Thomas Stevens (weaver)

Last updated

Thomas Stevens
Thomas Stevens HAGAM.tif
Thomas Stevens in 1888
Foleshill, England
Died24 October 1888(1888-10-24) (aged 59–60)
London, England
Resting placeCoventry cemetery
Known forInventing the Stevengraph

Thomas Stevens (18281888) was a 19th-century weaver from Coventry, famous for his invention of the stevengraph, a woven silk picture.



Stevengraph showing the London and York Royal Mail Coach, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Silk picture of the London and York royal mail coach.JPG
Stevengraph showing the London and York Royal Mail Coach, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

In the 19th century the town of Coventry, England, was the centre of a ribbon weaving industry. Thomas Stevens was born in Foleshill, just to the north of Coventry, in 1828 to a relatively poor family. [1] Stevens worked for Pears and Franklin, a local ribbon weavers in Coventry, and by 1854 had created his own ribbon firm. [1] In 1860, however, the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty was signed; this free trade treaty introduced new competition into the industry, leading to a collapse in the local ribbon economy and a huge loss of employment in Coventry. [2]

Stevens had considerable experience of experimenting with the Jacquard loom and responded to the local recession by trying to develop new products. He had invented a way of using the programmable loom to weave colourful pictures from silk. [1] By 1862, Stevens could produce four different designs; he attempted to appeal to the mass market, selling his products between six pence and fifteen shillings each. [3] Some of these pictures were used for bookmarks, greetings cards and specialised products for the Admiralty. [1]

Business boomed and Stevens acquired two larger factories in turn; by 1875 he was calling his product the "Stevengraph", named after himself. [1] He exhibited internationally in America, France and Holland, winning some 30 medals and diplomas. [1] In 1878 Stevens moved to London and began to mount his Stevengraphs as framed pictures - by the late 1880s Stevens had over 900 different designs. [3] In 1888 Stevens died following a throat operation and was buried in Coventry. [1]


By the 1930s, Stevengraphs were considered collectable items, but the hobby was considered eccentric and mainly confined to female collectors. During the Second World War Coventry was attacked by German bombers; on 14 November 1940 the Coventry Blitz occurred, apparently destroying the Stevens factory and the records of the Stevengraphs. In the late 1950s it emerged that Henry Stephens, a descendant of Thomas, had saved one of the pattern books the night before the attack and kept it in safe storage; Henry donated it to the Coventry City Council, who in turn entrusted it with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Stevengraphs became valuable, with more male collectors entering the hobby. [4] Prices rose, particularly for unusual or rarer images less popular during the Victorian period. [2] A large collection of Stevens' work from his pattern book is still held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. [1]

Related Research Articles

Jacquard machine

The Jacquard machine is a device fitted to a loom that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with such complex patterns as brocade, damask and matelassé. The resulting ensemble of the loom and Jacquard machine is then called a Jacquard loom. The machine was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804, based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (1725), Jean Baptiste Falcon (1728), and Jacques Vaucanson (1740). The machine was controlled by a "chain of cards"; a number of punched cards laced together into a continuous sequence. Multiple rows of holes were punched on each card, with one complete card corresponding to one row of the design.

Weaving Technology for the production of textiles

Weaving is a method of textile production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. Other methods are knitting, crocheting, felting, and braiding or plaiting. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft, woof, or filling. The method in which these threads are inter-woven affects the characteristics of the cloth. Cloth is usually woven on a loom, a device that holds the warp threads in place while filling threads are woven through them. A fabric band that meets this definition of cloth can also be made using other methods, including tablet weaving, back strap loom, or other techniques that can be done without looms.

Tapestry Form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom

Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven by hand on a loom. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike most woven textiles, where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are typically discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each coloured weft back and forth in its own small pattern area. It is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design.

Ribbon Long, narrow woven textile, used for trimming, belts, filets, and straps of various kinds

A ribbon or riband is a thin band of material, typically cloth but also plastic or sometimes metal, used primarily as decorative binding and tying. Cloth ribbons are made of natural materials such as silk, cotton, and jute and of synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. Ribbon is used for useful, ornamental, and symbolic purposes. Cultures around the world use ribbon in their hair, around the body, and as ornamentation on non-human animals, buildings, and packaging. Some popular fabrics used to make ribbons are satin, organza, sheer, silk, velvet, and grosgrain.

An oriental rug is a heavy textile made for a wide variety of utilitarian and symbolic purposes and produced in "Oriental countries" for home use, local sale, and export.


A bookmark is a thin marking tool, commonly made of card, leather, or fabric, used to keep track of a reader's progress in a book and allow the reader to easily return to where the previous reading session ended. Alternate materials for bookmarks are paper, metals like silver and brass, silk, wood, cord (sewing), and plastic. Some books may have one or more bookmarks made of woven ribbon sewn into the binding. Other bookmarks incorporate a page-flap that enables them to be clipped on a page.

