I’m doing a talk today for my Historical Textiles group, and I wanted to assemble some pictures and info about spinning wheels from different time periods….

The first European spinning wheel was the walking wheel. It was hand-operated, and the yarn went onto a pointy spindle. When the Sleeping Beauty legend says the girl pricked her finger on a spinning wheel, it was a walking wheel. Those spindles could be really sharp.

Treadle wheels and wheels with flyers came along soon after. These were operated with a foot pedal, so the spinner could use both hands. There are different styles. The castle wheel and Saxony wheels were, and are, the most popular.

One version of the castle wheel allows a spinner to fill two bobbins at once. Originally, idiot male archeologists thought they required two spinners to operate, and dubbed them “gossip wheels.” But it’s not true.

Jensen Gossip Wheel. Photo found on Pinterest.

Many wheels had a distaff if they were used for spinning flax. Here’s an example of a wheel with a “dressed” (loaded with fiber) distaff, and one bare.

Modern wheels are mostly castle style, but not entirely. Double-treadle wheels are currently popular, but work the same way as a single-treadle.

Picture from Spin Me a Yarn

The other type of traditional wheel I want to show is the charkha from India. Made to spin very fast for cotton, they have a spindle (not a flyer) and are hand-operated like a great wheel. They look very different though.

The charkha on the right is called a book charkha, or box charkha. It was invented by Ghandi.

That’s all I wanted to post for now. I’ll do a post on spindles at some point. And one on electric spinners…

Categories: HistoryTextiles


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