All posts by maxinbalham

From Thomas Jackson to Ralph Watson

(March 2021)

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Woven Example After Jackson (USA); 1963-81-10 (scroll to view)
Woven Example After Jackson (USA); 1963-81-7
Woven Example After Jackson (USA); 1963-81-9
Pages of the Thomas Jackson Record Book
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I went looking for Thomas Jackson and found Ralph Watson.

Back in the early days of coronavirus lockdown, stuck at home and spending too much time browsing the internet, I came across a beautiful collection of linen cloths on the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s website. The rather enigmatic caption under the forty-one photographs read: Woven Example After Jackson (USA). No attribution, no date. I had no idea what “After Jackson” meant.

It took a bit of digging but I eventually discovered that the name Jackson refers to three generations of weavers living somewhere near the village of Kirkleatham in the North Riding of Yorkshire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Father, son and grandson, all called Thomas. Thomas Jackson Junior, Thomas Jackson the third, and Thomas Jackson the fourth. They left behind a record book. Forty of its sixty-six pages contain weaving drafts and instructions, dated from 1689 to 1769. Stripes, twills, damasks, diapers, huggabacks, petticoats, callomanks, satonettes. To be woven in linen or wool, or a mixture: ‘linsy wonsey’.

The Thomas Jackson manuscript was acquired by the Cooper Union Museum in New York in 1958. Sometime between then and 1964, a certain Alice Pastoret MacDonald transcribed all the patterns in the manuscript and wove three sets of samples. Given the number and range of drafts, that’s quite a feat. She donated one set of samples to the Cooper Union, which I assume are the “After Jackson” cloths now on the Cooper-Hewitt’s website, although Alice MacDonald is not mentioned.

She donated another set of the samples to the Shuttle Craft Guild of America, who published a monograph called “Thomas Jackson, Weaver: 17th and 18th Century Records,” with images of Alice MacDonald’s samples and text by Harriet Tidball, in 1964. It’s now out of print but I found a second-hand copy, which is where most of what I know about Thomas Jackson comes from. The monograph contains a few images of the manuscript, but I wanted to see more.

I couldn’t find any trace of the Thomas Jackson manuscript on the Cooper Hewitt’s website, so I emailed the curator of textiles, and asked if she might be able to send some images. She couldn’t, because she was working from home, but she found a note on the database written by former V&A curator John Styles. This included a reference to another slightly later pattern book in the North Yorkshire archives, by a weaver from Aiskew, near Bedale, about 30 miles away from Kirkleatham.

It didn’t take long to find this on the National Archives database, where it is listed as The Weaver’s Guide: linen designs by Ralph Watson of Aiskew 18th cent (Ref:Z371). In October I emailed the North Yorkshire County Records Office, who hold the manuscript, and for a small fee they sent me digital scans.


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Ralph Watson Manuscript: detail of page 144 (scroll to view)
Ralph Watson Manuscript: first 'hapings' draft.
Transcription of first 'hapings' draft.
Ralph Watson Manuscript: second 'hapings' draft.
Transcription of second 'hapings' draft.
Ralph Watson Manuscript: third 'hapings' draft.
Transcription of third 'hapings' draft.
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Most of the hundred and fifty pages of the Ralph Watson manuscript are taken up with drawings of block diaper patterns, with titles such as “The Keel Man’s Frolic” and “The Deep Wounds of Calder”. Towards the back, however, is a single page of pattern drafts for ‘hapings’, ‘flowered wounce’, ‘damask twill’, ‘huckaback’, ‘buble damask’, and ‘bird eye’. These are inscribed in concise weavers’ notation, indicating the threading draft and loom tie-up. Unlike the block diaper patterns, these drafts give no indication of the cloth’s appearance.

Each felt like a secret to be unlocked, and so I set about transcribing the drafts to get a sense of what these cloths might be like. In January I started weaving a sample of the first ‘hapings’ draft.

I’ll try to post again soon with an update on my progress.


