Spinning a Yarn

My wife's 'Joey' spinning wheel.
My wife's 'Joey' spinning wheel. | Source
My wife's 'Little Gem' Majacraft spinning wheel.
My wife's 'Little Gem' Majacraft spinning wheel. | Source

Spinning a Yarn.

by John Hansen © 2014


"What you see is what you get!"

The salesman gives his spiel,

"There are no hidden gimmicks.

It's an antique spinning wheel.


The wheel and frame, mahogany,

It spins a perfect line,

The speed adjusts to suit your taste,

It's craftmanship's devine.


Four bobbins and a lazy-kate

Accompany the wheel.

A niddy-noddy I'll throw in

To help cement the deal.


The best part is its ease of use,

You'll find spinning is such fun.

From any fibre you procure,

You can make your own handspun.


Dye the fibre if you wish

In skeins of many colours,

Then knit or crochet scarves and gloves,

Socks, beanies, and pullovers.


I'm giving you a special deal,

You need not sell the barn.

So please forgive me for the pun,

I'm not spinning you a yarn."



How To Use A Spinning Wheel

Spindles L to R. Russian, Turkish, Drop spindle(top whorl), Phang.
Spindles L to R. Russian, Turkish, Drop spindle(top whorl), Phang. | Source

Earliest Recorded History of the Spinning Wheel


Spinning is the drawing and twisting of fibrous materials into one continuous length. Early man (or woman) discovered this process through observation and experimentation with the natural materials available. Man has attempted, through the ages, to speed up production process of thread making, the principles of spinning have remained unchanged to this present day.

The Spindle

In the beginning the twisting was done by rolling the fibres between the fingers and the continuous length of spun yarn was stored on a stick. From this stick the first spindle evolved. A weight called a 'whorl' was added towards one end of the stick or near the centre acting as a flywheel. The whorl could vary in shape but was usually disk or ball shaped and made from stone, glass, bone, clay or bronze. The strength of the fibre being spun determined the weight and size of the spindle and whorl used.

A primitive wheel from Burma. Only one step removed from a hand spindle. The Indian charkha probably resembled this in design and function.
A primitive wheel from Burma. Only one step removed from a hand spindle. The Indian charkha probably resembled this in design and function. | Source

The Spinning Wheel


The closest historians can determine is that sometime between 500 BC and 750 AD, the spindle became mechanised and this probably occurred in India Where a spinning wheel was developed called a 'charkha'. This seemed to have evolved from a reel that the Chinese used for unwinding raw silk from silk-worm cocoons.

In the chakra the spindle was mounted on two supports, with the whorl functioning as a pulley, and the spindle being spun by a belt running from the whorl to a drive wheel. The chakra was also built without legs and would have required the user to sit on the ground to operate it.

The chakra may have found it's way to Europe during the Middle Ages, and later introduced to the British Isles from Holland in the 14th century. The Europeans mounted the base on legs so it could be operated while sitting on a stool, and because it was used for spinning wool, it became known as the 'wool wheel' or 'great wheel'.

ref: Spinning and Spinning Wheels by Eliza Leadbeater pp. 3-4.

"In her book Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning, Patricia Baines reports of written evidence to the presence of spinning wheels in Persia in 1257; and linguistic evidence that suggests they came to Persia from India, so it is entirely possible that they were in use prior to this time. The earliest known artwork depicting a spinning wheel comes from China around 1270 and depicts a “wheel” with long bamboo spokes."

ref: A History and Evolution of Spinning http://kws.atlantia.sca.org/spinning.html

My wife's 'Sleeping Beauty' spinning wheel.
My wife's 'Sleeping Beauty' spinning wheel. | Source

More by this Author


Comments 64 comments

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

I have always wanted a spinning wheel. I have never spun yarn but would love to learn. This is really a good and useful hub, Jodah, and I love your poem, it is charming. Thank you for writing this hub.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Phyllis thanks for being the first to read this. My wife got into spinning about five years ago. She became addicted, having been into quilting before that. She now has five spinning wheels, and a number of spindles. I asked her what was the best web site or book to learn from, and she said you tube tutorials are the best, or find someone else who spins already. I hope you manage to get a spinning wheel yourself.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Thank you, Jodah. I will check out some videos and books. I love your wife's spinning wheels. She is a very creative woman.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

thanks for the yarn, it brings back fond memories of youth. I haven't thought of it in years, I guess I finally lost that ugly sweater ;-)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Haha Eric, thanks for the comment. Do you need a new sweater?


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I have see the spinning wheel at an event one day and thought ''how lovely.'' Later on I saw an old woman use the wheel it was a great experience to watch her use something I have never in my life had sued or seen from before great writing here.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Devika, it is a wonderful art and becomes addictive. My wife loves spinning and attends a group with other women who do the same. Thank you.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Creative people can write about the most mundane of things. You, Sir, are a creative person.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Takes one to know one. Thanks Bill, much appreciated.


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

Cool John it was a wild poem and it even made laugh at a couple points. Plus it was a useful Hub. I tried knitting - with needles, I bought the wool though. I pinned that.

Kevin


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Kevin, glad you found this useful and funny. I appreciate your kind comment.


Harishprasad profile image

Harishprasad 2 years ago from India

What a wonderful salesman to sell an antique piece such as old spinning wheel. You have weaved a wonderful scene. Recently, I visited a village and saw an old hand carved stone grinder lying unused in a corner of the room. In my childhood, I used to grind wheat on that kind of machine in my own village. It was all fun to see the moving wheel and hear the sound it made ! John, old things evoke such a nostalgia. I loved reading this beautiful poem. Voted up.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 2 years ago from australia

You certainly know how to spin a yarn in both senses. Hadn't thought about spinning wheels in ages, how creative to use one successfully as your wife does. Great hub, so informative.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

A lovely poem and I love the photo of the spinning wheel. Sure wish I had one (although I wouldn't know how to use it).


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for your kind comment travmaj. Until a couple of years back I thought they were a thing of the past, but their use is experiencing a revival now. Glad you found this hub informative.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading and commenting Flourish. You should buy one in eBay and there are lots of instructional videos on you tube.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Harishprasad, I enjoyed reading about the old stone grinder. Old tools and implements have so much history to tell, and memories to resurrect. Thank you for the vote up.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Lovely lines, and good pictorial history. Thanks, Jodah.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Ms Dora, glad you enjoyed this.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for sharing the funny poem, Jodah. I loved looking at the photos of your wife's spinning wheels. They're beautiful.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Alicia, glad you enjoyed this. The spinning wheels are both useful and aesthetically pleasing as furniture.


old albion profile image

old albion 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Jodah. I spent a pleasant hour here today Jodah. Thank you :)

Graham.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey Graham, good to see you. You mean you spent a whole hour reading this hub, watching video, and checking links? Wow! If that's the case thank you so much. It's a great compliment when people enjoy what you produce. Take care.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Wonderful poem here. It is always so beautiful to see something go from yarn into a lovely creation. I am glad the interest in spinning yarn is renewed. I love antiques and the history behind them. Your wife's is beautiful. She certainly is creative. Up and more and away. Blessings


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Faith, your kind words are much appreciated as is your love of antiques and creativity. Blessings to you.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

John, beautifully done and very charming. I have to agree with Mr Bill, it takes a lot of creative talent to write about the simplest things and making it a joy to read.

My best.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Jo, inspiration sometimes come from the most unlikely places. Thank you for the compliments. Have a good day.


bethperry profile image

bethperry 2 years ago from Tennesee

What a sweet and humorous poem! I love spinning wheels; one of my grandmothers had several. I hope when my Mama passes along she will leave me the one I used to play "Sleeping Beauty" with as a child.

Love the photos you included. Voting up.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Beth, glad you enjoyed this, and I hope you do get that spinning wheel so you can be sleeping beauty again.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Clever John! You know, I would love to get a spinning wheel--the newer ones are so expensive, but a drop spindle (and I am sure there is a poem in that as well) has certain limitations


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

I love it! lol! and your spinning wheel is awesome! I always wanted one, not necessarily to learn, but it would look great in the corner of my front room! votes all the way!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes they are quite expensive Audrey although you can often find a good deal on eBay. My wife found one for $80 and another for $150. Drop spindles and ring spindles are quite good to use once you get used to it and spin finer yarn then a wheel. Maybe I can think of a "spindle" poem, next as you say.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Nell. You should purchase one, purely for aesthetic purposes at first, haha, but I'm sure you will soon be tempted to learn how to use it.


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

For your wife's next birthday, you should get a couple of alpacas. That would make you very popular with her spinning group. :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Oh yes it sure would. Love alpacas as animals too. Thanks LongTimeMother.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

The rhythm and flow is perfect, John. I love that twist at the end…very good! Voted up and sharing. :-)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading Genna. Your kind comment is appreciated. glad you like the twist.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

I learned to spin sheep's wool years ago on a spinning wheel so I love this poem and your photos of spinning wheels. It brings back such fond memories. I also learned to spin on a drop spindle as they used in the Middle East. That was much more difficult for me. Grea write and poem and I do enjoyed reading this.


