The joy of the jacquard.

In a world where we are now dependant on computers, we look back at one of the first. A piece of engineering that changed the way fabric is produced and how early computers where designed and developed. 

Designs on a Jacquard loom are intricate patterns that are woven into them selves rather than embroidered or printed on top. 


Woven brocades date back as far as the 4th Century. Complex patterns where created out of woollen and linen yarns to produce fabrics such as damasks and tapestry. By the middle ages these beautifully constructed brocades were extremely expensive. Reflecting the wealth and power of the people who could afford them. They became a symbol of there riches. 

By the 15th Century, during the renaissance era, Italy had started to become world renowned as the finest makers of these luxurious fabrics. The quality of the Italian cloth was unsurpassed by other weavers around the globe.

The method of producing such designs was on classic draw looms. This process needed a weaver and a draw boy to operate and complete the complex process. It was extremely labour intensive and could take a number of hours to complete only a few square inches of cloth. 

It took a former draw boy to rethink this process and revolutionise the fabric world. 

Joesph Marie Jacquard knew there had to be an alternative and dedicated his life to inventing a better way of weaving. 

The industrial revolution saw mass production of simple fabrics such as cottons. Machines were invented to handle repetitive tasks and take production to the next scale. But to create complex beautiful brocade patterned fabrics was still being done the same way. 

Jacquards solution was to take the same process that was used in music boxes and bringing it to the weaving loom. Using stiff punching cards to dictate the movement of the shafts. In 1801 his concept was caught by Napoleon who called him to Paris to perfect the process in the national interest. 

In 1804 Jacquard had developed a loom that mechanised the production of patterned textiles. This loom contributed to the transformation of weaving from an industry run by families of skilled workers to a focus of mass production on an industrial scale. 

It was the first programmed machine. 

The jacquard cards allowed the loom worker to control which threads were raised with complete precision and speed. 

The punch cards was the starting point to any design. Produced firstly onto square gridded paper and then translated onto these cards. holes were punched to correspond with a specific square on the design these cards were then stitched together onto a continuous belt and fed through the loom. Loom rods would then be allowed to fall through the holes of said cards to lift the desired threads which would then allow the shuttle to pass through with the weft yarn. the holes that were blocked would mean those threads would remain in place. This then creates the complex pattern. 


From the 1820s the loom was introduced to Britain. This then sparked a revolution in the type of workers that were needed to produce textiles. The labour needed to be less skilled to create the same level of beautiful fabrics this then in turn created more profit for the mill owners and made them more affordable for all. 

photocredit: kathrynsandersonmanflanders

Even though this would mean the skilled weavers were being put out of work, a new class of technically skilled workers were needed to keep these jacquard looms in production. From translating the designs to the maintenance and construction of the machines needed a new bread of skilled craftsmen. 


A century and a half after the jacquard was first revolutionised, the 1980s saw the first electronic jacquard loom on the market. Punch cards were replaced with modern computer programming again creating an endless amount of options for complex designs

Fabrics produced today still bear the name of Jacquard, this is a homage to the amazing advances he dreamed up a long time ago. 

The complexity of todays fabrics woven using these techniques and methods can be done so with many different fibres to create the intricate patterns and designs with limitless possibilities. 

TAGS – fabrics, interiors,cotton, linen, upholstery fabric, woven fabric, brockhall designs, semi plain fabric, natural linen fabrics, grey fabrics