WOVNS, founded by Dena and Chelsea Molnar, takes an industrial manufacturing process, Jacquard weaving, and makes it accessible to everyone. Similar to platforms like Shapeways or OSH Park, WOVNS allows individuals to upload digital files and get them translated into custom products, in this case woven textiles.
WOVNS currently offers fabric qualities appropriate for applications like upholstery, pillows, bags, scarves, throws, dresses, and other home decor and soft goods products. Jacquard-woven fabric is great for both custom DIY projects and for those looking to make unique textile products. Before WOVNS, access to Jacquard weaving required large orders and insider connections. But by intelligently aggregating orders from many people, WOVNS makes it possible to efficiently weave as little as one yard of a given design. We’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign that will provide backers with early access to the WOVNS platform. We’re very excited to share WOVNS with the maker community, as we think it brings the maker ethos to a unique new domain.
Unlike many types of digital fabrication, Jacquard weaving is a scalable industrial process. Many on-demand fabrication services make use of processes like 3D printing or laser-cutting that don’t tend to scale well to high volume production. Going from a one-off 3D printed prototype, for example, to a mass-produced product typically involves switching to another process, like injection-molding, that has completely different design constraints. This makes it difficult to prototype, as it’s hard to predict how a part will behave when produced with the higher-volume process.
In contrast, WOVNS fabric is produced using industrial Jacquard looms of the same kind used for high-volume production. That makes it possible to go from a single yard prototype to hundreds of yards of efficiently produced fabric with exactly the same quality and appearance. The closest analogy is probably printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication, where services like OSH Park allow individuals to order small quantities of a design with the same specifications and constructions as mass-produced PCBs. The scalability of Jacquard weaving should enable WOVNS customers to easily transition from experimenting with new designs to producing larger quantities of fabric for, say, custom lines of apparel or home decor products. We think this will make WOVNS appealing to professional crafters and boutique designers as well as those who just want to make a cool custom fabric for a DIY project.
About Jacquard Weaving
With Jacquard weaving, an individual’s design is integrated into the construction of the fabric itself. This is made possible by the Jacquard loom, a machine that is a precursor of today’s computers. Jacquard looms individually control hundreds or thousands of threads, allowing for the precise replication of a digital design file. Because each thread is controlled individually, Jacquard looms can produce incredibly complex and detailed patterns.
The Jacquard loom was first demonstrated in 1801 and was originally controlled by punch cards. The looms inspired Charles Babbage, one of the originators of the idea of a programmable computer. Jacquard looms now operate from digital files, making it possible to create textile designs in design software like Photoshop or the GIMP, or even with code.
Jacquard woven textiles are a great match for computational design (the creation of patterns using programming). Both allow for intricate forms and the creation of unique designs or variations on a theme. In addition, the creation of woven textiles is a great way to engage people that are new to or who may not have been interested in programming.
Because Jacquard looms require only a standard 2D image as input, they make it possible for even simple programs to produce rich physical results. With this in mind, we created a tutorial on creating computational textiles using Processing. It’s intended for those with no prior experience in programming, and introduces a bunch of different programming concepts and aesthetic possibilities. We chose Processing because it’s a perfect platform for getting started with programming and because it provides a simple and expressive language for generating graphics.
WOVNS was inspired by the rise of digital fabrication in fields like architecture and industrial design. We saw the transformative effect of quickly and easily translating digital designs to physical prototypes and wanted to bring a similar capability to the world of woven textiles.
We were also inspired by the work of Leah Buechley, founder of the MIT Media Lab’s High-Low Tech group. Leah’s work demonstrates how digital technology and computation can be applied to diverse domains and how doing so can engage new audiences in creating technology. We hope that WOVNS captures some of that spirit and shows people how programming and digital design might be relevant to them. WOVNS and Jacquard weaving are also great ways for designers and programmers to get into textiles and soft goods.
More About WOVNS
To learn more about WOVNS, please visit our website, where you’ll find information about our qualities and color palettes as well as a range of tutorials. If you like what you see, we hope you’ll consider backing our Kickstarter and helping us make WOVNS a reality.