THE hand loom is Oriental, the power loom Occidental. The former adds much to the fame of the Orient. The exquisite fabrics it produces have made it world-renowned, and although it is simple in structure, its products show careful and finished labor. Hand looms in all Oriental countries are similar, and are to-day almost as imperfectly developed as when used by the ancient Egyptians. To weave their mats, the ancient Egyptians took the coarse fibre of the papyrus and, with the help of pegs, stretched it between two poles which were fastened in the ground. Two bars were placed in between these poles, the threads of the warp serving to keep them apart. The woof thread was passed through and pressed down tightly a number of times with a bent piece of wood.
The loom now generally used in the Orient is made by fastening two poles perpendicularly in the ground to a sufficient depth, leaving above ground as much of each pole as equals in length the desired rug. This frame-work supports two horizontal rollers, the warp threads being wound around the upper, while the ends are fastened to the lower ; at this the weaving is begun, and on it the rug is rolled while in process of construction. To the warp threads of fine linen or cotton the weavers tie the tufts of worsted that form the pile. This worsted, which has been dyed previously, hangs over their heads in balls. When a row of knots is finished, it is pressed down to the underlying woof by a long and heavy comb with metal teeth. Then the tufts are clipped close with shears, to make the pile. In the finer rugs there are seldom more than two, or at the most three, threads between every two rows of knots, but in the coarser kinds there are more threads. In many districts every family possesses a loom, and it is generally small enough to be carried from place to place.
Sir George C. Birdwood has seen the web in the horizontal loom in Western India kept stretched by being wrapped, as worked, round the body of the weaver.. In some instances the spinners make thread from the cotton wool by using the left hand as a distaff, and the right one as a spindle. In other cotton rugs which he has seen, the warp threads were placed horizontally, and the loom was without treadles and reed. The woof threads were thrown across by the weaver and brought together with a small hand comb. The same style of loom, arranged vertically, is that on which some of the richly figured cotton rugs from the Deccan are woven.
In some parts of Turkey there are European factories that have adopted some of the native methods ; but as the majority of Turkish rugs are apt to be crooked, frames that weave them straight are now imported from Europe.
Mrs. Isabella Bird Bishop describes a tribe of people living at Biratori, on the Island of Yezo, Japan, and bearing the name of Ainos, whose women employ their time in weaving mats. Their loom is certainly a most primitive arrangement. A comb-like frame, through which the threads pass, rests on the ankles of the weaver. There is a heavy hook fastened in the ground or floor, and to this the threads at the far end of the web are sewed. A cord fastens the near end to the waist of the weaver, who by spinal rigidity supplies the necessary tension. As the work proceeds, she drags herself along nearer and nearer the hook. This is slow work, only about a foot being accomplished in a day ; as in other countries, however, the women enjoy the neighborly chats that their work allows; and often two or more will bring to the house of a neighbor their simple apparatus, and, hanging the hooks to the roof or to a tree, will weave all day.
The power looms of modern civilization are chiefly to be found in the United States and Great Britain, Philadelphia being the principal American centre, and Kidderminster, Wilton, Worcester, Rochdale, Halifax, Dewsbury, and Durham, the English centres. Brussels and Scotland contain a number of such looms. In all Western countries schools of art furnish most of the designs, and have done much to improve taste. This can also be said of good colorists in their branch of this industry.
( Originally Published Late 1900’s )