A loom is a frame or set of frames on which threads are woven into cloth. The loom enables a set of threads, called the weft, to be passed over and under a set of lengthwise threads, called the warp. The simplest kind of loom is a single frame on which weaving is done by hand. Such looms have been used for more than 7,000 years. By the 1700s weavers in Europe were using complex, hand-operated looms to produce many kinds of cloth.


One of the most important developments came in 1785, when English clergyman Edmund Cartwright invented a loom powered by a steam engine to speed cloth production. However it took another 30 years of development before power operated looms became widespread. Meanwhile, French weaver Joseph Jacquard had invented a hand loom that could weave intricate designs. These were determined by patterns of holes in punched cards. Changing the cards changed the pattern produced. Today's most advanced commercial looms are computer controlled and have mechanisms that thread the weft through the warp at speeds of about 100 km/h (60mph).