Cooper Hewitt Museum entry for Thomas Jackson manuscript:

Cooper Hewitt Museum entry for “After Jackson” example:

National Archives entry for Ralph Watson manuscript:

North Yorkshire County Records Office entry for Ralph Watson manuscript:

Machines in Disguise

(February 2021)

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"Mechanics For Textile Students" by W.A. Hanton (1954); dust jacket.
Howard & Bullough School stamp on page 207.
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I recently bought a second-hand copy of ‘Mechanics for Textile Students’ by W.A. Hanton (1954). When it arrived through the letterbox I found some of the pages stamped by a previous owner: HOWARD & BULLOUGH SCHOOL – ACCRINGTON.

Accrington is a small town in north-east Lancashire midway between Blackburn and Burnley. It gives its name to the Accrington brick, a hard red engineering brick which I associate with the street of terraced houses in Mill Hill, Blackburn, where my grandfather lived, and where my mother grew up. The houses were built in the early 1900’s to house workers from the local textile mills. They were small, opening directly onto the street, with no gardens and a toilet in the back yard. My grandmother, who died before I was born, had moved to Mill Hill while Grandad was in France for the last years of the First World War. As a boy he had started work at a nearby cotton mill in 1902. Part-time at twelve, full-time at thirteen. He hated the work. During his first year he had the palm of his hand torn off in a machine.

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House on Francis Street, Mill Hill, Blackburn
Advertisement for Howard & Bullough Ltd, 1925
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Howard & Bullough Ltd used to be the world’s biggest manufacturer of cotton mill machinery. Their factory in Accrington, which closed in 1993, had dominated the town, occupying 52 acres and employing 6,000 workers. A school for apprentices was established in the 1880’s and amalgamated into the Accrington Technical School in 1892. There appears to have been an in-house training school operating in the 1950s and 60s, which must be where my book was stamped.

The chapter on Coil Friction in ‘Mechanics for Textile Students’ would have been useful a few months ago when I was trying to perfect my new selvage bobbins.  Selvage bobbins are mounted on the loom on either side of the warp and allow a few threads to be independently tensioned  to help make a good selvage. The tensioning mechanism consists of a weighted cord  wound round the bobbin, and it relies in coil friction. I eventually got them to work by experimenting with different kinds of cord, different sized weights, and different materials for the bobbin, but it might have been easier with the benefit of the theories, equations and diagrams in the book.

Selvage bobbins on my loom.

I’ve occasionally wondered if a handloom such as mine counts as a tool or a machine, and I guess it depends on your definitions.  According to W.A. Hanton “a machine may be defined as an instrument for doing useful work” and “all machines, however complicated, are made up of simple machines, of which there are only two, viz. (1) the lever, (2) the inclined plane. Each of these may, however, be disguised.” Loom treadles and pulleys are kinds of lever, so from an engineering perspective a loom is a complex machine made up of several simple machines, each doing mechanical work.

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Machines: detail of page 177.
Fig. 108: Simple Machines: detail of page 179.
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Of course there are other kinds of useful work besides the lifting of weights. Some of the work done by a loom is informational rather than mechanical – such as selecting which warp threads to lift at the same time.

Diagrams are instruments for doing cognitive work, so these diagrams of machines are themselves machines of a sort. They get their leverage by showing  only what is essential and leaving out  everything else. They don’t make a noise and you can’t get your hand stuck.


This is an illustrated list of books, articles and manuscripts about weaving and textile history, technology, and design, with download links for non-copyright items.

Ashenhurst, Thomas R. (1881) An Album of Textile Designs Containing Upwards of 7,000 Patterns Suitable for Fabrics of Every Description, J. Broadbent & Co. Bradford / Huddersfield.
Illustrations of 7,200 weave patterns, mostly fancy twills, listed according to the number of ends in a repeat, from 3 to 16.

from: Ashenhurst, Album of Textile Designs

Ashenhurst, Thomas R. (1899) Design in Textile Fabrics. London.

 Ashenhurst, Thomas R. (1879) A practical treatise on weaving and designing of textile fabrics : with chapters on the principles of construction of the loom, calculations and colour. Bradford.

