Inside the TextilTechnikum (Textile Technology Center) in Monforts Quartier, Mönchengladbach
The handloom consists of a frame made of thick oak planks that are mortized together. Three movable rollers, called "beams," are attached to this frame: the warp beam, which stockpiles the unwoven warp threads; the breast beam, used as a deflection roller in front of the weaver; and the cloth beam onto which the finished material is wound. The crosspiece, shafts, and beater sit between the warp beam and breast beam.
The weaver uses the beater to feed the weft thread through to the finished fabric. The shafts are operated alternately after each weft using both treadles. This allows each half of the warp threads to be raised or lowered in turn. This creates a "shed," into which the weaver inserts the weft thread by throwing the shuttle. With this throwing action, the material winds itself from a small spool in the shuttle. The weaver then takes their foot off the treadle and strikes the beater to feed the inserted thread through to the finished fabric. This process is repeated as the weaver constantly changes treadles, throwing the shuttle from the left and then the right through the open shed, and striking the beater.
The "reed," also called the "comb," can be found in the beater. This keeps the threads of the warp parallel and in position. A gap is also created between each thread. However, before the warp threads can be passed through the reed, they need to be moved to one of the two shafts using the "heddle." In the simplest form of weaving, known as plain weaving, this means that one warp thread is assigned to the front shaft and the following thread to the back shaft, with the back thread then moving to the front in sequence. This ensures uniformity of the plain woven fabric. The crosspiece establishes the order of the warp threads so that each thread can be repositioned in the correct place after a thread break or tear.
Flax—From the Fields to Linen Thread
Flax is an annual plant, and the bundles of fibers within its stalks can be used to produce linen thread. After sowing the seeds on the 100th day of the year and allowing the plant to grow for another 100 days, its blue flowers bloom and the flax grows sap capsules. The roots die off and the flax can be harvested by "pulling" or uprooting the plants along with their roots. The only part of the plant that is useful for producing linen thread is the stem. The linseed is then extracted by "rippling". After subsequent "retting" of the flax, the following processing steps are performed: breaking, scutching, heckling, spinning, reeling, and spooling. The finished linen yarn is then used as warp or weft for weaving.
The steam engine for textile work was created by Otto Recke—a company based in the borough of Rheydt—in 1901. It was used in the mechanical linen and jute textile mill, P.W. Blancke in Heinsberg, until the business closed down in 1981. Using transmission belts, the engine ran not only the mill's textile machines, but also its other machinery, as well as a generator for producing electricity.
Machines from the former P.W. Blancke jute-weaving factory in Heinsberg
In the foreground, there is a warping machine for creating the warp beam and, on the right, two calenders. Calenders complete the finishing of a fabric by pressing it at a high temperature.
All Blancke machines—from looms to machinery in the workshop—were driven by steam engine via transmission belts, until the plant was closed in 1981.
Semi-Automatic "Mule Jenny" Spinning Machine
The "Mule Jenny" works semi-automatically and represents a link between the manual spinning of the "Spinning Jenny" and fully-automatic spinning machines. It marks the evolution of "Spinning Jenny" technology for factory operation and was developed in 1779 by Englishman Samuel Crompton.
The front part of the machine with the spindles can be extended. As the carriage moves out, the roving, which is placed in rollers on the machine, is stretched and spun by the rotating spindles. Then, the carriage is retracted again and the finished yarn is wound onto the reels.
The outward movement of the carriage and the rotation of the spindles is no longer powered by hand, but by a central power source, which is transmitted to the machine via a transmission belt. However, the return movement of the carriage and the winding of the yarn must be carried out by hand. This is clearly visible on the machine. The operator would do this by pressing on the leather cushion with their knee. At the same time, the spinner regulated the winding of the yarn with the large handwheel.
This "Mule Jenny" has eighty spindles and is six meters wide, but it was possible to have 300–500 spindles and widths of up to 14 meters.
The next development was the fully-automatic spinning machine or "self-actor" from 1825/30. However, the "Mule Jenny" continued to hold its own for a good while because the "self-actor" offered only a 20% improvement in performance, was much more expensive, and consumed far more energy.
This "Mule Jenny" was built in the CE Schwalbe spinning-machine factory in Werdau, Germany, around 1850. It is on loan to the TextilTechnikum from the LVR-Industriemuseum (Textilfabrik Cromford) in Ratingen, Germany.
DSB warping machine made by Schlafhorst, Mönchengladbach 1972
Good warps are an absolute prerequisite for a top-quality finish on woven products. The warping machine controls and monitors the entire warping process, guides the warp section, and measures the section lengths.
