to each other that creates the fabric. The order, the passage of the weft over and under the warp threads, determines the woven pattern.

Before the spread of Lyon technology, a weaver’s helper had to sit on the loom and manually raise and lower the warp threads to create the fabric in the desired pattern. It was a slow and labor-intensive process.

The key to the success of Jacquard’s invention was the use of interchangeable cards in which small holes were punched to provide instructions for weaving the pattern. This innovation effectively took over the time-consuming work of the weaver’s helper, as well as making the process itself less of a failure.

When fed into the jacquard mechanism (attached to the top of the loom), the cards controlled which warp threads to lift to allow the weft to pass underneath. With punch cards, Jacquard looms can quickly reproduce any designed pattern and repeat it over and over again.

The cards, each with its own combination of holes corresponding to the part of the design they represent, are then joined together, ready to be fed one by one through a jacquard mechanism mounted on top of the loom.

When the card is pushed toward the die in the jacquard mechanism, the pins pass through the punched holes and the hooks are activated to lift the warp threads. Where there are no holes, the pins press down on the card, keeping the corresponding hooks from lifting the threads.

Jacquard’s invention transformed the production of fabric into patterns, but it also revolutionized human-machine interaction by using a binary code – hole or no hole – to have a machine carry out the automated weaving process.

Jacquard loom is often considered the predecessor of modern computers, as its interchangeable punched cards inspired the creation of the first computer programs.

We invite you to get acquainted with our offer of tapes, rubbers and clothing elements produced by the described technique.

On the right porthret of Jacquard inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard. Original painting woven from silk on a jacquard loom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *