A Member’s Report from TSA’s Velvets in Italy Study Tour

Cut and Voided Velvet from Tessitura Artigiana Gaggioli, Zoagli, Italy

Looms! Lots of them at every destination.

This photo shows one area of Fondazione Arte Della Seta Lisio in Florence where 4 of us attended a 3-day workshop and got to weave on one of the velvet looms. Many weavers know of it as “Lisio”.

It was a wonderful trip and we had access to so many working atliers that it was unbelievable. We saw velvet in Florence, Venice, Milan, Como, the Riveria (town of Zoagli). Seeing the looms in person and in action was a rare opportunity.

Looking at the loom in the front of the picture you can see the huge rack of spools at the back of the loom. There are hundreds of spools holding the silk pile threads for the velvet. On top of the looms you can see the Jacquard mechanisms, that they called machines. Note the ladder. Punched cards can be seen hanging from above on the first loom on the right. The two big cords at the front of that loom are tied to two very long treadles. The weavers stand to weave.

About 10 wires woven in the cloth. One is soon to be cut.

Seeing the wires being put in under the pattern pile warps close up was great. The weavers all stopped and let us put our noses right down next to the cloth and looms. The weaver will slide her blade along the top of the wire closest to the woven cloth to cut the pile, then remove the wire and place it in the next shed to be made.

Cutting the velvet.

This time the weaver cut after placing only 3 wires in. The blade is in a corner of the holder that you can see. The blade follows in a groove in the top of the wire for cut velvet. For uncut velvet, the wire has no groove and it is pulled out.

Punched cards for the Jacquard Machine Being Stitched Together

We were given a simple design that we could weave in a day. Then we punched the cards for the velvet design and the cards were stitched together ready to be put onto the Jacquard machine. These cards are for the pile. Another set of cards were for weaving the foundation and interlacing the pile warps into it. Those 4 cards were put on “the small machine”, what they called the small Jacquard Mechanism.

The Velvet We Wove in the Workshop

There were 10 rows (cards) in the repeat for the pile. The pile was uncut because we couldn’t be trusted to weave the pile threads in tight enough. If we cut the pile and it wasn’t secured into the foundation, all the pile threads would slide out of the heddles of the loom and all the hundreds of spools would need to be rethreaded—a 2-week job.

Peggy Osterkamp is a member of TSA, weaver, textile artist, and author of several books about weaving. She has taught hundreds of people in her college classes and workshops across the country. Her home base is in the San Francisco Bay Area, right across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.
She regularly blogs on her website: