Handlooms & information age…. Any connect?

Charles Babbage had a new exhibit in his gallery. An unassuming portrait of an inventor in his workshop, sitting in a luxurious chair, holding a pair of calipers against long strips of cardboard that have tiny holes punched in them. On the wall you can see the chisels, tools and rolled up plans. Is it an engraving?


In 1842, he invites the Duke of Wellington and Prince Albert  to see the portrait. Because it would help him in explaining the nature of his calculating machine – the Analytical engine.

He then informs the Duke that the portrait is not an engraving, but a woven piece of fabric. Yes, this is the portrait is of Joseph Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the jacquard loom – the worlds first automatic machine for weaving elaborate and beautiful images in to silk – and this portrait was woven on his loom!

Jacquard’s father was a master silk weaver in Lyons, France and to accommodate different weaving patterns (say for eg., roses or violets), he turned to inventing and demonstrated the final version of a draw loom in Paris Industrial exhibition in 1801, and received a bronze medal too.

In 1805 came the famous punched card device which is attached to a regular hand loom and operated simply by two treadles. And, this invention was greeted with hostility by Lyon weavers who thought it would destroy their employments; they burnt many models. But by 1812, there were over 18000 looms equipped with Jacquard heads, and the great french silk industry revived. In 1819 he received the Legion of Honour, and the very next year this technique was introduced in England.

Now coming back to South India, can you recognize these bridal photo sarees? This might not be exactly our cup of tea, but still..

Bridal phto

Sirumugai cluster specializes in bringing portraits to woven sarees – for special occasions!



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