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History of AVL

From the beginning

jimahrens.gifAVL derives its heritage from the designs and inspiration of Jim Ahrens (1906-2000), a mechanical engineer by trade, who began designing looms in the 1930s.  Beyond engineering, Jim was also a production handweaver, owner-operator of a weaving school, contract weaving shop and retail establishment; culminating in textile research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  In the mid 60s, Jim began designing a radically different loom that combined the best parts of handweaving with his years of production industry knowledge. In the 70s, Jim received a large order of looms from Pat McGaw, director of the Pacific Basin School of Textiles in Berkley, CA. This took things to a whole new level, and in 1977 he joined forces with Jon Violette, a cabinet maker, and Ms. McGaw’s brother to form a new company called Ahrens & Violette Looms. The rest is, as they say, history!

Birth of the Compu-Dobby®

In early 1982, AVL made another breakthrough. This time, the inspiration came from Silicon Valley, where personal computers were starting to make big headlines. We realized that the dobby mechanism is essentially a computer using 1s and 0s as inputs. In other words the harness is either up or down.  From there we made the relatively easy jump substituting solenoids and electronics for wooden bars and pegs.  Tim Trudel produced our first software, Generation II, for the Apple II computer. It featured 32K of memory, ran in black and white on cassette tape and was a sensation! We’ve since had several software programs written for us from all over the world, including San Francisco, Syracuse, France and Oslo, Norway where our good friend and colleague, Bjørn Myhre (author of WeavePoint) resides.  Our latest iteration, the Compu-Dobby IV, continues the tradition with surface mount electronics and multiple communication interfaces.

In the Years Since

We’ve kept the innovative forces that Jim instilled into the company going! In the early 90s, we introduced the Professional Dobby Rug Loom, which was the world’s first (and is now the only) commercially available hand-operated dobby rug loom.  The AVL Rug Loom known for its ruggedness and capacity for complex weaving. Later, we introduced the fully automated version of the AVL Production Dobby Loom, called the Industrial Dobby Loom. In the late 90s, we developed the Studio Dobby Loom, in conjunction with the world-famous weaver Ann Sutton of the U.K., specifically geared toward design studios and educational institutions. Next came an even smaller loom, the Workshop Dobby Loom, also known as the California Traveler in the early 2000’s.  Shortly thereafter, we introduced the A-Series (in honor of Mr. Ahrens) and late in the decade we introduced the V-Series (in honor of Mr. Violette).

Through the past two decades, AVL has also been hard at work with our version of the Jacquard loom, the Jacq3G. AVL engineers are honored to be walking in Monsieur Jacquard’s footsteps, though unlike the original, our system does not use wooden boards, but rather a sophisticated system of miniature solenoids to control each hook.