It is impossible to overstate the significance of the loom in human history. From the simplest backstrap looms to the mechanical monsters in the factory, this family of apparatus has shaped the textile world as we know it. However, without skill and technique, a loom is just a loom. It is thanks to creativity, diversity and innovation that our world is so full of varying textile traditions and customs.
In the first exhibition of its kind, the National Silk Museum of China is celebrating the rich heritage of both the loom itself and of weaving traditions from around the world. In the China Gallery, archaeological looms and models from recent excavations illustrate ancient Chinese weaving techniques, while a display of the foot-treadle loom highlights the technological leap that it represented. Foot treadling replaced using the hands to manipulate the shed and allowed for faster production. Also exhibited is a wide variety of apparatus used to create patterns in cloth.
Other parts of the exhibition take on a global focus and map weaving traditions throughout many parts of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Beautiful ikat and tapestry cloth are displayed in the Southeast Asia section, demonstrating how warp floats and supplementary wefts have been used in this region to create richly patterned cloth. Back-strap looms and vertical looms from the Americas demonstrate how simple mechanics can produce highly complex patterned textiles. Visitors can also see the evolution of European looms from simple frames to apparatus like the Jacquard loom, which was invented in France in 1804. The Jacquard loom was central to the French silk industry, using punched cards to create patterns in cloth very rapidly.
The scope of this exhibition is incredible and well worth a visit. It will be on until 15 September 2018 at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China. To find out more, visit www.chinasilkmuseum.com.