Ashenhurst, Thomas R. (1902) A treatise on textile calculations and the structure of fabrics. Huddersfield.

Baines, Edward (1835) History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain, London.
Much quoted early history of the British cotton industry. Contains beautiful engravings of machinery and industrial mills.

Baines, Patricia (1989) Linen: Hand Spinning and Weaving. London.

Baldwin, Amos A. (1878) A treatise on Designing and Weaving Plain & Fancy Woolen Cloths. New York.

Barlow, Alfred (1879) The History and Principles of Weaving By Hand and By Power. London.
Contains some good description and line drawing explaining the mechanisms and operations of hand weaving, such as the English loom, fly-shuttle etc.

Becker, John & Wagner, Don (2009) Pattern & Loom: A Practical Study in the Development of Weaving Techniques in China, Western Asia and Europe. Copenhagen.

Beckert, Sven (2014) Empire of Cotton. New York.

Beaumont, Roberts (1916) Standard Cloths, Structure and Manufacture (General, Military and Naval) London.

Bell, T.F (1895) Jacquard weaving and designing. New York.

Bemiss, Elijah (1815) The Dyers Companion, New York

Bennett, Frank & Co., (1914) A Cotton Fabrics Glossary; Containing instructions for the Manufacture of Every Known Grade and Variety of Cotton Fabrics

Berthollet, Claude-Louis (1792) Elements of the Art of Dying

Bradbury, Fred (1912) Jacquard Mechanism and Harness Mounting. Manchester.

Bronson, J & R (1817) The domestic manufacturer’s assistant, and family directory, in the arts of weaving and dyeing. Utica, USA.

Butterworth, James (1801) A Guide to Universal Manufacture; or the Web Analyzed. Manchester.

Butterworth, James (1812) The fustian manufacturer and weaver’s draught book.

Butterworth, James (1805) The Weaver’s Pocket Companion; Or Weaving Spiritualized. London.

Butterworth, James (1825) The Manufacturer’s and Weaver’s Guide: Or the Web Unravelled. – v=onepage&q&f=false

Bythell, Duncan (1969) The Handloom Weavers: A Study in the English Cotton Industry during the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge.

Carter, H. R (1907) Modern flax, hemp and jute spinning and twisting; a practical handbook for the use of flax, hemp, and jute spinners, thread, twine, and rope makers. London & New York.

Cyrus-Zetterstrom, Ulla & Blomquist, Alice (translator) (1984) Manual of Swedish Handweaving. Stockholm.

Dodd, George (1844) Textile Manufactures of Great Britain.

Dolan, Alice (2015) The Fabric of Life: Linen and Life Cycle in England 1678-1810 PhD Thesis, University of Hertfordhsire

Donat, Franz (1900) Bindungs-Lexikon für Schaftweberei
Contains beautiful coloured plates of textile designs

Donat, Franz (1908) Methodik der Bindungslehre, Dekomposition und Kalkulation für Schaftweberei : Bearbeitet für Textilschulen und zum Selbstunterricht.
(Methodology of binding theory, decomposition and calculation for shaft weaving: edited for textile schools and for self-teaching)
Comprehensive German guide to structure and technology, with beautiful coloured illustrations on patterns and machinery.

Donat, Franz (1907) Die färbige Gewebemusterung : ein Lehrgang, Gewebe durch 2-6 färbige Anordnung der Ketten- und Schussfäden zu figurieren
(The colored fabric patterning: a course in figuring fabric through 2-6 colored arrangement of the warp and weft threads)

Donat, Franz (1895) Large Book of Textile Designs.
Contains beautiful coloured plates of textile designs.

Duncan, John (1808) Practical and descriptive essays on the art of weaving.

Evans, N. The East Anglian Linen Industry: Rural Industry And Local Economy, 1500 1850.

Fannin, Allen A. (1979) Handloom Weaving Technology

Forbes Watson, J. (1867) The Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of the People of India. London.

