The Online Library of Knowledge

Famous inventors

James Hargreaves

James HargreavesJames Hargreaves James Hargreaves (1720–1778) was a weaver, carpenter and inventor from Lancashire, England. He invented the spinning jenny, a multi-spindle spinning frame, in 1764. Enabling a worker to work eight or more spools at once, the spinning jenny greatly reduced the amount of work needed to produce yarn (thread). His invention was an important breakthrough in the manufacture of textiles, and helped to start the Industrial Revolution.

Spinning wheelSpinning wheel

Before the jenny

Until the 1770s, textile production was a cottage industry, carried out by family members. Women or children would "card" the wool, combing it with two pads of nails, until all the fibres lay in the same direction. Using a spinning wheel, the carded wool, called roving, was wound as threads, called yarn, on to a spindle, a spike weighted at one end by a disc-shaped or spherical part called a whorl. Spinning was usually carried out by women, called spinsters. The yarn was then taken to a loom to be woven. Working the loom, which required both hand and foot movements, was traditionally the work of men.

The idea for the spinning jenny is said to have come to Hargreaves when he saw a spinning wheel accidentally overturn. He noticed that both the wheel and spindle continued to turn while lying on their sides.

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile