Magic Carpet

Registered: 18th September 1972
Duration: 27 minutes
Feet: 2430 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​​​​​​​BR/E36391/24/9/77
Produced for: United Artists Corporation
Production Company: ​​Harold Baim Motion Picture Productions Limited

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A visit to a carpet-weaving factory shows how intricate a process the making of a carpet is and how specialist the machines have to be to produce them. This film not only looks at the modern day methods of carpet weaving but also traces its history from before the industrial revolution through to the modern day.


Photographed by: Harry Orchard
Editors: Terry Rawlings, Jim Atkinson
Recordists: Jack Maunder, Hugh Strain
Music: J. De Wolfe
Associate Producer: Michael G. Baim
Produced & Directed by: Harold Baim


This man is an artist, a stylist, and to some extent a man of vision. This young woman observes trends in the world around her. These people all cherish the past, adorn the present and help create the future.

From about 300 of their full scale designs, 30 or 40 will wind up on the floor. A nice thing, you might say. But as they are designing carpets, what better acclaim could they want than to have their work trampled on all over the world?

At the Magic Carpet factory of Associated Weavers in Yorkshire, the synthetic fibre springs from the bale. At the end of its long journey it will be unrecognisable.

A mixture of fibres goes into a machine, part of which looks like a Mississippi paddle steamer. It blends the fibres together before they go into a mixing chamber where it gets together even more. From the mixing chamber, the fibre is blown into the storage bin.

Looking up, the experience is a blizzard of bewilderment. The blowing process cuts out manual handling further aerates the fibres which take on a semblance of feathers.

10,000lbs of blended material stored in one of these bins will eventually make 500 living room carpets.

From the storage bins, it's a short hop to the hopper and the process of carding. This turns the fibre into a weavable yarn. A tall story? Wait and see.

The weigh pan does what its name implies, weigh. At this point, the weight of the final yarn is determined. Two parts form a carding machine. The first is called, in Yorkshire anyway, a scribbler.

Fibers really do get mixed up as they pass over, under and through things called swifts, workers and strippers. Sounds like the story of the birds and the bees in a nightclub.

Then there are doffers, webs and breasts, and in the end the fibres are really straightened out as they should be after all that.

Part two is the condenser. A web of fine fibre splits into inch wide strips. It's rubbed together and becomes a half formed yarn.

Spools move from side to side in a mesmeric waltz, as even distribution of yarn on bobbin takes place.

A long way from the storage bin, but the strand is still weak and unworkable. 17,000 miles of half formed yarn comes from this room every day.

It's spin time when a young yarns fancy turns on a frame, which puts a twist in it to make it a little longer and a little stronger. I saw another process with the same end result. These machines coil as they twist.

If proof was needed that three into one does go, here it is. From the bobbins of single twisted yarn, three weak strands are folded together. Result one strong one.

Remember the bobbins of single yarn that came off the end of the carding machine? Well, here they are in groups called creels, feeding the three into one machine. After a good yarn has been spun and then wound into hanks, it's ready for the next step down to the dye house.

And that really means what it says.

A long, long time ago, staining and dyeing was a tremendous production. Fabric had to be rubbed with natural products like green moss and brown tree barks. But man made colours hold fast and in today's scheme of things, particularly in the well-trodden paths of carpet manufacture, colourfastness is important.

Sticks of white yarn have been put into the lid, which is lowered into the container of dye, called a beck. After two hours or so, out of the steaming back, come the colourful hanks. The dye heated to a temperature of between 200 and 212°F, has circulated within the container to make sure the colour was evenly spread.

Carpet business is fashion business, and has to carefully follow taste and trend. Colours and design move in and out of favour. Decor and carpeting are complimentary.

It's a step ahead of the game all the time.

Suddenly there's a large demand for a certain style, and loose bulk dyeing is brought into play. A reversal of the process you've already seen, this is still fibre, so it has to go back to the beginning and be made into yarn. Eventually it all winds up for weaving.

You're looking at a gripper Jacquard weaving machine. Gripper, because the yarn is gripped by a mechanism which looks like the neck, head and beak of a bird. Jacquard, because that was the name of the man who invented the punched card pattern control.

From these creels multi-coloured yarns are drawn into the loom. Looks like a gigantic spider's web.

Here are the Jacquard cards with their punched holes, calling the tune, like they did for the fairground roundabout. Jacquards select the colours. Grippers open, close and pull, the knife cuts.

Slowed down by our camera, the whole ingenious action can be followed. The grippers pull out 1008 tufts each time, and do this 16 times a minute. 960 times an hour.

You can see the Jaccard controlled thread carrier moving up and down in the background, the knife moving across in perfect synchronization. The 12ft long weft needle shoots across 48 times a minute. 2880 times an hour.

Where there's a warp, there's a weft. And slow motion again shows there's more in it than meets the eye.

At Associated Weavers, they told me that a single Axminster loom produces 20yd² of carpet an hour, and from all looms, production is at the rate of 5,000,000yd² a year. And that's some record to be trodden on.

In pulling out 1008 tufts in one go, a fault or two could happen and does so, minute inspection is carried out at every stage of manufacture. Trained girl inspectors spot the un-deliberate mistake and with needle and thread, proceed to rectify. Often hundreds and hundreds of yards will pass under their eagle eyed scrutiny in perfect shape.