The warp creels of this machine can be equipped with 640 yarn spools, meaning 640 warp threads can be spooled simultaneously. The reed determines the thread density and, therefore, the warp width.
After warping, the spooled warp threads are "taken up," or wound onto a large metal roll—the warp beam of the loom.
Shuttle loom, produced by Robert Hall & Sons Makers, Bury, England, c.1910
Originally, the weft spools in the shuttle had to be exchanged individually by hand when the weft yarn had been weaved. In 1930, the loom was retrofitted with a drum magazine so the weft spool could be changed automatically.
A dobby was also fitted. During weaving, the lifting and lowering of the warp threads forms what is known as the "shed." The shuttle with the weft yarn is passed through this and the fabric is produced. In the simplest case, every second warp thread is raised or lowered, producing a simple, grid-like fabric. The warp threads can also be lifted and lowered in other sequences, enabling more complicated structures. A particular fabric structure is called the "weave," common examples of which are twill, linen, or huckaback weave. The warp threads are lifted by wires, known as "heddles," which are fastened to rods or harnesses Creating different weaves requires several harnesses and these are controlled accordingly. That is is the purpose of the dobby.
Originally, power was supplied via a transmission belt. The transmission wheel is still visible on the loom. An electric motor was later installed for demonstration purposes.
Differentiating Loom Technology
Over time, weaving machines became more specialized. On ribbon looms, for example, numerous narrow fabrics are formed next to one another. On this ribbon loom, constructed by Edmund Finkensieper Bandwebstuhlfabrik in Wuppertal around 1880, twenty-eight strip fabrics (hangers, labels, gauze bandages, colored ribbons, etc.) can be produced in parallel.
Jacquard control technology enabled even greater perfection during the weaving process. Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented the machine named after him around 1800. This machine made it possible to weave even the most complicated patterns by scanning punched cards. Unlike the dobby machine, which could lift and lower two or more shafts in up and down movements, and control only entire groups of threads, the jacquard machine allows each individual warp thread to be controlled.
This is done by needles scanning a perforated plate. Running across this plate are the perforation cards, which have holes in many places, although not everywhere. In places where the scanning needles do not find holes in the card and the perforated plate, the resistance releases the hooks of the affected warp threads. These warp threads are not raised for "shedding," but are carried "invisibly" on the underside of the fabric for the pattern.
Another significant part of weaving is the lift box. To both the left and right of the shed is a movable shuttle box with, at most, four slots built in, so weaving is possible with a maximum of seven shuttles. Changing the shuttle can change colors within a pattern, for example, to place different colored stripes adjacent to one another.
Improvement of Loom Technology
The technology of shuttle looms improved continuously over the years, especially with regard to weaving speed. The number of looms that a weaver could operate at the same time also increased steadily.
Looms from the second half of the 20th century create around 150–200 picks per minute. Despite the high speed, the spool in the shuttle is changed automatically when it is empty. The empty spool core falls into a container on the loom at the same moment as the full spool is pushed out of the spool storage shaft.
At this speed, however, the limits of shuttle weaving are determined by the weight of the shuttle and the spool together with the material. The high speed increases the wear on many parts of the weaving machine and makes the resulting fabric more expensive.
Advances in Modern Weaving Technology
To achieve faster weaving speeds, machines without the traditional shuttles were developed, such as the gripper loom. Higher speeds can be achieved here because less weight is moved and braked. The pick rates range from 300–400 picks per minute.
A gripper at the end of a bar is guided with thread into the open shed of the fabric. The thread is then taken up from the other side by the opposite gripper and pulled through the shed to the end of the fabric. The thread is always fed from one side. As a result, no closed selvages are created, only open ones, and these are cleaned using scissors during the weaving process.
The gripper can be guided by a belt or a rod, giving this technique its name. As no shuttles are used here, yarn insertion takes place using pre-loaded weft spools. These supply the appropriate thread length before the thread is inserted, because direct, jerky unwinding from a large cross-wound bobbin would generate too much resistance.
It's possible for weaving to be even faster with air-jet technology. For example, the air-jet weaving machine at the TextilTechnikum made by Picanol in 2000 can weave up to 1000 picks per minute. In this case, the thread, which is also delivered by pre-loaded weft spools because of the speed, is conveyed through the opened shed by air blasts. It's not just one air blast, but numerous short, small blasts from nozzles arranged in a relay that convey the thread piece by piece through the shed.