What’s A Spinning Wheel—Question From One Reader And Reply From Wikipedia
A spinning wheel is a device for spinning thread or yarn from natural or synthetic fibers. Spinning wheels appeared in Asia, probably in the 11th century, and very gradually replaced hand spinning with spindle and distaff. Spinning machinery, such as the spinning jenny and spinning frame, displaced the spinning wheel during the Industrial Revolution.
The earliest clear illustrations of the spinning wheel come from Baghdad (drawn in 1237), China (c. 1270) and Europe (c. 1280), and there is evidence that spinning wheels had already come into use in both China and the Islamic world during the eleventh century. According to Irfan Habib, the spinning wheel was introduced into India from Iran in the thirteenth century.
According to Mark Elvin, 14th-century Chinese technical manuals describe an automatic water-powered spinning wheel. Comparable devices were not developed in Europe until the 18th century. However, it fell into disuse when fiber production shifted from hemp to cotton. It was forgotten by the 17th century. The decline of the automatic spinning wheel in China is an important part of Elvin’s high level equilibrium trap theory to explain why there was no indigenous industrial revolution in China despite its high levels of wealth and scientific knowledge.
The spinning wheel replaced the earlier method of hand spinning with a spindle. The first stage in mechanizing the process was mounting the spindle horizontally so it could be rotated by a cord encircling a large, hand-driven wheel. The great wheel is an example of this type, where the fiber is held in the left hand and the wheel slowly turned with the right. Holding the fiber at a slight angle to the spindle produced the necessary twist. The spun yarn was then wound onto the spindle by moving it so as to form a right angle with the spindle. This type of wheel, while known in Europe by the 14th century, was not in general use until later. It ultimately was used there to spin a variety of yarns until the beginning of the 19th century and the mechanization of spinning.
In general, the spinning technology was known for a long time before being adopted by the majority of people, thus making it hard to fix dates of the improvements. In 1533, a citizen of Brunswick is said to have added a treadle, by which the spinner could rotate her spindle with one foot and have both hands free to spin. Leonardo da Vinci drew a picture of the flyer, which twists the yarn before winding it onto the spindle. During the 16th century a treadle wheel with flyer was in common use, and gained such names as the Saxony wheel and the flax wheel. It sped up production, as one needn’t stop spinning to wind up the yarn.
In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution had a big effect on the spinning industry by beginning to mechanize the spinning wheel. Lewis Paul and John Wyatt first worked on the problem in 1738, patenting the Roller Spinning machine and the flyer-and-bobbin system, for drawing wool to a more even thickness. Using two sets of rollers that traveled at different speeds, yarn could be twisted and spun quickly and efficiently. However, they did not have much financial success. In 1771, Richard Arkwright used waterwheels to power looms for the production of cotton cloth, his invention becoming known as the water frame.
More modern spinning machines use a mechanical means to rotate the spindle, as well as an automatic method to draw out fibers, and devices to work many spindles together at speeds previously unattainable. Newer technologies that offer even faster yarn production include friction spinning, an open-end system, and air jets’