spinning wheel

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Irish long wheel around 1900
Erzgebirge spinning wheel

The spinning wheel is a technical tool for spinning of fibers for later further processing (. E.g., weaving , knitting ). During spinning, loose fibers are processed into a thread by twisting and pulling them apart at the same time . Both the vane spinning wheel, which is usually provided with a foot drive, and the hand-operated spindle spinning wheel are referred to as the spinning wheel. The winding wheels, which are very similar to a spindle spinning wheel , are not used for spinning, but in hand weaving. The spinning wheels were made by Spillenmacher (spindle maker) , who mainly made wooden implements for the spinning and weaving trade . It is not certain when and where the spinning wheel was invented; there are depictions from India and China between the 5th and 10th centuries.


The oldest depiction of a wing spinning wheel in the medieval
house book of Wolfegg Castle, 1480

The spindle spinning wheel came to Europe from the oriental region towards the end of the 12th century. It began to spread in Central Europe in the 13th century, as the sources show with the prohibition of using the spindle spinning wheel for the guilds of the cloth making industry.

The following bans have been documented, for example: 1224 Venice, 1256 Bologna, 1268 Paris, 1280 Speyer, 1288 Abbeville, 1292 Siena, 1305 Douai. In the craft regulations of the weavers from Speyer it is expressly only permitted for the production of weft yarn.

The reason for the restriction to weft yarn is controversial in research. The bans may have been enacted to protect the high quality of the woolen yarn produced by hand spindle . For example, the so-called Livre des metiers from Bruges (approx. 1349) states that wool spun with a spindle spinning wheel is generally too weak, uneven, inadequately twisted and too knotted. The spindle spinning wheel remained in some regions until the 15th and 16th. Banned for guilds in the 19th century.

Spinning machine design by Leonardo da Vinci

The first visual evidence of a (still hand-driven) wing spinning wheel dates back to 1480. The inventor of this completely new functionality of the spinning wing is unknown. A little later, Leonardo da Vinci designed a spinning mechanism with a longitudinally movable spinning wing, which, however, was not widely used. A kick is known from the middle of the 17th century.

Both of the above were used as templates for the first mechanical spinning machines of the 18th century. Spinning wheel systems. The somewhat older Spinning Jenny is based on the two-stage settling technique of the simple spindle, while the Waterframe , which was developed almost at the same time, used spinning blades.

Even after the introduction of spinning machines, the vane spinning wheel was still used in the home and was part of the bride's trousseau until the 19th century.

Even today, modern vane spinning wheels are still being built and technically developed by numerous European and non-European craft businesses, mostly for the needs of leisure spinners. There are even electrically operated spinning "wheels" in which the thread is still pulled out by hand, while the flywheel is replaced by the electric drive. These spinning devices are mainly used in small businesses.

Structure of the wing spinning wheel

mechanical parts

The principle of operation of the spinning wheel

A vane spinning wheel consists of the following mechanically effective parts (the letters in brackets refer to the diagram opposite):

  • Step / step board (f). Traditionally, running boards were only made for one foot (usually the right one), modern spinning wheels are also built with a double step, i.e. that is, the spinning person can alternately lower both feet like a bicycle.
  • Drive rod (s), often also called servant
  • Crank (d)
  • Flywheel (c)
  • Drive cord or belt (s and t), this can e.g. B. made of cotton, linen, wool or leather.
  • Spinning wing. The spinning wing in turn consists of:
    • the actual U-shaped wing with a feed opening (y) made of metal or wood and two wing arms (a). Guide devices for the resulting thread (i) are attached to both arms, which can be rows of firmly attached hooks, or holes for a single, reversible hook or a sliding eyelet.
    • the spindle (x); Usually this is firmly connected to the wing and forms the extension of the intake opening (y).
    • the freely movable bobbin (b) on the spindle with a bobbin whorl (u). A whorl is a disc with a groove that is used to transmit power. Traditionally, a bobbin only has a whorl at one end; modern spinning wheels also have a whorl at both ends.
    • In the case of double-threaded and wing-driven types, an additional wing whorl (r), which is firmly connected to the spindle, usually by means of a thread.
So-called Emmentaler type of spinning wheel, "Die Arbeitsamen" (1883) by Albert Anker
double-winged fixed wheel (wedding wheel)

Load-bearing parts

The construction can be very diverse. There are types with a bench and three or four legs and a structure on it, but there are also types whose frame stands directly on the floor. The spinning wing can be arranged to the side of the flywheel or above the flywheel. All types can also be equipped with two spinning wings. With these so-called double spinning wheels, the spinning person can produce two threads at the same time.

Functional principle of the wing spinning wheel in general

The spinning person sets the flywheel in motion via the foot drive. The rotation of the wheel is transferred to the spinning wing. The difference in the inner circumference of the flywheel and whorl causes the so-called translation. A translation z. B. of 1: 5 means that a kick causes a full turn of the flywheel and 5 turns of the spinning wing at the same time. The task of the spinning wing is to twist the fibers together and at the same time wind them up on the bobbin. The skill of the spinning person consists in releasing as much fibers from the fiber supply as is necessary for the thickness of the desired thread and in guiding as much twist into the thread as is necessary for the desired degree of twist (strength).

To do this, three speeds have to be coordinated with one another at the same time, namely how fast you step, take off and let it run into the spinning wing.

