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As with many trades in the New World, weaving began as something practiced only in the home for the benefit of one's self and family, but eventually expanded into a highly profitable industry. And while skill and training were certainly necessities for any successful weaver, the true mark of the trade was the possession of a loom. Without one, weaving was a far more time consuming process, requiring numerous helpers to hold the various threads in place. In the early ages of the colonies, only wool and flax were abundant enough to make commercially viable cloth. But by the mid-1700s, the invention of the cotton gin made that fiber cheap enough to replace both wool and flax as the primary source of North America's cloth.