A Return to the Shuttle Loom

On a vintage shuttle loom, the warp yarns are held vertically in the loom, and the weft thread is fed under and over it via a shuttle. Then they are beaten together to create the woven textile.

Before the shuttle loom — the first power loom — was created, to weave a specific width of fabric, two weavers sat side by side, one throwing the shuttle from the right to the centre and the other grasping between the warps, carrying it to the left and back again.

Under, over, under, over. Left to right, right to the left.

In 1733, John Kay, the inventor of the shuttle loom, mounted his shuttle on wheels in a track and used paddles to shoot it from side to side — propelled by the jerk of a cord by a weaver. Kay, whose father had been a yeoman, grew up in Lancashire, England, and had always had a knack for textile innovation. Previous to his "wheeled shuttle," he had designed a cording and twisting machine for worsted and a metal substitute for the natural reed used in hand-loom reed making.

Kay's shuttle loom was widely adopted and vastly quickened the process of making fabric, but the virtue of the invention was its adaptability to automatic weaving. Today Kay's looms have widely been replaced by projectile looms and other machinery that can produce around 1000 picks (rows of weft yarn) per minute and at a far greater width, compared to the 150 picks the shuttle loom can weave.

We wanted to return to using the vintage shuttle loom to celebrate the process, distinctive by the selvedge and the personality of the craftsperson operating the loom — the imperfections captured are akin to those in hand weaving when hands and feet operated looms. The resulting objects using this textile are imbued with a sense of presence captured through the making process.