A spindle is a straight spike usually made from wood used for spinning, twisting fibers such as wool, flax, hemp, cotton into yarn. It is often weighted at either the bottom, middle, or top, commonly by a disc or spherical object called a whorl, but many spindles exist that are not weighted by a whorl, but by thickening their shape towards the bottom.

After rotation has been started; on one's thigh or any other convenient body part, allowing for a greater length of yarn to be spun before winding on. Drop spindles are commonly available in high-whorl, low-whorl, and centre-whorl versions. In a high-whorl spindle, the whorl sits very close to the top of the shaft which allows the spindle to spin very fast. A hook is placed on the top of the shaft to secure the developing yarn, and the newly spun yarn is wound around the shaft underneath the whorl in a conical shape called a cop. In a low-whorl spindle, the whorl sits near the bottom of the shaft, which makes it spin slower, but more steadily, and longer. The newly spun yarn is wound around the shaft just above the whorl. In centre-whorl spindles the cop is usually built above the whorl.

Most supported spindles continue to rest with the tip on one's thigh, on the ground, on a table, or in a small bowl while rotating. French spindles are "twiddled" between the fingers of one hand instead. The Akha spindle, a short spindle with a large centre-whorl disc, is supported by the hand of the spinner during drafting of cotton fibre, but during the adding of extra twist to stabilize the yarn, the spindle is dropped to rest on the yarn.


A Distaff is a tool used in spinning. It is designed to hold the un-spun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process. Fiber is wrapped around the distaff, and tied in place with a piece of ribbon or string.

There were two common forms of distaffs, depending on the spinning method. The traditional form is a staff, held under one's arm while using a spindle. It is about 3 feet (0.9 m) long, held under the left arm, with the left hand drawing the fibers from it. This version is the older of the two, as spindle spinning predates spinning on a wheel.

Niddy noddy:

A niddy-noddy is a tool used to make skeins from yarn. It consists of a central bar, with crossbars at each end, offset from each other by 90. The central bar is generally carved to make it easier to hold. Either one of the crossbars will have a flat edge to allow the skein to slide off, or will be completely removable. Niddy-noddies can be constructed of many different materials including wood, metal, and plastic. Wood is traditional, and most quality niddy-noddies are still made of wood. Budget spinners occasionally use niddy-noddies made from PVC pipes.



The nostepinne, also known as a nostepinde or nstepinde, is a tool used in the fiber arts to wind yarn, often yarn that has been hand spun, into a ball for easily knitting, crocheting, or weaving from. Most frequently made of wood, around which yarn can be wound. Decoratively and ornately carved nostepinnes are common. The top of the nostepinne sometimes incorporates a notch or a groove which allows one end of the yarn to be held secure while the rest is wound into a ball. The ball of yarn formed by a nostepinne is a "center pull" ball, allowing the knitter to remove the working yarn from the center of the ball rather than from the outside of the ball. This provides greater stability while knitting and prevents the working yarn from rolling around the surface the yarn is sitting on. These center pull balls are colloquially known as "cakes" because of their short, cylindrical shape.

Spinning Wheel:

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. In France the spindle and distaff were not displaced until the mid 18th.

1.     Hand-powered wheels

Hand powered spinning wheels are powered by the spinner turning a crank for flywheel with their hand, as opposed to pressing pedals or using a mechanical engine.

  • Charkha

The tabletop or floor charkha is one of the oldest known forms of the spinning wheel. The charkha works similarly to the great wheel, with a drive wheel being turned by hand, while the yarn is spun off the tip of the spindle. The floor charkha and the great wheel closely resemble each other. With both, the spinning must stop in order to wind the yarn onto the spindle. The charkha, a small, portable, hand-cranked wheel, is ideal for spinning cotton and other fine, short-staple fibres, though it can be used to spin other fibers as well.


  • Great wheel

The great wheel was one of the earlier types of spinning wheel. The fibre is held in the left hand and the wheel slowly turned with the right. This wheel is thus good for using the long-draw spinning technique, which requires only one active hand most of the time, thus freeing a hand to turn the wheel. The great wheel is usually used to spin wool, and can only be used with fibre preparations that are suited to long-draw spinning. The great wheel is usually over 5 feet or 1.5 m in height.

