The invention of the multi-spindle spinning frame marks a major development in the Industrial Revolution.
Blog-style entry: Invented in 1764 in response to cotton demand outweighing production capabilities, James Hargreaves patents the mechanism in 1768. The device transforms the speed-of-production associated with weaving and workloads are streamlined to such an extent that yarn production workers are able to operate eight or more spools simultaneously. This figure grows to 80 as technological advancements continue.
The machine consists of a metal frame with eight wooden spindles at one end. A set of eight rovings (long, narrow bundles of fibre) is attached to a beam on the frame and the extended rovings pass through two horizontal bars of wood that can clasp together. By moving those bars along the frame, the spinner is able to extend the thread. Using one hand to quickly turn a wheel sets the operation in motion: the spindles all revolve and the thread is spun. When the bars are returned, the thread winds onto the spindle.
The efficiency of the machine almost causes its destruction, as technological advancements such as the invention of new tools are perceived as a threat to workers’ jobs. Indeed, Hargreaves’ house is broken into by workers intent on damaging the machine.
Uncertainty surrounding the origin of the name ‘Spinning Jenny’ exists to this day. ‘Jenny’ may simply be a colloquial reference to ‘engine’, though folklore claims that a member of Hargreaves’ family – named Jenny – had knocked over a spinning wheel and that Hargreaves, upon realising the device’s operations were unaffected by this change in orientation, decided to place the spindles vertically in a row, rather than horizontally.