Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Video: Creating Modern Textiles on 1870 Looms

Friday, September 11, 2015

Isabella reporting,

What must it be like to be the last in the world to do something – a craft that once was common, but now is nearly lost?

Today's short video documents the work the weavers of John Boyd Textiles of Castle Cary, Somerset, England. They're a very specialized kind of weaver: they have made horsehair fabric since 1837, and continue to do so on looms that date from 1870.

Woven from tail hair from live horses with cotton or silk warps, horsehair fabric was once the standard for long-wearing and lustrous furnishings, and was used by designers like Thomas Chippendale and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. While now the fabric is considered something of a luxury textile, it's still specified by high-end design firms. John Boyd Textiles is one of the last companies in the world continuing to produce horsehair fabric, and pride itself on using only traditional methods and materials.

In fact, what captivated me about this film was the understated pride of the John Boyd Textiles employees. It's clear that every worker in the labor-intensive process is proud of what they make, and how they make it - something that's rare indeed in the modern world.


Karen Anne said...

I used to live in a bungalow built in the 1920s, and I was told the plaster contained horsehair for strength.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. As a child, I listened to someone refer to a "horsehair" couch. I immediately assumed they were talking about the cushion stuffing. That couch was an antique. Perhaps they were talking about the fabric covering. I wonder what a roll of it would cost?!

bluefalling said...

My inner mechanical engineer and process safety analyst spotted about a dozen things that could make the process safer and more reliable. The wrench was awesome(!!!!) but hydraulics would be more efficient and do the job without risking someone's back, without shortcuts either

The historic freak wants to keep it just the same as a testament to 1870's engineering. And because it is so cool.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I also have childhood memories of horsehair - the ancient kneeling cushions in our church were covered with prickly worn red velvet. I couldn't understand how velvet could be so unforgivingly prickly to my bare knees, and it was explained to me that it wasn't the velvet, but the horsehair stuffing inside the cushions that was the culprit. Completely creeped me out.

From curiosity, I just googled horsehair stuffing, and it's still available for restoring and restuffing antiques. Looks every bit as unpleasant as I'd always imagined:

Shelley Morrow said...

Enjoyed watching the video

Sarah Dewfall said...

Thanks for this, It was fascinating, especially as they are only 30 miles away from me!

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