1.     Treadle wheel

This type of wheel is powered by the spinner's foot rather than their hand or a motor. The spinner sits and pumps a foot treadle that turns the drive wheel via a crankshaft and a connecting rod. The old-fashioned pointed distaff spindle is not a common feature of the treadle wheel. Instead, most modern wheels employ a flyer-and-bobbin system which twists the yarn and winds it onto a spool simultaneously. These wheels can be single or double treadle; which is a matter of preference and does not affect the operation of the wheel.

  • Double drive

A single-drive wheel is with the drive band around flyer and brake on the bobbin. The double drive wheel is named after its drive band, which goes around the spinning wheel twice. The drive band turns the flyer, which is the horse-shoe shaped piece of wood surrounding the bobbin as well as the bobbin. Thus both the flyer and bobbin rotate to twist the yarn, and the difference in speed continually winds the yarn onto the bobbin.

  • Single drive

A single drive wheel has one drive band that goes around the fly-wheel and the bobbin or the flyer. Most of the drive bands for single drive wheels are made from synthetic cord, which is elastic and does not slip easily on the wheel.

While the spinner is making new yarn, the bobbin and the flyer turn in unison, but when the spinner wants to wind the yarn onto the bobbin, the bobbin or the flyer slows down and thus the yarn winds on.

  • Castle style

When the spindle and flyer are located above the wheel, rather than off to one side, the wheel is said to be a castle wheel. This type of wheel is often more compact, thus easier to store. Some castle wheels are even made to fold up small enough that they fit in carry-on luggage at the airport.


Techniques of Spinning

  • Drafting the Fiber

Drafting is pulling a small amount of fibers from a fiber supply to be twisted.

The methods for drafting fiber will vary depending on the spinning technique being used. Choose one hand to hold the fiber (back hand) and the other hand to draft the fiber (front hand). The front hand drafts out the fiber and pinches it to keep the twist out of the draft zone. The draft zone is the un-spun fiber in-between your two hands. Spin at a momentum that will allow you to keep the twist in front of your drafting hand and out of the draft zone. The size of the yarn is determined by how much fiber is drafted and twisted. Draft a small amount of fiber to spin a thin yarn, and a large amount of fiber to spin a bulky yarn.

  • The Inch Worm Technique

This technique is one of the first techniques learned by a beginner, because it teaches the basic skills of hand spinning, namely drafting. Choose one hand to hold the fiber and the other hand to do the drafting. Begin treading the wheel at a comfortable speed. With the drafting hand, pull out a small amount of fiber forward, toward the orifice, from the fiber hand. Pinch the fiber with the drafting hand until the twist stores up in the yarn in front of the drafting hand. Then release the yarn and slide the hand back and pull more fiber from the fiber hand and repeat the process. This is a good technique for spinning woolen yarns.

  • The Long Draw Technique

Here is one of several variations of this technique. Before using this technique, your fibers must be well carded and carefully prepared, so that the fibers draft easily. You hold and draft the fiber using one hand. As you treadle the wheel, gradually pull your hand back away from the orifice allowing the fibers to draft out. Keep the twist in front of the hand. After extending out to a comfortable position, allow an adequate amount of twist to set in, move your hand forward and let the yarn wind onto the bobbin. This is a good technique for spinning a soft airy yarn.

  • The Worsted Technique

This technique is used for spinning strong durable yarns for projects such as warp for weaving and outer garments. The hand holding the fiber drafts backward away from the orifice while the other hand pinches the fiber to store the twist. Then you slide down the yarn with your thumb and index finger and press out the air trapped between the fibers.


  • Spinning from the Fold

Beginners may find it easier to spin from the fold when spinning slippery fibers, like angora and silk, instead of spinning from the end of the fiber. Fold a lock of fiber evenly over the forefinger of the back hand, and keep the ends tucked in the palm of the hand. Draw a few fibers from the center of the folded area, and make the join from this point. Continue drafting the fibers from the center of the lock.

Image Courtesy:

1.      opcaaw.com

2.      metalspinningworkshop.com

3.      localfoodsconnection.wordpress.com

4.      kashasknits.blogspot.com

This article was originally published in Textile learner blog run by Mazharul Islam Kiron.