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With all our textiles, design looms large

Posted by Guilford of Maine on November 10, 2020

Like many artists, our pattern designers find inspiration all around them. Whether browsing through fashion magazines, taking a walk in nature, or observing the architecture of an urban street, our designers draw on multiple sources to create a diverse catalogue of patterns.

That said, good designers will also keep the customer's needs in mind. Some want a colourful, intricate pattern that immediately catches the eye. For others, a simpler design with a more pronounced texture might be just the thing. Of course, the customer's budget is always an important consideration, and the way a fabric is designed and made can influence the final cost.

Traditional craft meets modern technology

Once they have settled on an idea, designers use computer software to translate their vision into weavable patterns. It’s important to keep in mind the scale and size of a pattern, since it will get repeated multiple times over a length of fabric.
After a design has been entered into the computer, it’s time to bring it to life. Every artistic medium has its own unique tools. Painters use brushes and canvases; sculptors employ chisels and marble. When it comes to woven art, we have our own specialized tools of the trade: looms and yarn.

A tale of two looms

Looms weave patterns together by interlacing two perpendicular sets of yarns—the horizontal weft and the vertical warp. Warp yarns are attached to harnesses, which are alternately raised and lowered to create gaps, known as sheds, through which the weft yarn is passed to form a pattern.
There are two main types of looms, the Dobby and the Jacquard. The difference between them lies in way the warp yarns are manipulated, resulting in patterns with varying levels of complexity.

Dobby looms

The Dobby loom takes its name from “draw boys,” the assistants in early weaver workshops whose job was to pull or “draw” on the warp threads. On Dobby looms, the warp yarns are manipulated in groups, several strands at a time. This process limits fabrics to simple geometric designs but it also results in a more textured cloth. Sometimes, the names of our Dobby patterns (such as Tweed or Rattan) evoke the feel as well as the look of the fabric they represent.

Jacquard looms

Invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804, the Jacquard loom is used to manufacture textiles with elaborate patterns. The original invention used a system of hole-punched cards, and it contributed to the development of programmable machines, leading to the device you’re using to read this very blog! With Jacquard looms, each warp yarn is controlled individually, allowing for intricate designs. Check out our Emphasis, Steadfast, Excerpt and Portofino patterns for examples of Jacquard fabrics.

The art of weave

Fabric makers are both limited and empowered by the tools of their art. The challenge for designers lies in creating graphics that build on the strengths of each loom. Rather than seeing it as a constraint, our designers use the different weaving processes to their advantage, producing beautiful patterns suitable for a variety of settings and uses.

Staying true to our colours

In our industry, form meets function in a seamless (no pun intended!) whole. Whether produced on a Dobby or a Jacquard loom, different fabrics will require different approaches to care and maintenance. Want to learn more about the design and manufacturing of textiles? Stay tune for our upcoming Textile Fundamentals webinars.