Friday 17 June 2016

WOVNS: rethreading textiles

A problem for small-run clothing producers and home enthusiasts has always been access to high-quality materials. It's easy for the big brands to order up hundreds of yards of printed fabric for their new collections. But if you only want fifty, or ten, or even just one for a soft furnishing project? Forget it, ain't gonna happen.

The Jacquard Loom was one of the great motors of the Industrial Revolution. Invented in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard, it could create reams of fabric, taking instructions from punch-cards as to which coloured thread went where in a given design. If you recognise the notion it's because from this simple idea, Charles Babbage and other innovators would create the foundations of the modern computer.

And the age of the computer could mean revolution in the field of textile production. A new Kickstarter project called WOVNS will soon allow anyone to order custom designed Jacquard-weave fabric in any quantity they choose. Even a single yard of fabric will soon become affordable.

The thing with woven textiles is that they are labour-intensive and complex to produce. Loading of thread and yarn-spinning are high-overhead jobs, needing time and expertise. All of this comes at a cost.

The WOVNS platform aims to change all that. Working closely with textile manufacturers, the WOVNS team has figured out a workflow that enables any digital design to be dropped onto the work-line and woven to order. It means that even prototyping becomes accessible to the home user. Want to run off a yard or two of that new design to see how it works as a bag, throw or scarf? It's easy, and of course once you're ready to take over the world with your new design you can scale up accordingly. With a wide selection of coloured and quality textiles on which to weave your design, the possibilities become almost endless. And of course, the low-waste, print-to-order model is eminently sustainable.

This kind of innovation has major potential, allowing smaller manufacturers access to high-quality fabrics in quantities that simply would have been uneconomical to produce using conventional methods. It also gives manufacturers access to a whole new range of customers, and even the domestic market. WOVNS is also supporting the design community with a curated range, The WOVNS Collection. Artists who make it onto the list can see their ideas writ large on bags, clutches and cushions, and they recieve royalties on every yard printed.

Our View: we like to think that Jacquard would be pleased with the invention on offer here. His intention with the loom that bears his name was to free textile workers from drudgery. WOVNS is giving a new generation the chance to see their dreams laid out in fabric.


For more on WOVNS, to support the project and to sign up to the platform, visit the Kickstarter:



In a small piece of administrative news, Ian has granted me a little leave, so I'll be leaving my writing hut at the end of The Pier and heading up to the wifi-free joys of the Lake District. Jamming my thumb hard on the reset button.

See you in a week.


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