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What is Jacquard weaving?

Jacquard weaving and the loom attachment required for it were both named after the French inventor and Merchant, Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834). The Jacquard loom is among the most important inventions in the history of weaving because it made it possible to mass produce pattern weaving.  He first formed the idea for his loom in 1790 but the French Revolution cut his work short.

There is no specific Jacquard loom; it is a control mechanism that can be added to any loom to automate the pattern weaving. The Jacquard loom attachment can be used to make knitwear as well as a variety of textiles, including tapestries.



In the beginning of tapestry weaving, for figured designs, a drawloom was required. This was a slow and labor-intensive process that limited the complexity of a pattern, as it required two operators to successfully complete a pattern. In 1725, Basile Bouchon introduced an improvement to the drawloom that would change the machine forever. He added a continuous roll of paper with hand-punched holes in it, each representing one lash. The length of the roll was determined by the number of holes in each pattern. From this, the Jacquard loom mechanism evolved. 

Joseph Marie Jacquard saw that, though weaving is an intricate art, it is repetitive. Because of this, he saw that a mechanism could be invented similar to Bouchon’s invention that allowed for the automation of production of more complex patterns. While it’s hard to say exactly what part of the Jacquard mechanism was designed by Jacquard and what was simply the right combination of previously invented mechanical elements, the way he arranged the machine was different. One of the biggest advantages this new mechanism introduced was that it allowed the loom to produce a more defined fabric.

Mechanical Jacquard Looms

At first, the Jacquard machines were mechanical with the design stored in a series of punched cards similar to Bouchon’s invention. The Jacquard mechanism was generally small and could only independently control a few warp ends, requiring several repeats across the width of the loom. Larger or multiple machines allowed the weaver greater control and fewer repeats, so larger design could be woven across the width of the loom.

Mechanical Jacquard looms are best for larger batches of fabric. This is because as a general rule, the greater control you have over the warp, the greater the expense of the loom. Additionally, these mechanical looms are more expensive to maintain and require a greater level of skill. Finally, these looms do not work as quickly, making it a more time-consuming way to produce fabric and wall tapestries.


Electronic Jacquard Looms

The first electronic Jacquard was produced in 1983 by Bonas Machine Company. Initially, these machines were small, but because of modern technology, they were able to increase the capacity of the loom, allowing a single end warp control to extend to 10,000 warp ends. This cut out the need for repeats and allowed for unparalleled versatility. Computer-controlled looms also reduced the downtime associated with mechanical Jacquard loom mechanisms. However, these machines are expensive, just as the mechanical ones are, making them only a realistic loom choice when a lot of versatility in design is required.

Today, Jacquard weaving is used to make a variety of fabrics for any uses. Right now, researchers are investigating new materials to make Jacquard weaving even more efficient and versatile.  


Believe it or not, the Jacquard weaving mechanism has great significance to the world of computing. The first Jacquard used punched cards to control a sequence. This was an important first step in inventing hardware for computers. The way one could change the pattern of the weave by changing these cards was a concept that served as a precursor to data entry and computer programming. Charles Babbage, the man who invented the concept of the programmable computer, knew about Jacquards and used this concept for the idea of storing programs in cards for his analytical engine.

In the late 19th century, this idea was taken a step further by Herman Hollerith, who created a data entry machine using punched cards to input data from the 1890 Census. The International Business Machine (IBM) corporation built on this idea, creating a competitive industry for data processing machines that utilized the punched-card system with their line of recording equipment. However, the cards were only used for data entry at this point; programming was completed using plugboards.

With the inventions of computers, some used a paper tape with holes punched in it, just like the Jacquard loom mechanism. As computers evolved, they used a higher-speed memory mechanism, but cards were still often used to load programs into the memory. Punched cards played an integral role in computer until the mid-80s. If you are reading this article on a computer, you have Jacquard weaving to thank for it!.

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