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The improved spinning jenny that was used in textile mills
Model of the spinning jenny in a museum in Wuppertal, Germany
The spinning jenny is a multi-spool spinning wheel. It was invented c. 1764 by James Hargreaves in Stanhill, near Blackburnmarker, Lancashiremarker in the northwest of Englandmarker. The device dramatically reduced the amount of work needed to produce yarn, with a single worker able to work eight or more spools at once. A word 'ginny' or 'jenny' is an early abbreviation of the word 'engine', simply referring to a machine or device.


The idea was developed as a metal frame with eight wooden spindles at one end. A set of eight rovings were attached to a beam on that frame. The rovings when extended passed through two horizontal bars of wood that could be clasped together. These bars could be drawn along the top of the frame by the spinners left hand thus extending the thread. The spinner used his right hand to rapidly turn a wheel which caused all the spindles to revolve, and the thread to be spun. When the bars were returned the thread wound onto the spindle. A pressing wire (faller) was used to guide the threads onto the right place on the spindle.


The carriage was placed at the end of its run closest to the spindles. The spinner (tenter) stood in front of the frame. The rovings were drawn through the cloves (clasp bars of the carriage) and attached to the spindles. The tenter lowered the bottom bar of the carriage, and the carriage drawn to a mark thus pulling out a quantity of rove, known as the draw. The lower bar was raised, clamping the rove and the wheel was turned, turning the spindles while at the same time the carriage was pulled further. This attenuated and twisted the rove. The carriage stopped but the wheel was turned a little further to give extra twist.The carriage was slightly backed and a faller wire lowered onto the threads. As the wheel was slowly turned, the carriage returned to its starting position and the thread was gentle wound onto the spindles. The spinner was responsible for operating the wheel and the carriage, and used his judgement as to the amount of extra twist needed and where the faller wire should be located.


James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny. He was born in Oswaldtwistlemarker, near Blackburn, around 1720.

At the time cotton production could not keep up with demand, and Hargreaves spent some time considering how to improve the process. The flying shuttle had increased yarn demand by the weavers by doubling their productivity, and now the spinning jenny could supply that demand by increasing the spinners' productivity even more. The machine produced coarse yarn.


Hargreaves kept the machine secret for some time, but he produced a number for his own growing industry. The price of yarn fell, angering the large spinning community in Blackburn. Eventually they broke into his house and smashed his machines, forcing him to flee to Nottingham in 1768. There he set up shop producing jennies in secret for one Mr. Shipley, with the assistance of a joiner named James.

Eventually Hargreaves applied for a patent on the jenny in July 1770. By this time a number of spinners in Lancashire were already using copies of the machine, and Hargreaves sent notice that he was taking legal action against them. The manufacturers met, and offered Hargreaves £3000. He at first demanded £7000, and at last stood out for £4000, but the case eventually fell apart when it was learned he had already sold several in the past.

Hargreaves died on April 22, 1778.

The spinning jenny was a huge success due to the fact that it could hold more than one ball of yarn, therefore making more clothing materials in a shorter amount of time while reducing the overall cost.

The spinning jenny was superseded by the Spinning Mule, and was adapted for the process of slubbing being the basis of the Slubbing Billy

The myth

The most common story told about the invention of the device is that his daughter, Jenny, knocked over one of their own spinning wheels. The device kept working as normal, with the spindle now pointed upright. Hargreaves realized there was no particular reason the spindles had to be horizontal, as they always had been, and he could place them vertically in a row.The name is variously said to derive from this tale. The Registers of Church Kirk show that Hargreaves had several daughters, but none named Jenny (neither was his wife).

Thomas Highs of Leigh has also claimed to be the inventor and the story is repeated using his wife's name.

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