Monday, February 27, 2012

What is a ribbon weaver?

Have you ever felt lost in a crowd?

Alfred and Ann worked as ribbon weavers in a town crowded with ribbon weavers. By the end of the 1840s, half of Coventry worked as ribbon weavers.[1]

Silk ribbons were hot, hot, hot fashion items during the 19th century. Used in clothing, shoes and furniture, silk ribbons were produced on a loom. Coventry was filled with looms, being one of the largest silk ribbon production centers in all of England. Looms were owned by individuals and operated on the third floor of the home in a glass-roofed “topshop” making ribbon weaving a cottage industry. The ‘Great Masters’ brought silk from France. The ‘undertaker’ prepared the silk and acted as a middle man, giving the prepared silk to the weavers. The weaver weaved the silk into ribbons, receiving two thirds of the undertaker’s money. Entire families worked in the manufacturing process, and according to the 1841 census, so did Alfred Barker’s. 

[1] Amie Wiberly, “Some Background History,” Woven Threads Project, (accessed February 2012).

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