The Textiles Department of the Rhode Island School of Design is home to an incredible and massive machine: the Jacquard Loom. Invented in 1804, it was the first loom operated off of binary code through a series of punch cards that raise and lower the warp yarn ends to create complex weave structures.
Instead of punch cards, today’s loom uses electricity, computers and CAD (computer aided design software). However, the principles of the original invention are still used today – and informed the creation of the first computer.
It’s rare for college-level students to have access to equipment like the Jacquard Loom; it was donated by RISD alumni in the textiles industry so that RISD students could learn relevant skills in the fast-changing world of textiles design. Students use computer aided design software to design Jacquard weave files, which the loom reads to create their own lengths of original fabric.
Behind the Scenes
See this industrial loom in action and learn how it works from Textiles Alumni Technician Polly Spenner.