Weaving by hand on a traditional loom
Once the silk threads have been cleaned, smoothed and dyed, they are wound up to make them ready to be woven. For the warp, the threads are wound up onto spools with the winding machine. In the case of the weft thread, the threads are wound up onto quills – which are sort of wooden sticks – that will be fitted into the shuttle for the actual weaving operation.
Firstly, the old traditional manual reeling machines work with bicycle wheels to sort out the threads properly and remove the waste from them. Secondly, after the dyeing process, the threads are reeled again (to sort out and clean them again) on the wheels and then they are wound up on multiple bobbins.
Every bobbin of a same colour is then put together onto special furniture which enables all their threads to be reeled and sorted out once again thanks to two combs-like metallic separators which finally lead the threads onto a massive reeling machine. This huge machine which needs two artisans to function correctly enables to wound up the smooth and clean silk threads around a big spool which will serve as a basis for weaving. One of those big reeling machine was kindly offered by one of the old French silk workshops in Lyons and dates back to the 19th century!
After all the painstaking upstream work done by meticulous artisans, the weaving can eventually begin. The warp chain will individually pass through dents of the reed, to be rolled up again on the cylinder placed in front of the loom. In the meantime, the weavers alternately pedal up and down on the levers to overhang the frame, and to provide the route for the shuttle that carries the weft threads to move from right to left. After each passing of the shuttle, the reed will join and tighten the threads together to make the full length fabric.
Watching a weaver working on a traditional loom somehow makes you feel that you look at talented pianist playing his score to perfection. You realise at the same time the uniqueness of each fabric once it is finished and the importance to preserve the traditional skills of silk weaving.