A loom is a device used to weave cloth and tapestry. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the warp threads under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads. The precise shape of the loom and its mechanics may vary, but the basic function is the same.
There are two secondary motions, because with each weaving operation the newly constructed fabric must be wound on a cloth beam. This process is called taking up. At the same time, the warp yarns must be let off or released from the warp beams. To become fully automatic, a loom needs a tertiary motion, the filling stop motion. This will brake the loom if the weft thread breaks. An automatic loom requires 0.125 hp to 0.5 hp to operate.
The warp-weighted loom is a vertical loom that may have originated in the Neolithic period. The earliest evidence of warp-weighted looms comes from sites belonging to the Starcevo culture in modern Serbia and Hungary and from late Neolithic sites in Switzerland. This loom was used in Ancient Greece, and spread north and west throughout Europe thereafter. Its defining characteristic is hanging weights (loom weights) which keep bundles of the warp threads taut. Frequently, extra warp thread is wound around the weights. When a weaver has reached the bottom of the available warp, the completed section can be rolled around the top beam, and additional lengths of warp threads can be unwound from the weights to continue. This frees the weaver from vertical size constraint.
Edmund Cartwright built and patented a power loom in 1785, and it was this that was adopted by the nascent cotton industry in England. The silk loom made by Jacques Vaucanson in 1745 operated on the same principles but was not developed further. The invention of the flying shuttle by John Kay was critical to the development of a commercially successful power loom. Cartwright's loom was impractical but the ideas behind it were developed by numerous inventors in the Manchester area of England where, by 1818, there were 32 factories containing 5,732 looms.
The Jacquard loom is a mechanical loom, invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801, which simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with complex patterns such as brocade, damask and matelasse. The loom is controlled by punched cards with punched holes, each row of which corresponds to one row of the design. Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and the many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order. It is based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (1725), Jean Baptiste Falcon (1728) and Jacques Vaucanson (1740) To call it a loom is a misnomer, a Jacquard head could be attached to a power loom or a hand loom, the head controlling which warp thread was raised during shedding. Multiple shuttles could be used to control the colour of the weft during picking. The Jacquard loom is the predecessor to the punch card computers of the 19th and 20th centuries.