Weaving Techniques: Silk Manufacturing Machines

China National Silk Museum

Traditional looms and weaving techniques are an important component of ancient science and technology in China. A wide range of textual and pictorial evidence, as well as archeological finds, attest to inventiveness of Chinese weavers and loom makers from ancient times, who have made a major contribution to world culture.

Tools for spooling, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

This is spooling tool. Reeled silk comes in the form of large hanks, and thus must be transferred onto small spools to make the job of preparing warp and weft threads easier.

Weft winder, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

Using a weft winder, turned the silk reel by hand, spooled of silk is wound onto bobbins, which will be placed in the shuttle to create the weft.

Hand Operated Reeling Wheel, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum
Hand Operated Reeling Wheel
In villages surrounding Hangzhou, Jiaxing and Huzhou most silk is reeled with a wooden treadled reeling wheel. The cocoons are first placed in boiling water and stirred with bamboo sticks to locate the end of the cocoons’ thread; with a number of these threads are run through an eyelet and then attached to the reeling wheel, which revolves when the treadle is activated.  
Primitive Back-strap Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

Consisting of warp beam, heddles, batten, heddle rods and cloth beam, these looms use the human body as a frame and as a support for the warp beam.

Reclining Loom 2, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

The use of a foot treadle in operating the heddle for alternating the sheds is the most distinctive feature of the reclining loom.

Reclining Loom 1, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

Another improvement seen on this loom is the way the warp beam is fixed to the frame, while the cloth beam is strapped around the back of the weaver.

Slanted Treadle Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

Invented in China, the oblique treadle loom is equipped with treadles was widely used in the Han dynasty. It was a two-treadle single heddle plain weave loom that already employed the principle of tension compensation.

Slanted Treadle Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

This type of loom long vanished in the course of history, has now been successfully reconstructed. It was the kind of loom that quite possibly reflected the true level of technology at that time.

Vertical Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum


Vertical treadle loom is closer to the Oblique Treadle Loom. Because of its warp perpendicular to the ground, it is also known as "vertical loom". Its image appeared in the Dunhuang grottoes of Five Dynasties period. This loom is reconstructed according in the description of "Zi Ren Yi Zhi" by Xue Jing Shi of Yuan Dynasty.

Plain-weave Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum
Plain-weave Loom
This loom is typical of the traditional looms found in villages of Zhejiang province. In this simple and elegant design, two treadles are used to operate the two heddles for alternating the sheds.
Bamboo Cage Loom 1, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

The polychromatic silk textiles of the Zhuang people in Guangxi are made on this type of loom.

Bamboo Cage Loom 2, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

The shedding and patterning mechanism is a round bamboo basket shaped like those use for transporting pigs to market.

Dai Brocade Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum
Dai brocade loom
The Dai brocade loom, native to Yunan province, is equipped with a small pattern harnesses with individual looped threads controlling each weft pick. Each loom has as many as 100 looped threads.
Hotan Ikat Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum
Hotan Ikat loom
Hotan Ikat looms are still in use today in the Hotan (Hetian) region of Xinjiang. Before weaving, the warps are tie-dyed. After the colored warps onto the beams been mounted, slight irregularities in dyeing results in “hazy”, optically stimulating patterns that characterize the Ikat style.
Gauze loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

The technique of weaving Hangzhou gauze can be traced back to the Yue Gauze, which originated in the Zhejiang area during the Tang dynasty. In the Qing dynasty, because of its fine texture and elegant appearance, it was highly praised by the imperial court and became well known was at home and abroad. Hangzhou Hanggauze, damask and satin are the three most important silk fabrics in southeast China.

Luo gauze with lozenge patterns, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum
Shuanglin Loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

The damask produced in Shuanglin, Huzhou, is famous for its softness and luster. As early as the Tang dynasty it was presented to the imperial court as a form of tribute. It is woven on a draw loom using locally produced Jili silk.

Zhang Velvet Loom 1, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

Zhang velvet was popular in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Most Zhang velvet lacks a woven ground, comes in one or two colors, and is sometimes embellished with gold or silver thread.

Hook-shaft pattern loom - the world's first pattern loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

Hook-shaft pattern loom is excavated in the Laoguanshan Han dynasty tomb, Chengdu, Sichuan Province in 2012. At the bottom of one wooden coffin, they discovered four model looms made of wood and bamboo. To date these are the only complete models of Han dynasty looms with a confirmed provenance.

Hook-shaft Pattern Loom (The world's first Pattern Loom)2, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum
Lesser Draw loom, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

The lesser draw loom, also known as the harnessed loom, has a straight frame with an upright platform for harnesses in the middle section.

Greater Draw loom 3, From the collection of: China National Silk Museum

To store the patterning information of a large pattern unit, drawstrings controlling as many as 100,000 sequential wefts are arranged in circles that are hung at the back of the loom. Looms with multiple harnesses can produce fabrics with massive patterns, such as entire dragon robes.

Credits: Story

China National Silk Museum

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