Bk42author profile image

Bk42author 2 years ago from New York

Love this poem! Voted up!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Suzette, my wife finds spinning very relaxing. It took her awhile to master the drop spindle but once she did she loved using them. Now she uses a spindle more than the wheels. Glad you enjoyed this and it brought back memories.

Thanks for reading and the vote up Bk42author, glad you enjoyed this poem.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

This poem reminds me of my mother, who obtained a spinning wheel and a sack of wool and got right to it. I found the spinning interesting to watch and you must admit that the smell of sheep is also unusual. Voted awesome!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

Jodah very good I love the last verse :) voted up and awesome


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your interesting comment Suzanne. My wife took up spinning a couple of years ago and took to it like a duck to water. Now my daughter is also addicted and actually selling yarn she has spun and dyed. Yes raw sheep's wool does have a distinct smell as well.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Frank. I appreciate your comment. The last verse came to me first, and I wrote the poem around that.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 2 years ago from Texas

I am definitely not a knitting person, but I really enjoyed this poem and the history info that followed. Might even be a slight urge to go read Rumple Rumpelstiltskin. :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes shanmarie, Rumplestiltskin of course. Glad you enjoyed this, and thanks for reading.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

Super poem about a dying art. You certainly sold it to me! Ann


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Ann. My wife is enthusiastic about keeping the art of spinning alive, and it actually seems to be experiencing a resurgence here in Australia. Glad this poem sold it to you, now I expect you to buy a spinning wheel on eBay and watch the instructional video...and start spinning...lol.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

Sadly, my practical skills don't stretch in that direction! Don't like knitting or sewing. I prefer drawing, painting and writing; each to his/her own, eh?! I do have a friend, though, who has a spinning jenny and still uses it. Ann


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Ann, we all have certan talents and have to concentrate on developing them. Some fortunate souls are good at everything they try. Thank you for reading and your interesting comment.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

I have added additional text to this hub relating to the origin of "spinning" and some extra photos. Now readers don't have to go to one of the links to read the basic history of the spinning wheel.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Thanks for the added info on the history, Jodah -- it is really interesting. I love Spinning Wheel by BS&T, on of my favorite bands and songs.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks very much Phyllis. Yes I always liked that song too.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

Great poem and an interesting insight to spinning wheels.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for reading Vellur. I am pleased you found this interesting.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

Very nice poem and interesting information about spinning wheels.

I have seen artisans spinning yarn on the spinning wheel at the Mahatma Gandhi's ashram. It is a very rare skill these days.

It is a great talent to have. Nice and enjoyable hub! Voted up!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for your kind comment Chitrangada. Spinning is seeing a resurgence in my country at the moment. My wife belongs to a spinning group and even my daughter has taken it up. They spin and dye their own yarn and then knit, crochet or weave it into many garments.I am glad you enjoyed this hub.


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 2 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

Interesting yarn, thank you. I live in a village that used to be full of weavers back in the day before industrialisation took over. In fact many areas of Yorkshire were dedicated to spinning and weaving. There are weaver's cottages still standing - you can tell them by the number of windows facing south to catch the light! And just up the road is the Tolson Museum near Huddersfield, packed with the history of weaving and spinning. There are many great 'wheels' in there. You'd love it!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading and for your interesting comment Chef. Yes I would love to check out your area and the Tolson Museum.


firstday profile image

firstday 23 months ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

I want to eventually learn to spin so went to the library and found nothing on the history. We have a guild here in town that weaves and spins. You have information in here I have been looking for, great hub!


mary615 profile image

mary615 17 months ago from Florida

I bought an antique spinning wheel, but I had to give it away to a daughter when I downsized. My daddy was a "spinner" at a textile mill many years ago. I watched him at work once, and I was amazed at how fast his fingers flew!

I enjoyed reading, and I learned a new term today: "lazy-kate".

Voted UP, etc. and shared.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 17 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I like to see people take an interest in the old crafts, such as spinning. I had friends, both of whom having died since I last saw them, who belonged to an organization devoted to the old arts/crafts. One of these men was a blacksmith and planned to turn it into a usiness when he retired from his job. Unfortunately he never reached retirement. I hope others seek an interest in these arts and crafts.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 17 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for the reading and the vote up and share Mary. Pity you had to downsize and give your spinning wheel to your daughter. I hope she uses it. My wife gave one of her older ones to our daughter and she taught herself to spin and has turned it into a business spinning luxury yarns. Have a great day.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 17 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Don, the old crafts like spinning and weaving seem to be going through a revival and the making of designer and unique spinning wheels and even spindles is now huge business. They can fetch quite amazing prices. It's a pity your friend never realised his dream. We have one wheel that has a metal base similar to a bicycle frame that was hand made and spins brilliantly.

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