Brocade weaver in a traditional pit loom with punch card attachment, Varanasi, India, 1981.
In 1980 I received a postgraduate fellowship with the U.C. Berkeley Professional Studies Program in India. For nine months I researched and practiced drawloom and Jacquard weaving at the Indian Institute of Handloom Technology in Varanasi (Banaras) and Weavers Service Centers around India.
The main subject of my study was the renowned Banaras brocade fabric, woven in silk and gold thread. I was especially interested in the Jala, a small woven device dating to the Moghul era that attaches to the loom and makes it programmable. For the first time, weaving didn't rely on a drawboy who knew the patterns by heart. This later evolved into a Jacquard punch card system. Computers now have moved weave design from graph paper to pixels, while digital Jacquard looms have opened a new range of complexity in handweaving.