Textile Tools: Medieval Images of Spinning Wheels


Woman spinning on the great or walking wheel.
Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 14th c. England

The great wheel produced thread more quickly than the drop spindle, but the thread was lower quality. It was underspun (not twisted enough) and uneven. The wheel was turned by pushing a stick against the spokes (above) or by turning a crank. Because the spinner had to use one hand to operate the wheel, she was left with only one hand to draft the fibers, resulting in uneven thread.

Woman spinning on a great wheel which is turned by a crank. MS 17, Musee Dobree, Nantes 16th c. France

British Library, early 14th century

The spinners above are drafting the fibers with one hand and turning the crank with the other. The next step in the evolution of the spinning wheel was to attach a foot treadle to the crank. The spinner could then use her foot to turn the wheel, freeing both hands for drafting.


6 thoughts on “Textile Tools: Medieval Images of Spinning Wheels

  1. Thanks for this post! I’m looking for something very similar to what you have – Medieval pictures and woodcuts of yarn in use, specifically knitting and weaving. I linked your page to mine so I can find you again next time I have a minute to resume the search.

    Thanks for this pretty stop in the Webs!

  2. Marilyn says:

    I am a spinner/weaver/knitter who recently retired to southern France. I am surprised that I cannot locate others who have the same interests here. I belonged to a fibre arts guild in California and enjoyed people who had the same interests. Unfortunately, thus far, I have not located others here. Perhaps I am not searching in the appropriate areas..

  3. It is so interesting that the three wheel designs are so similar.
    I’m also in the process of making a great wheel. I was going to copy
    a local design but I’m now wondering if there is not a medieval one in
    a museum someplace. I will check.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s