Functional principle of two-thread (double-thread) wing spinning wheels

two-thread spinning wing

In the so-called two-thread spinning wheels, both the wing whorl and the bobbin whorl are driven by a single drive belt, but in the form of an 8 crossed drive belt. One of the two whorls - usually the bobbin whorl - must have a smaller diameter, which means that the bobbin rotates faster than the wing and the thread can wind itself on the bobbin.

Functional principle of single-thread vane spinning wheels with vane drive (spool braked)

single-thread spinning wing with wing drive and bobbin brake (rear)

Only the spinning wing is driven directly via the wing whorl. The coil is dragged along by friction. Your running speed is slowed down by a cord (also called Scottish brake) over the bobbin whorl.

Functional principle of single-thread vane spinning wheels with bobbin drive (vane-braked)

The spool is driven directly via the drive belt, there is no additional wing whorl. In order to reduce the speed of the dragged spinning wing, a leather strap or the like is attached over the front end of the spindle (feed opening). The pressure on this so-called wing brake can be regulated.

Structure and functional principle of the spindle spinning wheel

European-American spindle spinning wheel

The older spindle spinning wheel, which, in contrast to the vane spinning wheel, is always driven by hand, is also called the big wheel, traveling wheel, hand spinning wheel or (tree) wool wheel. The flywheel and spindle are arranged on a board and connected by a drive belt. This type includes e.g. B. the Charkas used in India for spinning cotton and the so-called Peterrad, which is based in Wendland in Lower Saxony, for spinning coarse flax tow .

Indian spinner at a charka spindle
spinning wheel

The flywheel is turned with the right hand. The left hand simultaneously pulls the fiber supply back at an angle of 45 ° to the spindle alignment. The spinning person can spin as long a thread as his arm reaches back. The speed at which the twist enters the fibers must be matched to the speed at which the hand is withdrawn. The resulting thread must then be wound onto the spindle manually.

Other uses and accessories

Spun threads are usually still twisted on the spinning wheel for further use , i. That is, two or more single threads are twisted together into a far more durable yarn . For this purpose, a so-called bobbin block is used, which carries the spinning wheel bobbins , from which the individual threads can run freely. For this purpose, each spinning wheel usually includes at least two spare bobbins. In order to finally pull the yarn off the spinning-wheel bobbins , a rotary or cross- reel is required to produce strands that can then be washed, dyed and traded if necessary.


  • Patricia Baines: Spinning wheels, spinners and spinning. Reprinted edition. Batsford, London 1979, ISBN 0-7134-0821-9 .
  • Jef Coenen: European handspindages. Self-published, Antwerp 1992.
  • Joan Whittaker Cummer: A book of spinning wheels. Randall, Portsmouth NH 1993, ISBN 0-914339-46-X .
  • Karl Drescher: The revival of the hand spinning mill in Baden. A. Bielefeld in commission, Karlsruhe 1904.
  • Eliza Leadbeater: Spinning and spinning wheels (= Shire album 43). Reprinted edition. Shire Publications, Princes Risborough 1995, ISBN 0-85263-469-2 .
  • David A. Pennington, Michael B. Taylor: A pictorial guide to american spinning wheels. Shaker Press, Sabbathday Lake ME 1975, ISBN 0-915836-01-7 .
  • David A. Pennington, Michael B. Taylor: Spinning wheels and accessories. Schiffer Publishing, Atglen PA 2004, ISBN 0-7643-1973-6 .
  • Hugo von Radich: Types of spinning wheels. A collection of hand spinning machines. Verlag des Kaiserl.-Königl. Agriculture Ministry, Vienna 1895.
  • Spinning Exhibition. Under the protectorate of the HRH of the Grand Duchess of Baden . With a detailed introduction by Dr. Hans Stegmann from the Germanic Museum in Nuremberg. sn, Karlsruhe 1903.
  • George B. Thompson: The John Horner Collection of Spindles, Spinning Wheels and Accessories (= Belfast Museum and Art Gallery. Bulletin Vol. 1). The Museum, Belfast 1952.
  • Veera Vallinheimo: Spinning in Finland. With special consideration of Swedish tradition (= Kansatieteellinen Arkisto. [Ethnographic Archive], Vol. 11, ISSN  0355-1830 ). Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistys, Helsinki 1956.
  • Sigrid Vogt: History and meaning of the spinning wheel in Europe. Shaker Media, Aachen 2008, ISBN 978-3-86858-074-7 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John Munro: Wool and Wool Based Textiles in the West European Economy, c. 800-1500. Innovations and Traditions in Textile Products, Technology, and Industrial Organization. (= Department of Economics and Institute for Policy Analysis, University of Toronto. Working Paper. No. munro-00-05, ISSN  0829-4909 ; PDF; 1.4 MB). University of Toronto, Toronto 2000.
  2. Karl Heinz Ludwig: Spinning in the Middle Ages with special consideration of the work "cum rota". In: History of Technology. Vol. 57, No. 2, 1990, ISSN  0040-117X , pp. 78-80.
  3. ^ Wilhelm Bomann : Rural housekeeping and daily work in old Lower Saxony. 4th edition, popular edition. Böhlau, Weimar 1941, pp. 239-240 (6th reprographic reprint of the 4th edition. Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 1983, ISBN 3-8067-0546-1 ).

See also

Web links

Commons : Spinning Wheel  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : spinning wheel on postage stamps  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Spinnrad  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations