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Jacquard: the invention of a technique that has marked the history of costume

jacquard loom

Jacquard is a processing technique used in knitwear and weaving characterized by complex geometric or figured motifs that takes its name from the inventor of the machine that is able to do this, Joseph-Marie Jacquard.
The motifs reproduced thanks to the jacquard technique are not drawn or printed but sewn directly into the mesh or fabric. Specifically, they are created through the interweaving of two components:

  • the warp, that is the base, the set of threads arranged parallel in a longitudinal way;
  • the weft, that is the thread that is inserted several times within the threads that form the warp, forming the weave, or the actual design.

The origins of jacquard date back to the 1800s, a historical period in which the embroidery on the fabrics was made exclusively by hand. This decidedly complex practice required very long production times and the use of several hands in addition to those of the weaver for a single piece. Usually the work was done by women who, in one day, embroidered 10 to 15 cm of fabric.
In 1801, at the Exposition des Produits de l'Industrie National in Paris, the Lyonese Joseph-Marie Jacquard, the son of weavers, presented a device that applied to the manual loom made the selection of the threads mechanical to weave the design on the fabric. The jacquard loom was born which allowed the weaver to work on the loom without the help of assistants. Specifically, it summarized, in a single tool, the three processes used up to that moment: the use of needles and a perforated continuous paper containing the design, the replacement of the continuous paper with cardboard bound together and the placement of a mechanical cylinder above the frame to automate the replacement of cartons during work.
The invention was so successful that it received the praises of the great Napoleon but, at the same time, its introduction into the factory and the consequent need for less manpower caused riots by textile workers who feared losing their jobs. In the following years, the important contribution that the jacquard loom brought to the textile production sector was recognized: greater attention to detail, the possibility of choosing increasingly elaborate designs and top quality fabrics.



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