A History of spinning

In the beginning, spinning was done without tools. The thread was drawn out of a bundle of fibres and twisted between the palm of the hand and thigh of the leg. The length of the spun or twisted fibres was wound onto a short, straight stick. The technology for spinning did not change until the development of the spinning wheel and flyer in medieval times. Over time the stick was notched to hold the thread and a weight was added to give momentum to the stick as it whirled. The weight, known as a "whorl" was made of clay, a round piece of wood, or a flat rock. Thus was born the hand spindle or drop spindle. For much of human history, all members of a society would have been involved on some level with the lady spinnerproduction of textiles. Much later the wheel was added to the spindle to keep it spinning. It was found that the larger the wheel the faster the spindle would turn. Even later the foot peddle or "treadle" was added to the wheel. This allowed the spinner to sit instead of walking back and forth to wind the spun woollen fibre onto the spindle. With a treadle on the wheel one could also keep the wheel going without using ones hands. Until the mid 19th Century, most households kept two wheels: a great wheel for the household woollens and a smaller treadle type for the linens. This was so one would not get the natural grease of the wool on the flax making it more difficult to spin. The two most common methods used to prepare wool for spinning are carding and combing.  Wool combing  is the older of the two processes; carders seem to come into use in northern Europe sometime in the 13th century. Preparing fleece by carding will produce a woollen yarn, that is, a yarn that is relatively low twist, with a soft or fuzzy finish, and that will felt easily. Combing, in which the fibres are prepared to be spun parallel to each other as much as possible, produces worsted, a high twist, smooth yarn that wears well and tends not to felt. The softer, shorter staple of the Merino, Suffolk, Corriedale, and Jacob produce wonderful soft yarns. There are also two basic types of spindles. The well known drop spindle, which has a weight at the bottom of a shaft. The other is the high whorl spindle; this has the weight at the top of the shaft. There are an infinite variety of spindles available for the hand spinner.

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