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A spinning wheel is a tool for spinning fiber into yarn. Since long ago in human history, we discovered that adding twist to fiber will make that fiber stronger for uses in clothing, ship sales, ropes, etc. The earliest methods of spinning yarn were all done using hand spindles. At some point the spinning wheel, a more mechanized and efficient method than the spindle, was invented. There is some debate as to whether this happened in China, India, or the Middle East. The spinning wheel reached Europe in the Middle Ages and replaced the previously standard way of spinning via a spindle and distaff.
The oldest spinning wheels utilized a distaff which freshly spun yarn could be wound onto from a large hand-driven wheel. Then the Saxony wheel was introduced in Europe in the 16th century. This added a bobbin that the yarn could be continuously wound onto, the winding motion of the wheel could also be powered via a foot treadle, which freed up the spinner’s hands to draft the fibers.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, spinning wheels were the most common and efficient way to create yarn. Now commercial yarns are spun in mills by large mechanized cousins of the spinning wheel. Today hand spinners honor the tradition and beauty of handspun yarns by creating beautiful works of art on their own spinning wheels. Much like handknitting, the process is not as efficient as going out and buying yarn, but joy and an appreciation for this ancient craft are well worth the time spent.
The Woolery offers spinning wheels from a select group of manufacturers known for their innovative designs, commitment to quality and contributions to the craft of hand spinning.
- Gordon Lendrum has been building these Modern Spinning Wheels in Canada since 1975. Versatile and very portable, it folds almost flat for traveling and is easily unfolded and reset for spinning. Available as either single or double treadle models.
– An excellent beginner wheel with a central flyer convenient to both right and left handed spinners. Produced in New Zealand by Ashford.
– One of the smallest, lightest and most versatile electronic spinners on the market. Produced in New Zealand by Ashford.
– This castle style wheel offers double drive, Scotch tension and bobbin lead modes of operation. Produced in the US by Schacht.
– This Saxony style wheel can be configured for either single or double drive operation. Available in four wood finish options. Produced in Poland by Kromski.
– The popular portable castle style wheel combines the classic Kromski design with functional elements required of a folding wheel. Available in four wood finish options. Produced in Poland by Kromski.
Spinning wheels come in all shapes, designs and sizes. However, there are some commonly accepted categories or types of wheels.
Saxony Spinning Wheels – This is the spinning wheel of fairy tales. The wheel is on one end, the flyer on the opposite end with typically three legs. The and ; , , and ; and wheels fall into this category.
Castle Spinning Wheels – Also known as “Upright” spinning wheels. Typically, the flyer is positioned directly above the wheel. These wheels take us less floor space than a Saxony and are a bit more portable as well. The ; and Mazurka; and the are good examples of Castle Spinning Wheels.
Modern Spinning Wheels – This group comprises wheels that combine traditional spinning wheel elements in new and unique designs. Wheels in this category include the wheels; Kromski ; ; Schacht , and ; and the Ashford .
Charkha Spinning Wheels – This is the traditional spinning wheel of India and is closely associated with Gandhi. It is both a functional tool and a symbol of the independence movement in India. One of the oldest known spinning wheel designs, the charkha is powered by hand and the yarn is actually spun off the tip of a pointed spindle. Charkha wheels vary in size from small book to full size floor models. Charkha wheels are ideal for spinning short staple and fine fibers such as cotton, cashmere, angora and silk.
Electric Spinning Wheels – These wheels use electricity, rather than pedal power to spin yarn. In fact, they are comprised of a motor and a flyer with no actual “spinning wheel.” Ideal for travel, or those with limited space or mobility. Examples of these type of spinning wheels include the Ashford , , and .
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