Binary textiles

I started this blog to share researches i am doing on textiles and the digital world. I am a Textile Designer so i have always been fond of textiles for their ancestral techniques as well as their past and present social and cultural role in the world. In my work i have been used to create textile structures with handmade or industrial techniques. This led me to get interested with  DIY movements where people share their knowledge and create open source tools to build things. Making and sharing tools offers us new ways to work and think about how we can translate traditional ways of creating things into programs, electronic or mechanical constructions. In my researches i try to relate about the practices of textiles and  their becoming with this new access to technological research and creation.

Textiles and computers have a long relationship. Punched cards were first used around 1725 by Basile Bouchon and Jean-Baptiste Falcon as a more robust form of the perforated paper rolls then in use for controlling textile looms in France.The invention of the Jacquard loom by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801 is said to be the ancestor of computers. This because of it’s capability to programme a pattern using punched hole cards with a binary system of hole, no hole or 0 and 1.



1832 Semen Korsakov was the first to use the punched cards in informatics for information store and search.


Charles Babbage and his assistant Ada Lovelace created the basis of modern computing: a memory and a programmable calculator called the Analytical Engine. Babbage got the idea from the jacquard loom to use the punched hole cards to create a machine that would read of a set of sequential instructions. Ada Lovelace who published in her notes what is recognized as the first algorithm and described in 1842 :

«The analytical engine, she said, will weave algebraic patterns like jacquard looms weave flowers and leaves”.

In 1896, Herman Hollerith invented the recording of data on a medium that could then be read by a machine. IBM manufactured and marketed a variety of unit record machines for creating, sorting, and tabulating punched cards, even after expanding into electronic computers in the late 1950s. IBM developed punched card technology into a powerful tool for business data-processing


I found this very nice card punch generator if you want to try:

Punched hole cards are still used today to create musical scores for street organs, mechanical pianos and musical boxes. Some are on rolls of paper and others on cylindrical tubes where either the musical score is engraved or stapled on wood tubes. Some are also made on a copper disc.

musicbox carte_perforee



The cylindrical tubes have always made me thought about  the ones used in textile to print patterns for meters.

serigraphie rouleau

Punched hole cards are also still used on home knitting machines where you can programme a pattern for jacquard knitting.  The holes will push your needles in a certain position so that you can knit your  pattern with a coloured yarn and when their is no hole you can knit the background of the pattern with another coloured yarn.

jacquard-doubleface-exemple        1355128662_459579345_1-Singer-Double-Bed-Knitting-Machine-Model-322-323-Memomatic-Made-in-Japan-Islamabad

In places like in the North of France, you can also still find mechanical lace looms who still use punched hole cards to create intricate lace patterns.

fabrication-codification-pt metier dentelle

Textiles have always been a mathematical construction to create it’s structure (weaving, knitting..) and also in it’s designing for patterns. Throughout researches  I have found surprising links with things used for computer programming where patterns are often used to visualize generated algorithms.



One Response to “Binary textiles”


    […] ton blog, tu partages énormément tes recherches. On a lu ton article « Binary Textiles », dans lequel tu expliques qu’en analysant les métiers à tisser Jacquard, tu t’es rendu compte […]

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