looms ANd WEAVINg

We weave our scarves on a wooden loom, a simple equipment for weaving

As true as that is, our loom's simplicity is in fact a gross understatement; as simple as it is, our loom is the result of at least five millennia of evolution of a tool that supplied a basic human necessity, clothing; and furnished rich and famous with fabric for their resplendent regalia.

This machine now might be an anachronism and perhaps be even commercially unviable, but we cannot exaggerate its importance: it embodies human ingenuity of invention and ability to leverage basic tools to find solutions to problems. To understand the problem our humble loom solved, we need to understand weaving.

Weaving is one of the several methods to create fabric, a supple material, by interlacing threads.

The interlacing can be done either by single element techniques: such as looping, netting, knitting, crocheting; or multiple elements techniques: knotting, coiling, twining, braiding, weaving. All these methods of making fabric continue to be used; but weaving is the most common: it proved to be the most efficient.

Weaving entails interlacing two sets of threads rectangularly;the process comprises three operations: keeping one set of thread taut (warp); opening the warp; and inserting and beating up another set of thread (weft) across the opened warp.

The way the warp and weft interlace defines the weave: plain, basket, twill, satin. Evolution of looms has been finding techniques, through either process or physical construction, to do these three things better - and faster, when it came to attaining economies of scale.

The loom's development continued from warp-weight to a two-bar loom, which the early Egyptians used. In another case, warp tension was achieved by attaching a bar (with one end of threads tied to it) to a belt around weaver's waist. This loom, back-strap loom, made possible, among others, fabulous Andean textiles. It can still be found in use in remote regions of Asia and several parts of Central and South America.

In fact, most of these prehistoric looms continue to be used, by one community or the other, in some part of the world. For example, not far from our facility in Bhagalpur, we came across a most primitive loom - we saw only its disassembled parts, a few pieces of wood really - used to weave a coarse rug made of wool from local sheep.

The warp-weight loom was used in ancient Greece and later by the Native American tribes in North Pacific. Finding means to provide tension to keep warp stretched, and mechanisms to slacken it, contributed to the evolution of loom's design and structure.