From Fleece to Fashion


Weaving is carried out using a loom. As with spinning this was originally done at home, often by whole families. Working from home was common in the past and it was called 'cottage industry'. Weavers would take their finished pieces of woven cloth to the Cloth Halls to sell or they might have an arrangement with a manufacturer, who would collect the completed work. 

As with spinning, bigger and quicker looms were invented, like Cartwright's power loom. These were so large that they had to be placed in factories. Now weavers could no longer work from home and had to work in factories instead, often earning lower wages for what was seen as less skilled work using machines.

How does it work?

The warp threads are all one length, sometimes hundreds of metres (or 'yards') long. These are wound round a roller at the back of the loom. Each warp thread passes through eyes known as heddles, and when the warp threads are pulled tight, these heddles are lifted by shafts to create a shed through which the weft thread is passed using a shuttle. The weft and warp are then pushed together using a beater to form woven cloth.

Before the 19th century weaving was often done by men. This changed with the introduction of Cartwright's power loom. When weaving moved into the factories more women were employed to do it. One worker would often operate two machines at a time. As it was very noisy weavers often went deaf and they would talk to each other while at work through sign language or lip reading.

Types of loom:

The Hattersley loom operated in the same way as a plain loom, but it has a  Dobby and a  Drop Box which help to make more varied patterns in the cloth. The Dobby is attached to the side of the loom and controls the variety of patterns woven. The Drop Box enables different colours or types of weft to be worked into the cloth. 

To do this the Loom is fitted with up to four shuttle boxes at each end. The boxes are placed above each other. If on one end a box has a shuttle, then its matching box must be empty in order to receive it when it is 'thrown'.

A Jacquard loom has a separate machine which is attached to the loom. It can help weave more complex patterns than the Dobby by allowing each individual warp thread to be raised and lowered. It was an early form of computer for weaving.                                


Cottage industry - working from home 
Loom - frame used to weave cloth on
Operate - work, be in charge of
Originally - at first
Shuttle - device used to hold thread in place during the weaving process

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