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March 13, 2020

Beam me up, Scotty

No, this blog isn't about space travel, but we are going to talk about warp speed and beams, as we boldly go further into the world of textiles. Fabric looms large in our everyday lives, from the socks we pull on in the morning to the curtains swinging shut at the theatre and the covering on the sofa in the reception area at the office, with a thousand-and-one other applications in between. Designing the ideal fabric for each purpose might not be rocket science, but at Duvaltex we pour a lot of expertise into choosing the exact right type of construction – woven or knitted – and yarn for every piece of fabric we make.

Knit one, weave two

While knitted cloth is a single yarn looped together, woven cloth is made up of two sets of yarn crossing at right angles. The yarn that runs the length of the fabric is called the warp, and the yarn that crosses the width is called the weft. Just to make it more complicated, each piece of yarn in the warp is called an end, and each piece in the weft is called a pick. Are you still with me?

Where warp and weft meet

To make a piece of fabric, the ends are wound around a massive spool, called a beam, side by side. The size of the warper is chosen based on the desired output. Because staying at the leading edge of fabric design is so fundamental to Duvaltex's mission, we have sampler warpers that can be used for research and development, to be certain all the qualities of the fabric are exactly right before going into production, or to produce smaller batches. Our sectional warpers are for large-scale production: we can “beam up” warps 5500 yards long – for Trekkies, that's longer than seven USS Enterprises end to end!

Once the ends are in place on the warper, the warp is fed into a loom and the picks are woven crosswise through it, in patterns of varying complexity, depending on the size and type of the loom. Our state-of-the-art looms can create a dizzying variety of fabrics in an endless number of patterns, weights, strengths and feels.

Looms: speed vs. variety

At Duvaltex, we have two types of looms: air jet and rapier. An air jet loom uses just air to pass the picks through the warp, while a rapier uses two clamps, one to pass the pick from one edge to the center and the other to draw it from the center to the other edge. Our rapier looms can handle a much wider variety of yarns, but they cannot match the warp speed of an air jet loom, which can weave up to 1,050 picks per minute.

Patterns and more!

The intricacy of the pattern you want is another factor in loom choice, and that's where dobby and jacquard looms come in. Our next blog post delves into the possibilities these looms offer. And if you're interested in really expanding your knowledge of the history, design and manufacture of commercial fabrics, our Textile Fundamentals workshop is a great place to begin, with hands-on activities that run the gamut from yarn types and colors to fabric finishing and sustainable manufacturing practices. Join us!