James Hargreaves was born near Blackburn in about 1720. Hargreaves received no formal education and was unable to read or write. He worked as a carpenter and weaver but had a strong interest in engineering.
By the 1760s Hargreaves was living in the village of Stanhill and was one of the many weavers who owned his own spinning wheel and loom. It is claimed that one day his daughter Jenny accidentally knocked over over the family spinning wheel. The spindle continued to revolve and it gave Hargreaves the idea that a whole line of spindles could be worked off one wheel.
In 1764 Hargreaves built what became known as the Spinning-Jenny. The machine used eight spindles onto which the thread was spun from a corresponding set of rovings. By turning a single wheel, the operator could now spin eight threads at once. The thread that the machine produced was coarse and lacked strength, making it suitable only for the filling of weft, the threads woven across the warp.
Originally Hargreaves produced the machine for family use but when he began to sell the machines, spinners from Lancashire, fearing the possibility of cheaper competition, marched on his house and destroyed his equipment. Hargreaves did not apply for a patent for his Spinning Jenny until 1770 and therefore others copied his ideas without paying him any money.
Hargreaves moved to Nottingham where he erected a small spinning-mill. Others began to make improvements to the Spinning-Jenny and the number of threads was increased from eight to eighty. By the time James Hargreaves died in 1778, over 20,000 Spinning-Jenny machines were being used in Britain.