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CLOSE THIS BOOKSmall-Scale Weaving (ILO - WEP, 1983, 144 p.)
VIEW THE DOCUMENTI. Elements of technological choice in the weaving sector
VIEW THE DOCUMENTII. Scales of production covered by the memorandum
VIEW THE DOCUMENTIII. Product coverage
VIEW THE DOCUMENTIV. Technologies covered by the memorandum
VIEW THE DOCUMENTV. Target audience
VIEW THE DOCUMENTVI. Summary of remaining chapters

Small-Scale Weaving (ILO - WEP, 1983, 144 p.)


I. Elements of technological choice in the weaving sector

After food and shelter, clothing, and therefore textiles, constitute one of the most important basic needs of low-income groups in developing countries. It is therefore important to promote the production of textile products which are both inexpensive and durable in order to minimize the fraction of the income of these groups spent on textiles/clothing.

This very important objective may not always be fully consonant with other socio-economic objectives such as employment generation or foreign exchange savings. For example, the use of handlooms will generate a great deal of employment but may not, under given circumstances, allow the production of inexpensive textiles products for low-income groups. Thus, a balance must often be established between conflicting objectives with a view to satisfying demand for textiles by these groups while contributing to the fulfilment of adopted socio-economic objectives. In concrete terms, such an approach will require the choice of an appropriate mix of weaving technologies1 and the formulation of a number of policy measures which will ensure their application.

1 In the context of this memorandum, the term “technology” is broadly defined and relates to the choice of textile products, of weaving processes and of scale of production.

The choice of weaving technologies will generally depend on the following factors:

- The market to be supplied, and therefore, the type, quality and volume of textile products which must be supplied;

- Availability, quality and price of raw materials and intermediate inputs;

- Availability and cost of capital equipment;

- Versatility of equipment in case demand for the initial product should change over time;

- Availability of qualified skilled labour for the setting up, servicing and operation of weaving units;

- Labour and equipment productivity associated with each technological alternative;

- Prices of the factors of production, including wages, interest rate on borrowed capital, unit price of electricity, etc.

- Capital costs of building and services; and

- Useful lives of equipment and buildings.

The above factors determine the choice of weaving technology from the point of view of the private entrepreneur as they affect production costs and revenues from the sale of the output. However, as stated earlier, public planners may also be concerned by a number of socio-economic objectives which could also affect the choice of weaving technology. These may include: employment generation, improvement of the balance of payments, rural industrialisation, fulfilment of the basic needs of low-income groups, etc... A number of policy measures may therefore need to be implemented in order to promote weaving technologies which are appropriate from the point of view of the producer and society. These measures, which will be further elaborated in chapter V, may include wage subsidies, high custom duties on selected types of weaving equipment, mandatory use of selected technologies for the production of various textile products, etc.

In general, no single weaving technology may fulfil all the requirements of a country. Rather a mix of technologies - from labour-intensive to capital-intensive weaving technologies - would be, in most cases, required if different markets were to be supplied, and if important socio-economic objectives were to be fulfilled. It is hoped that this memorandum will assist public planners and private entrepreneurs to identify and apply these technologies.

II. Scales of production covered by the memorandum

This memorandum describes weaving technologies used in small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale production units. These scales of production are defined as follows:

Small-scale units: The production level is 100,000 metres per year. Production is carried out on a one-shift basis only corresponding to 3,000 working hours per year. These units may be suitably located in rural areas.

Medium-scale units: The production level is 1,000,000 metres per year. Production is carried out in mills located in small urban areas on a two-shifts basis corresponding to 5,000 working hours per year.

Large-scale units: The production level is 5,000,000 metres per year. Production is carried out in mills located in large urban areas on a three-shifts basis corresponding to 6,500 working hours per year.

III. Product coverage

The list of eight fabrics contained in Table I.1 is not exhaustive but is considered sufficiently indicative of the broad range of fabrics of interest to low-income groups in developing countries. Each of these fabrics may be woven from yarns spun from 100% cotton or from any blends of short staple (cotton system) fibres without prejudice to the weaving technology employed. The use of such blends does not affect, in a significant manner, the choice of weaving technology. However, the use of stronger blends of man-made fabrics yields a higher productive efficiency than that yielded by cotton blends.

Table I.1
Characteristics of textiles covered by the memorandum





Yarn Counts



(per cm)





Tex (Ne)

Tex (Ne)




48 (12)

48 (12)


Sheeting, heavy shirting




24 (24)

24 (24)


Prints, medium shirting




16 (36)

16 (36)


Light shirts, blouses




12 (50)

12 (50)


Light blouses, saree





30 (20)

48 (12)


Denim ‘jeans’, workwear




30 (20)

72 (8)


Heavy sheeting




24 (24)

36 (16)


Gaberdine suiting




30 (20)

36 (16)


Heavy shirting

IV. Technologies covered by the memorandum

IV.1 Warp Preparation

For the requirements of this memorandum, warp preparation processes have been assumed to start at the stage at which the input yarn has been prepared on packages, which are suitable for direct mounting in the creel of a warping machine (e.g. cones). However, for some of the techniques mentioned in connection with small-scale warp preparation, it may not always be essential that the yarn be supplied in cones since direct processing from hanks, or even from spinner’s bobbins, is possible in some cases.

The various options of warp preparation are described in Chapter II. It is suggested that, in general, the most suitable warping method consists of first producing a set of back beams, and then combining these to form weaver’s warps during the sizing operation. The warp sizing operation and the principal factors to be considered in carrying it out are also described. Looming and gaiting of the sized warps is not described in detail, but mention of the equipment required for these processes is made in the section entitled ‘Ancillary equipment’ in Chapter III. Pirning of the weft for shuttle looms is discussed in Chapters II and III under the related headings.

IV.2 Weaving technologies

Chapter III briefly reviews weaving fundamentals and terminologies, and then provides technical details for a number of looms suitable for the production of the eight selected types of textile products. Three types of looms are described namely handlooms, non-automatic power looms and automatic shuttle looms. Shuttleless looms are mentioned very briefly as they are not considered appropriate for conditions prevailing in developing countries. However, the economic efficiency of these looms is considered in Chapter IV, along with that of the other types of looms, for comparison purposes.

V. Target audience

This memorandum is intended for two main audiences: the small-scale textile producers and the public planners and/or project evaluators in industrial development agencies. Financial institutions may also be interested in some of the information provided in this memorandum.

Chapters II to IV are of particular interest to textile producers as they contain the necessary technical and economic data which could help them identify and apply the weaving technology most suited to local conditions. Chapter V is, on the other hand, of particular interest to public planners and project evaluators as it provides useful information on the various socio-economic impacts of alternative weaving technologies, as well as some guidelines for the formulation of appropriate policies and measures in favour of the weaving sector.

VI. Summary of remaining chapters

Chapter II describes alternative techniques for warp preparation, warp sizing, and pirning. These techniques are assessed in relation to the three scales of production covered by the memorandum.

Chapter III covers weaving technologies and contains detailed descriptions of eight different looms which may be adopted by practising or would-be weavers.

Chapter IV provides a methodological framework for costing the alternative weaving technologies described in Chapter III as well as illustrative examples of the applications of this methodology.

Chapter V evaluates the various socio-economic effects of the weaving technologies described in this memorandum (e.g. employment effects, satisfaction of basic needs) and suggests a number of policy measures which may influence the choice of weaving technology.

A glossary of technical terms, a list of equipment suppliers and of institutions which may provide additional information on alternative weaving technologies are provided as appendices.