Fox, T. W. (1894) The Mechanism of Weaving, London

Frickinger, Johann Michael (1740) Weber Bild Buch

Frickinger, Johann Michael (1783) Weber Bild Buch

Gilroy, Clinton G (1844) The art of weaving, by hand and by power, with an introductory account of its rise and progress in ancient and modern times. New York, Baldwin.
Gilroy appears to have been something of a fraud. Substantial portions of the text are plagiarised from other authors such as John Duncan, while other sections are fanciful inventions. Beautiful engravings, such as Jacquard mountings towards the back.

Guest, Richard (1823) Compendious History of the Cotton-Manufacture; with Disproval of the Claim of Sir Richard Arkwright to the Invention of Its Ingenious Machinery; Manchester.
History of developments in British cotton spinning and weaving. Includes engravings of English loom, warping mill, jennies, water frames etc. at back of book.

Hanton, W. A. (1954) Mechanics for Textile Students. Manchester.

Hargrove, John (1792) The Weaver’s Draft Book and Clothiers Assistant; Baltimore.

Hellot, Jean; Macquer, Pierre Joseph; Le Pileur D’Apligny (1789) The Art of Dying Wool, Silk and Cotton, London

Heylin, Henry Brougham (1908), The Cotton Weavers Handbook: A practical guide To the Construction and Costing of Cotton Fabrics, with Studies of Designs; London.
“By Henry Brougham Heylin of the Royal Technical Institute, Salford” With 358 illustrations “The main objects in writing this work have been—first, in the interests of Technical Education ; secondly, to place before the reader and student—by simple methods of description and in as compact a handbook as possible—the principles and conditions under which cotton goods are respectively constructed and produced.”
Includes line drawings illustrating of power loom mechanisms and weave structures. Good clear diagrams of weave structure and loom mountings.

Holmes, James (1896) Cotton Cloth Designing, Burnley.
James Holmes was Lecturer in Weaving at Burnley, Nelson, Accrington and Nelson Technical Schools, Lancashire. “The object of this work is to explain the Principles of Designing for Simple woven patterns.” Contains colour plates in black, red, yellow and blue, describing patterns and structures of plain, twill, gauze, leno, double cloth, satins etc.

Holmes, James (1912) Manuscript Notes on Weaving. Burnley.
Handwritten text and hand drawn illustrations. Notes and exercises for weaving students. Includes cloth patterns and structures alongside diagrams of early twentieth century machinery.

Hooper, Luther (1920) Hand-Loom Weaving, Plain & Ornamental; from the Artistic Craft Series of Technical Handbooks, edited by W.R. Lethaby; Bath, Melbourne, New York. Weaving, Plain %26 Ornamental

Horner, John (1920) The Linen Trade of Europe During the Spinning Wheel Period.

Inikori, Joseph (1989) Slavery and the Revolution in Cotton Textile Production in England. Social Science History,Volume 13, Issue 4, Winter 1989 , pp. 343 – 379.

Kirschbaum, Johann Michael (1771) Neues Weberbild: und Musterbuch… zur Beförderung der edlen Leinen- und Bildweberkunst

Leggett, William (1945) The Story of Linen.

Lumscher, Nathaniel (1708) Neu Eingerichtetes Weber Kunst und Bild Buch

Lumscher, Nathaniel (1709) Neu hervorkommendes Weber Kunst und Bild Buch

 Lumscher, Nathaniel (1720) Neu hervorkommendes Weber Kunst und Bild Buch, Erster Theil

 Lumscher, Nathaniel (1727) Des Neu-erfundenen Weber Kunst- und Bild-Buchs, Dritter Theil

Lumscher, Nathaniel (1736) Des Kunst Bild und Weber Buchs, Vierter Theil
Note: this item in The Clark Art Institute Library  is catalogued as Neu-hervorkommendes Weber- Kunst- und Bild- Buch (# NK8805 L85 1736) but actually contains four volumes in one, with re-prints of earlier Lumscher volumes followed by Des Kunst Bild und Weber Buchs, Vierter Theil.
The pdf file from contains the following:
Neu hervorkommendes Weber Kunst und Bild Buch, Erster Theil
Des Neu-erfundenen Weber Kunst- und Bild-Buchs, Anderer Theil (from page 145)
Des Neu-erfundenen Weber Kunst- und Bild-Buchs, Dritter Theil (from page 269)
Des Kunst Bild und Weber Buchs, Vierter Theil (from p 412)

Marks, R. & Robinson A. T. C. (1976) Principles of Weaving. Textile Institute, Manchester.

