Weaving is a method of textile production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. Other methods are knitting, crocheting, felting, and braiding or plaiting. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling. (Weft is an old English word meaning "that which is woven"; compare leave and left.) The method in which these threads are inter-woven affects the characteristics of the cloth. Cloth is usually woven on a loom, a device that holds the warp threads in place while filling threads are woven through them. A fabric band which meets this definition of cloth (warp threads with a weft thread winding between) can also be made using other methods, including tablet weaving, back strap loom, or other techniques without looms.
On a conventional loom, the weft thread is carried on a pirn, in a shuttle that passes through the shed. A handloom weaver could propel the shuttle by throwing it from side to side with the aid of a picking stick. The "picking" on a power loom is done by rapidly hitting the shuttle from each side using an overpick or underpick mechanism controlled by cams 80–250 times a minute. When a pirn is depleted, it is ejected from the shuttle and replaced with the next pirn held in a battery attached to the loom. Multiple shuttle boxes allow more than one shuttle to be used. Each can carry a different colour which allows banding across the loom.
There are some indications that weaving was already known in the Paleolithic era, as early as 27,000 years ago. An indistinct textile impression has been found at the Dolnë Vestonice site. According to the find, the weavers of Upper Palaeolithic were manufacturing a variety of cordage types, produced plaited basketry and sophisticated twined and plain woven cloth. The artifacts include imprints in clay and burned remnants of cloth.
he weaver worked at home and marketed his cloth at fairs. Warp-weighted looms were commonplace in Europe before the introduction of horizontal looms in the 10th and 11th centuries. Weaving became an urban craft and to regulate their trade, craftsmen applied to establish a guild. These initially were merchant guilds, but developed into separate trade guilds for each skill. The cloth merchant who was a member of a city's weavers guild was allowed to sell cloth; he acted as a middleman between the tradesmen weavers and the purchaser. The trade guilds controlled quality and the training needed before an artisan could call himself a weaver.
Hand loom weavers were mainly men – due to the strength needed to batten. They worked from home sometimes in a well lit attic room. The women of the house would spin the thread they needed, and attend to finishing. Later women took to weaving, they obtained their thread from the spinning mill, and working as outworkers on a piecework contract. Over time competition from the power looms drove down the piece rate and they existed in increasing poverty.