Spinning Wheel History 101: Where is the spindle on a wheel?

Have you read Sleeping Beauty recently? (No worries if you don’t have a little one in your life to inspire this genre of reading!) In the book, Aurora pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and falls into a deep sleep.

If you’ve only spun on a modern spinning wheel, you might be tempted to ask… where is the spindle?

Early spinning wheels were basically a spindle (like a drop spindle), mounted horizontally to a wheel that when spun, would turn the spindle.


Since the spindle tip should be free of yarn for spinning, after spinning each length of yarn, the spinner would have to stop and wind the yarn lower onto the spindle before spinning again. Not exactly smooth sailing.

It was in the fifteenth century that flyer-and-bobbin spinning wheels were invented. The main advantage of this system is that it allows the spinner to spin continuously, only occasionally pausing to move the slider (or select a new hook) on the flyer. Fabulous!

On a modern spinning wheel, the spindle has been replaced by a flyer and bobbin setup.

Louet Spinning wheel diagram