Marsden, Richard (1895) Cotton Weaving: Its Development Principles and Practice; London & Manchester.
From preface: “The present work is an exposition of the development, principles, and practice of the weaving division of the trade, as the former volume was of the spinning division.””Marsden,+Richard,+1837-1903″

Moore, Alfred. S (1922) Linen. London, Bombay, Sydney. Constable & Company.

Moore, Alfred. S (1914) Linen: From the Raw Material to the Finished Product. London, New York. Pitman.

Murphy, John (1827) Treatise on the Art of Weaving, Illustrated by Engravings, with Calculations and Tables, for the Use of Manufacturers; Glasgow
Ch. 1: Loom Mountings: The first loom described is a coutermarche handloom, although not referred to as such, implying this was the commonly used loom. Lamms are called marches, long and short. Harnesses are called leafs, and are lifted by coupers in the top castle. Also includes descriptions of Jack and Stock and Pulley Mounting.
Ch. 2: Tweeling: good introduction to tweel patterns, satinets, damboard etc.
Some nice pattern plates in the back.

Neville, H. (1897) The students handbook of practical fabric structure., Technical School Blackburn,.

Oelsner, G. H. (1915) A Handbook of Weaves. New York.

Partridge, William (1834) A Practical Treatise on Dying Woollen Cotton and Silk. New York.

Peddie, Alexander (1817) The Linen Manufacturer, Weaver, and Warper’s Assistant, Glasgow.

Posselt, E. A (1887) The Jacquard machine analyzed and explained: with an appendix on the preparation of Jacquard cards

Schonsperger, Johann (1529) Ein New Getruckt Model Büchli Auff Außnehen Unnd Borttenwircken Ynn Der Laden Unnd Lanngenn Gestell. Ganntz Gerecht Nach Abteilung Der Feden Tzal.

Styles, John. (2016) Fashion, Textiles and the Origin of Industrial Revolution, Research Paper

Taylor, John T. (1909) Cotton Weaving & Designing, London.
“By John T. Taylor, late lecturer on Cotton Weaving and Designing in the Preston, Ashton-under-Lyne, Chorley, and Todmorden Technical Schools, and on Silk Weaving and Designing in the Macclesfield Technical School, author of designs for cotton fabrics, etc., in ‘The Textile Manufacturer’.”
Technical instruction manual introducing the processes and equipment of late nineteenth / early twentieth century English industrial cotton weaving. Very technical with lots of industrial machine drawings.

Tidball, Harriet (1964) Thomas Jackson, Weaver: 17th and 18th Century Records. Shuttle Craft Guild.

Tomlinson, Charles (1861) The useful arts and manufactures of Great Britain.

Tovey, John (1965) The Technique of Weaving. Readers Union, Devon.

Tovey, John (1969) Weaves and Pattern Drafting. London.

Ure, Andrew (1836): The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain, Systematically Investigated. London.

Wadsworth, Alfred & De Lacey Mann, Julia (1931) The cotton trade and industrial lancashire, 1600-1780. Manchester University Press.

Von Walterstorff, Emilie (Editor) (1925) Swedish Textiles. Stockholm.

Warburg, James Paul (1921) Cotton and Cotton Manufacture: A Brief Analysis for the Layman. Boston

Warden Alex J. (1867) The Linen Trade, Ancient & Modern.

Watson, John (1869) The Theory and Practice of the Art of Weaving By Hand and By Power. With Calculations and Tables, for the Use of Those Connected with the Trade.

