Loom fixers are specialized tradesmen who set up, adjust, and repair looms used to weave cloth and fabric for clothing and other uses. Loom fixers generally possess an intricate knowledge of how both small and industrial looms work. They can inspect a finished piece of fabric and determine the adjustments and repairs required on the loom. In some cases, defective parts, such as harness straps, shuttles, shuttle boxes, reeds, and race plates need replacement. In other cases, a loom fixer is called in because the fabric manufacturer simply requires a different pattern to be woven.
Loom fixing sometimes requires several adjustments. Loom fixers don’t simply make a repair and go on their way. They stay to observe how the loom is functioning, examining the textiles produced. To get the loom just right may require several pieces to be woven and several adjustments to be made.
Loom Fixers and Asbestos
Throughout much of the 20th century, with the exception of the last twenty years, the United States and England were heavily involved in using looms in textile mills for the purpose of creating asbestos-containing materials. While some textiles contained just a small percentage of asbestos, others were composed entirely of the substance, later found to be a cause of several major respiratory conditions. The natural properties of asbestos made it the best, and in some cases, the only insulating material that could be woven into cloth. Its flexibility and light weight could be used to produce several types of insulating woven textiles.
Many people are aware that asbestos was used as an insulator, but it is less-known that it was also used to make an assortment of protective clothing, using standard textile looms. Among the garments made from asbestos fabric were gloves, aprons, hoods, and bibs. Other items made from asbestos cloth were ironing board covers and oven mitts.
While loom operators received much more exposure to asbestos in asbestos textile factories, loom fixers also received a large amount. Loom fixers had to handle finished asbestos products frequently. Asbestos fibers would also fall off of the raw product during weaving and get into parts of the loom in its most dangerous form – dust. Asbestos dust produced by the looms was easily blown into the air, being breathed by loom fixers. In addition, loom fixers were usually employed directly by the textile factories, working an average of six days per week, 12 hours per day.