Anatolian rug Term commonly used to denote rugs woven in Anatolia

Anatolian rug is a term of convenience, commonly used today to denote rugs and carpets woven in Anatolia and its adjacent regions. Geographically, its area of production can be compared to the territories which were historically dominated by the Ottoman Empire. It denotes a knotted, pile-woven floor or wall covering which is produced for home use, local sale, and export. Together with the flat-woven kilim, Anatolian rugs represent an essential part of the regional culture, which is officially understood as the Culture of Turkey today, and derives from the ethnic, religious and cultural pluralism of one of the most ancient centres of human civilisation.

Maya textiles (k’apak) are the clothing and other textile arts of the Maya peoples, indigenous peoples of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. Women have traditionally created textiles in Maya society, and textiles were a significant form of ancient Maya art and religious beliefs. They were considered a prestige good that would distinguish the commoners from the elite. According to Brumfiel, some of the earliest weaving found in Mesoamerica can date back to around 1000-800 B.C.E.

Herbert Art Gallery and Museum Museum and art gallery in Coventry, England

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is a museum, art gallery, records archive, learning centre, media studio and creative arts facility on Jordan Well, Coventry, England.

Silk in the Indian subcontinent Overview about silk in the India subcontinent

Silk in the Indian subcontinent is a luxury good. In India, about 97% of the raw mulberry silk is produced in the Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Mysore and North Bangalore, the upcoming site of a US$20 million "Silk City", contribute to a majority of silk production. Another emerging silk producer is Tamil Nadu where mulberry cultivation is concentrated in Salem, Erode and Dharmapuri districts. Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh and Gobichettipalayam, Tamil Nadu were the first locations to have automated silk reeling units.

Assam silk denotes the three major types of indigenous wild silks produced in Assam—golden muga, white pat and warm eri silk. The Assam silk industry, now centered in Sualkuchi, is a labor-intensive industry.

Ilkal sari Form of saree originating from Ilkal, Bagalkot, Karnataka, India

Ilkal sari is a traditional form of sari which is a common feminine wear in India. Ilkal sari takes its name from the town of Ilkal in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka state, India. Ilkal saris are woven using cotton warp on the body and art silk warp for border and art silk warp for pallu portion of the sari. In some cases instead of art silk, pure silk is also used. Ilkal sari has been accorded geographical indication (GI) tag. Its GI tag number is 76.

Toye, Kenning & Spencer

Toye, Kenning & Spencer is a British jewellery and clothing manufacturer based at Bedworth, Warwickshire; the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham; and Covent Garden, London.


Cash's, or J. & J. Cash Ltd., is a company in Coventry, England, founded in 1846, that manufactures woven name tapes and other woven products and is known for formerly making ribbons.

Stevengraph Pictures woven from silk, originally created by Thomas Stevens in the 19th century

Stevengraphs are pictures woven from silk, originally created by Thomas Stevens in the 19th century. They were popular collectable items again during the revival of interest in Victoriana in the 1960s and 1970s.

Silk industry of Cheshire

Congleton, Macclesfield, Bollington and Stockport were traditionally silk-weaving towns. Silk was woven in Cheshire from the late 1600s. The handloom weavers worked in the attic workshops in their own homes. Macclesfield was famous for silk buttons manufacture. The supply of silk from Italy was precarious and some hand throwing was done, giving way after 1732 to water-driven mills, which were established in Stockport and Macclesfield.

Pochampally sari

Pochampally sari or Pochampally ikat is a saree made in Bhoodan Pochampally, Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, Telangana State, India. They have traditional geometric patterns in Ikat style of dyeing. The intricate geometric designs find their way into sarees and dress materials. The Indian government's official airplane company, Air India, has its cabin crew wear specially designed Pochampally silk sarees.

Axminster Carpets Ltd is an Axminster, Devon based English manufacturer of carpets, particularly the same-named Axminster carpets.

Handloom sari Sari woven by hand-operated loom

Handloom saris are a traditional textile art of Bangladesh and India. The production of handloom saris are important for economic development in rural India.

A topshop or top-shop is a design of building specific to Coventry, Bedworth and Nuneaton in the English Midlands, of the 18th and 19th and early 20th centuries. A topshop has three storeys. It is unusual in that the lower two floors are living accommodation, and that the top floor is a workshop containing a weaver's loom. The windows on the top floor are larger than those on the lower two, to let in more light.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Lynes, (n.d.).
  2. 1 2 Stevengraphs - What are they? , Stevengraph Collectors Association, accessed 4 October 2011.
  3. 1 2 Stevengraphs - What are they? , Stevengraph Collectors Association, accessed 4 October 2011; Lynes, (n.d.).
  4. Wollen, pp.68-69.