In Syria today various sorts of hand looms are still in use. For weaving ikat fabrics in silk and artificial silk the shaft loom (without punched cards) is used. Wool and cotton are often woven on a pit loom.
Many old Syrian shaft looms have been improved by
the addition of modern equipment, particularly in
Damascus, but to a lesser extent in
Aleppo, Homs and
Hama, on which silk and artificial silk are woven into damasks and
brocades or other fabrics. They have been fitted with Jacquard machines and
The basic framework for all sorts of looms (shaft loom, pit loom, hybrid loom,
draw loom or Jacquard loom) is always in principle the same, apart from some
deviations and modernizations.
It consists of four upright posts joined together.
At the back is the warp beam on which the warp threads are wound. From here
they run through leashes which are attached to two pieces of wood and form a
shaft. After this they pass through the weaving comb and are tied to the cloth
beam at the front. The weaver sits on a bench or a board in front and, by
working the pedals which are connected with the shafts, forms the shed he
requires, passes the shuttle through and beats in the weft thread firmly into
the woven fabric with the weaving comb which hangs in a slay in the basic
The shaft loom
After the hank of warp threads, with the shafts and comb, has been taken from
the mulqi (leash threader) to the weaver (annawwal), the
first thing he does is to insert the comb into the swing drawer and stretch out
the warp threads attached to the breast beam. When the sley and breast beam are
ready for use, the shafts with pedals attached are suspended from the frame. It
takes five or six hours for the nawwalto do this. The more complicated
the pattern, the more shafts with pedals are included.
To do the weaving the weaver sits on a board placed
so that when his legs are almost extended they reach the pedals. This raised
position gives him a good view of the whole loom.
Today the shaft loom is often equipped with a
fast-shuttle device. The shuttle (makkuk) with the weft thread is
hastened on its course back and forth by pulling on a handle.
As he weaves the nawwdl operates first one
pedal so that the shaft to which it is joined is lowered and the other shafts
are raised and form a shed. By pulling the handle he shoots the weft thread
across and then beats it into the woven fabric with the sley. If the weaver
wants to weave in a smaller pattern or his name, he uses a smaller shuttle with
a different coloured thread and draws the weft through the newly formed shed
only as far as the width of the the pattern or script. The cross- patterning is
only possible with plain weave; there is no point in doing it with atlas weave
since the weft threads are completely concealed by the warp threads.
This works on exactly the same principle as the
shaft loom. except that the warn is not stretched out so far and runs
horizontal only for a short distance before turning backwards and upwards 120
degrees. This means that it takes up less room. Breast beam, sley, framework
and pedals are constructed in a similar way to the shaft loom, but are smaller.
The warp threads run from the breast beam almost horizontally to the first
roller. Passing beneath tills they then turn diagonally backwards and upwards
for two or three metres and round another roller. They are weighted down so
that they hang vertically behind the back of the weaver.
The weaver at the pit loom sits on a board at ground level in front of the
breast beam. The space for the pedals is a pit.
I This loom is used especially to weave carpets
(flat r weave), small fancy kerchiefs made of wool, cotton or mixtures, but
larger cloths made of silk or artificial silk can also be woven on it. Nowadays
the pit loom, too, often has a fast-shuttle attachment, though tins is not used
for particularly small patterns and partial patterns, where frequent changing
of the weft thread is necessary, in which case a number of small hand shuttles
From draw loom to Jacquard machine
The draw loom was widely used for weaving
complicated patterns (damask, brocade) until the invention of the Jacquard
machine (by J.M. Jacquard, 1752-1834) in the nineteenth century.
The weaver formed the shed for the fabric base with
pedals and shafts, while an assistant placed in the "figure or drawing area"
high above on the loom created the sheds for the motifs in die pattern by
pulling up groups of cords with the corresponding warp threads suspended from
them. (This process is now accomplished in many looms by means of punched
cards). Moreover the warp threads were not threaded on shafts but in individual
leashes each with a little rod weight below, threaded through a horizontal
board with holes carefully made in it and carried up to the drawing arrangement
The Jacquard machine was devised to control the warp threads drawn through the
leashes, each leash having a platine (weight) attached. The size of
the patterned surface depends on the number ofplatincs (there can be
more than 800). The platines s.re controlled by means of series of
cards attached together, which are punched with holes corresponding to the
pattern, or else by "endless" bands made of paper or plastic.
Damasks and brocades are produced on ^ looms
equipped in this way. A genuine damask (usually silk) has an even alternation
of warp and weft atlas, which gives the fabric its characteristic shiny
Brocade is a patterned, damask-like fabric made of
natural or artificial silk with metal threads woven in. There are also brocades
made entirely from gold or silver threads.
Brocade threads usually have a cotton or linen core
round which metal threads (lame) are spun. Today special threads, such as
lurex, which do not oxidize, are mainly used.