What’s a power loom?

Print anything with Printful

The loom is a tool used to weave yarn into fabric, with many types including the power loom, invented in 1784 by Edmund Cartwright. The power loom allowed for faster fabric production and was a defining machine of the Industrial Revolution. The loom works by holding the warp threads under tension and using a weft thread to create the fabric. The Jacquard loom, introduced in 1803, used punched cards to create complex patterns. The power loom caused the Luddite movement, but was brought to the US in 1813 by Francis Cabot Lowell and eventually powered by steam, air, and electricity.

A loom is a tool used to weave yarn into fabric. There are many types of looms, including the hand loom, frame loom, and shuttle loom. A power loom, yet another type of loom, is a mechanized tool that uses a drive shaft for power. Invented by Edmund Cartwright in Great Britain in 1784, the power loom allowed makers to create fabrics much faster than handlooms. This improvement helped the power loom become one of the defining machines of the Industrial Revolution.

A loom works by holding the longitudinal threads, called the warp, under tension. Vertically oriented threads are attached to two or more harnesses that move up and down, separating the warp threads from each other and creating a space called a shed. Another thread, called the weft, is wound onto bobbins called bobbins, which are placed in a shuttle and passed through the shed, which creates the weft. In the early 20th century, the shuttleless loom, also known as the rapier loom, was invented. This type of power loom moves the weft through the shed using air or water jets, steel rods, or a dummy shuttle that leaves a trail of yarn rather than using a weft.

The Jacquard loom, introduced around 1803, used punched cards to allow the loom to create complex patterns in the weave and is seen as a precursor to computer programming concepts. A succession of inventors made other improvements, culminating in the Lancashire Loom, a semi-automatic loom invented by James Bullough and William Kenworthy in 1842. The Lancashire Loom produced a higher quality fabric at a lower cost than hand weaving and was widely used in the 20th century.

The development of power looms in the early 19th century was a major driver of the Luddite movement, as some British craftsmen feared their livelihoods would be destroyed by the new technology. Wages in the textile industry fell and more less skilled workers were hired to run the looms. The Luddites protested by destroying looms and wool and cotton mills. In 19, the British government passed the Frame Breaking Act, which made industrial sabotage punishable by death. Numerous executions took place in 1812 and sporadic violence continued, but the movement ceased activity in Britain in 1812.

The power loom was brought to the United States in 1813 by Francis Cabot Lowell, who memorized the plans for the machine because exporting the technology from Britain was illegal. Lowell worked with Paul Moody to make additions and improvements to the power loom, and in 1814 established the Boston Manufacturing Company factory in Waltham, Massachusetts, the first textile factory in America to combine all actions to turn raw cotton into cloth under the same roof.

While power looms are mechanized looms, the source of the power that enables them to operate varies. Originally these looms were powered by water, but after some time this changed to steam power and eventually air-powered and electric looms were created.

Protect your devices with Threat Protection by NordVPN

Skip to content