John Kay
invented the fly shuttle

1704 - 1764

John Kay invented the fly shuttle in 1733. Horizontal looms had been in general use since the thirteenth century with no major improvements. Before Kay's invention the weaver had to use one hand to throw the shuttle, the other hand to receive it, and, finally, the beater had to be pulled down to put the thread into position. The fly shuttle device was an amazingly simple idea. By jerking a stick with one hand a weaver could propel and return a shuttle that carried the thread across the loom quickly. With Kay's invention the second hand was free to operate the beater and did not have to return the shuttle manually. The speed of weaving was greatly increased. The fly shuttle was first used in the woolen industry in the north of England. Kay's invention was adopted slowly by the very traditional industry, and not until his son Robert refined the invention did it begin to attain widespread use.

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