Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Loom Chatter 3

In the last Loom Chatter post I envisioned a future in which fly shuttle weaving is practically a lost art and rapier and air jet looms are coveted, rare machines that have been replaced by cutting edge equipment driven by nano-sized robots. This far-fetched yarn of fancy was spun to convey an important point.

To my fellow purist denim head: did you know that when the now-revered power shuttle loom was introduced there were strong sentiments against it? It was denounced by the trade and enthusiasts for weaving characterless fabric that was too uniform and mass-produced. Proponents of the hand loom were so vehement that in 1790 a mill was destroyed by a mob to show their dissatisfaction. Granted the trade had great economic incentive (power looms enabled reducing the labor force to half) but the general feelings are similar to what we have today when preferring the shuttle over air and rapier looms. I provoke this point to have us question, and perhaps reinforce, our appreciation of vintage fly shuttle weaving, looms, and denim.

To give us an idea of what was going through the minds of the people introducing new loom technology below is a sampling of advertisement quotes from the Draper Company.

In 1895:
"We believe that certain improvements we are soon to introduce will divide the cost of weaving by two..."

"Textile workers should be interested in all inventions that make their labor easier, cleaner, or healthier."

In 1896:
"The majority believe in progress. They favor inventions that relieve human labor by transferring operatons from fingers to levers and cams."

In 1897:
"Before the year is over the Amoskeag Mfg. Co. will have nearly 10,000 looms changed to take our motions."

In 1898:
"What do you think of a loom that requires but half the labor, weaves more perfect cloth and will run over time without need for attention."

"The only hope for our cotton mills in these critical times lies in the prompt adoption of improved machiner."

In 1900
"Every new idea meets the same opposition...In the first few years this machine had to bear the brunt of criticism, antagonism, doubt, fear, and mis-representation."

Disclaimer: While above applies to cotton weaving history in general I have yet to establish the extent to which this applies to denim. If anyone comes across any text related to this matter please leave a comment or shoot me an email at

Source: "Labor-Saving Looms" by Draper Company (1904)


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Iowa Jeans Drive

Those in Des Moines, Iowa need to drop by Iowa State University with their old, unwanted jeans.

Habitat for Humanity and Iowa State Univeristy is running a drive to turn collected jeans into home insulation for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The denim that is donated is recycled into denim blue bales of insulation called Ultra Touch, which is a natural cotton fiber insulation.


"They take those foam blocks and they feel them and they're just like, 'This is denim? These are the jeans I have on? This is crazy,'" said ISU student Marjorie Smith.

The idea of using denim for insulation is not new. Stories of vintage collectors finding overalls inside walls of old homes circulate in many circles. The "From Blue to Green" drive last year by Cotton Inc. helped insulate 12 homes that now shelter Katrina victims.

The goal this year for Habitat for Humanity is 70 homes. Being the average home needs approximately 500 pairs of jeans a target of 35,000 garments will be needed. If you are in the area feel free to pitch in by visiting these drop-off locations below.

Hamilton Hall - ISU Campus
Agronomy Hall - ISU Campus

Bethesda Lutheran Church
Memorial Lutheran Church
First United Methodist

Visit website of KCCI, Des Moines's local TV station, for more info and a video on denim Ultra Touch.

KCCI Website