Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Starting in 1872, Japanese artisans travelled from Kyoto to Lyon, to study in the town's famed silk-weaving studios. The Jacquard mechanism which they helped to introduce to Japan the following year made the sorabiki-bata draw-loom obsolete within decades. Even in its. most basic application as an addition to hand-loom weaving, this new technology fundamentally transformed the geography and the economy of manufacturing processes by the turn of the century, but these new methods' impact on the actual fabrics which they were used to produce has yet to be fully explored.

In both countries at this time, woven pictures were one popular venue for testing the limits old and new technologies. Drafts and samples of actual woven silks in the thesis books of students from Lyon's weaving studios of the same decades show that some late nineteenth-century Japanese pictorial weaves are quite literal adaptations of Lyon patterning vocabularies. Upon actually mapping out the mathematical relationship of surface structures within most other textiles from this period, however, extremely complicated woven images often prove to be simpler than they first appear, executed on very basic draw-loom principals.