Watson, William (1921) Textile design and colour; elementary weaves and figured fabrics. Glasgow.

Watson, William (1913) Advanced Textile Design. Glasgow. 1913.

White, George (1846) A Treatise on Weaving By Hand and Power Looms. Glasgow.
“A Practical Treatise on Weaving By Hand and Power Looms: Intended as a Text Book for Manufacturers by Hand and Power Looms, and Power Loom Engineers, and Especially Designed to Forward the Extension of Machinery to all kinds of Plain Weaving”
Contains very detailed description of processes and equipment used in the contemporary manufacturing of cotton cloth. Deals with hand weaving and power weaving separately. Contains wood engraved illustrations in the text, and fine engraved plates of industrial machinery at the back.

White, James (1908) The hand loom linen weavers of Ireland and their work. Chicago.

Woodhouse, Thomas & Milne, Thomas (1914) Jute and Linen Weaving, Macmillan.

Worst, Edward F. (1918) Foot Power Loom Weaving. Milwaukee.
Edward F. Worst, Supervisor of Elementary Manual Training and Construction Work, Chicago, Ill. “Introduction: The suggestions offered in this manual are for those who believe that the more advanced weaving should be pursued as a most wholesome occupation and that it should again, in the near future, find a place not only in the school but also in the home. The work is so full of possibilities and the results obtained have such a wonderful effect on the character of the worker that these alone afford ample reasons why weaving should be carried on in both school and community. The descriptions given are for the amateur weaver who will find them more easily understood than those given in the more technical books on the subject. It is hoped that those interested will find help through the suggestions offered in this manual.”

Ziegler, Marx (1677) Weber Kunst und Bild Buch
Digital copy available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library):

Author unknown (1698) The Linnen and Woollen Manufactury Discoursed. – v=onepage&q&f=false

Unpainted (Irregular Check Variations) (2020)

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Unpainted (Irregular Check Variation), No. 1
Unpainted (Irregular Check Variation), No. 2
Unpainted (Irregular Check Variation), No. 3
Unpainted (Irregular Check Variation), No. 4
Unpainted (Irregular Check Variation), No. 5
Unpainted (Irregular Check Variation), No. 3
Unpainted (Irregular Check Variation), No. 1 & No. 3
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A series of stretched canvases hand-woven from undyed, dyed and bleached linen.

The Linen Weavers / Die Leinenweber (2020)

The Linen Weavers / Die Leinenweber
Digital video; 15 minutes.

Remixed from “Bäuerliche Leinenweberei”, a series of archive films recording the re-enactment of rural linen weaving in Dickenshied, Germany, 1978-1979.

I made this film as a way of thinking about my own work and about weaving as a  manual practice. The weavers in the film are re-enacting the labour intensive processes of traditional handweaving – processes repeated across centuries and across cultures. I have re-edited the digitised archive footage to focus attention on the hands and feet of the weavers in intimate communication with their materials, and replaced the original narration with a constructed soundtrack.

Archive film courtesy of LVR Landschaftsverbandes Rheinland.

Original 35mm film and sound recording by Gabriel Simons / Ayten Fadel / Gabriele Harzheim / Rainer Nagels / Manfred Grans / Manfred Müller / Konrad Grunsky-Peper / Heinke Jopp.

Loom, No. 2 (2018-22)

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The loom is at the heart of my practice. It is my subject and my method. I designed and built this loom in 2018 but continue to modify it in response to new practical challenges and my evolving understanding of the craft. In 2020 I rebuilt the countermarche mechanism with 16 leaves and treadles to give more scope for complex weave structures. The frame is plywood and it uses other modern materials but its mechanisms and principles are traditional.

Hord (2017)

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Hord, No.1 (a)
Hord, No.1 (b)
Hord, No.1 (a & b)
Hord, No.2 (a)
Hord, No.2 (b)
Hord, No.2 (a & b)
Hord, No.3 (a)
Hord, No.3 (b)
Hord, No.3 (a & b)
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