Fragments of hand-woven cloth have been discovered in Egypt and date placed 4000 years before Christ. It's been going on a long time. Throughout all civilization, the art of weaving tapestries and carpets has always been considered one of the foremost arts. China, India, Persia, Turkey, Afghanistan are all names inextricably woven into fine floor coverings of individual texture, design and colour.

Latex application makes sure that the tufts stay where they are supposed to, and bonds the back of the carpet to prevent fraying. Machine misses are mitigated by man.

With the push of a few buttons, the cropper blades roll. The action is rather like that of a lawn mower. Levelling and smoothing so that all the tufts are the same length.

Cropping, inspection, final cut and it's ready for the warehouse.

A sensation on the eye, just as a musical note is on the ear. Colour is produced by optical vibrations. So, come into the kitchen, the colour kitchen, where man successfully imitates the colours of nature to which he's always warmly responded.

Right now we've arrived at the part of this fantastic factory which really made me blink in astonishment the first time I saw it. These containers hold liquid colour. Gum is added to make a print paste.

What do they do with it? A good question.

They print with it, on carpet. Watch and wonder for a few seconds. Then I'll show you how it's all done.

It's easy to understand that the best basic colour on which to print is white, and so white yarn is drawn into the tufting machine. 11,068 separate needles put 11,068 tufts into the fabric backing in one thrust ,720 times a minute. The end product, tufted carpet ready for printing, trickles out at the rate of 50,000yd² a week from each machine.

Someone is always waiting round the corner to find a slip. He believes a tuft in time.

A roll of white tufted carpet is positioned on the printer.

A mechanical marvel. There's no point in getting technical, so let me just fill you in by telling you that the print paste is drawn down through to the base of the tufts by suction. Squeegees move over the stencils five times a minute. The carpet moves forward a yard at a time. The patterns and colours build up. The whole machine works hydraulically. Now let's watch.

If they had to roll out the red carpet, or for that matter, any other colour, this machine could produce enough in one year to start at the factory at Bradford and finish in London not once, but four times. 850 miles of it four yards wide.

There's another kind of printer here, too. A brand new giant. More streamlined, rollers instead of squeegees, different print paste application, a little more mechanically sophisticated, but the same brilliant, eye catching end product.

Back at the farm, high speed jets wash away the gum additive. The carpet has already been through a steaming process. At this point, the colours are really fixed. Then on its way through the dryer. After which more inspection and then rolled up.

To find out what makes a thing tick, one usually has to pull it to pieces. For correct quality control, pre-production, during production, and post-production, laboratory tests are made.

The stretch test is carried out to find the strength of the yarns, to make sure it's exactly right for the looms.

Stretch testing is a pre-production process. Nothing at all to do with dancing or card games, the twist test, in another prior to weaving survey establishes that the yarns are twisted correctly. Remember the three into one? It's really another trial of strength.

To show whether the binding force of the latex has fully secured the tufts, and that they cannot easily be displaced, the withdrawal test is used.

If this was not done, it could result in tufts coming loose. Even if it was just nervous tension, everyone will agree that tufts must be tough. A carpet has to have it and be with it at the same time.

Wear and tear can be caused by so many things. Abrasion tests are for finding out about general wear. What is going on in the machine is similar to what is going on here. So they find out how many thousands of times a carpet can be rubbed before it starts to look like this.

The analyst is holding a tetrapod, which is not dangerous. It revolves in its carpet covered canister to simulate walking and other uses to which a carpet is subjected. Possibly like this.

In the first few months of every carpets life on the floor, there is what is known as a bedding down period. The thickness decreases, fluff comes off, all over your clothes. The dynamic loading machine shows how long a carpet can stand walloping before it starts to look sorry for itself.

So much for quality control. The printing process is complete and after a final check, the backing machine takes over.

The carpet is backed, each way. First with latex, acting as a built in underlay, then an application of final foam. Under the grill, the latex hardens.

To achieve that 'walking on air' feeling, the printed latex backed carpet passes under the foam spreader, which dispenses what could be called whipped latex.

End of the line inspection is continuous, as one carpet is joined to another.

Complete with its soft, springy backing, its cut to predetermined lengths, then rolled ready for the stockroom.

Rolls are wrapped and stacked to a height of 25ft.

That's being wise after the event!

With a weekly warehouse input of some 280,000yd² facilities exist for the stocking of 12,000 rolls at any given time, but so great is demand that round the clock production is the order of every day.

Every picture tells a story. This is the story of an automatic cutting and wrapping machine. A miracle of modern technology.

I finally stood in the loading bay and thought of a description of hand weaving written over 2000 years ago. 'Each, her station straight assumes, tightens each web. Each slender thread prepares, firm to beam the fabric is fixed. The read the warp divides with pointed shuttle swift quick extricate and with the toothy combs firm pressed between the warp, the threads unite. In slender threads they twist the pliant gold. And in the web display each as she works, an ancient story fair.'

[The End]

All music should be cleared with 

De Wolfe Music 
Queen’s House 
180-182 Tottenham Court Road