Until I started writing this blog I’d always thought that the wheel was the big deal on the spinning wheel; I thought that the thread or the fabric was somehow routed through the wheel and the spindle simply served as a storage compartment for the spun yarn. But that’s not case!
The spindle does most of the work, but the wheel gets most of the credit. All the wheel does to form the yarn is turn the spindle which spins and twists the thread into yarn. The spindle has spun yarn since the paleolithic. The wheel wasn’t even invented until a mere 5500 years ago and didn’t team-up with the spindle until the 14th Century.In fairness the machine should be called a “spinning spindle!”
Before the spindle was the thigh…yes, the thigh. The paleo man or woman would roll the fabric down the thigh while adding more tufts of fabric until they had the length of yarn they needed.
Next came…you guessed it, the spindle. The spindle is a straight stick about a foot long that the yarn is wound on after the twisting process. Our friends at Wiki describe the process in this manner: “… the spindle, a straight stick eight to twelve inches long on which the yarn is wound after twisting. At first the stick had a cleft or split in the top in which the thread was fixed. Later, a hook of bone was added to the upper end. The bunch of wool or plant fibers is held in the left hand. With the right hand the fibers are drawn out several inches and the end fastened securely in the slit or hook on the top of the spindle. A whirling motion is given to the spindle on the thigh or any convenient part of the body. The twisted yarn is then wound on to the upper part of the spindle. Another bunch of fibers is drawn out, the spindle is given another twirl, the yarn is wound on the spindle, and so on. I found it difficult to see this happening without the following video:
Want to try a hand spindle yourself? Amazon has them cheap!
Recently archaeologists in the Negrete of the desert discovered what might be a spindle made from tamarisk and lead in 4000 BC. Our article on this spindle can be found here…
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