Jun 14, 2013

Yarn-drying at Gobelins factory in the 18th century

The famous French Gobelins tapestry factory started modestly as a dyers workshop during the 15th century, but came to prominence when it was purchased by the French king, Louis XIV in 1662.
King Louis XIV and his Minister of Finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert instituted strict guidelines for French manufacturing and severely limited imports that would compete with French-produced goods. The result was a major improvement in the quality and consistency of French products, most notably in the fields of textile production, tapestry weaving and glass and furniture production. (Note: Colbert's influence reached far beyond manufacturing - into finance, art, architecture, the country's infrastructure and more.)
The antique print below shows the yarn-drying atelier at the Gobelins factory. This original print is from the 18th century series of books entitled Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, published in Paris by Denis Diderot and Jean d'Alembert, or as it is commonly called, Diderot's Encyclopedia.
In this engraving, the yarn-drying atelier is shown to have a wool carding table, a scale for weighing the yarn, large rings suspended from the ceiling to hang the yarn to dry, a stove to heat the room for drying and a hand-worked machine to wind the yarn into skeins. Notice that the workers are wearing wooden shoes. These wooden shoes are called sabots and were worn by workers across France - on farms, in vineyards and in factories.

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