Spinning (textiles)

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Spinning is an ancient textile art in which plant, animal or synthetic fibers are twisted together to form yarn. For thousands of years, fiber was spun by hand using simple tools, the spindle and distaff. Only in the High Middle Ages did the spinning wheel increase the output of individual spinners, and mass-production only arose in the 18th century with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Hand-spinning remains a popular handicraft.

Characteristics of spun yarn vary according to the material used, fiber length and alignment, quantity of fiber used, and degree of twist.



Hand spinning

The origins of spinning fiber to make string or yarn are lost in time, but archaeological evidence in the form of representation of string skirts has been dated to the Upper Paleolithic era, some 20,000 years ago.[1] In the most primitive type of spinning, tufts of animal hair or plant fiber are rolled down the thigh with the hand, and additional tufts are added as needed until the desired length of spun fiber is achieved. Later, the fiber is fastened to a stone which is twirled round until the yarn is sufficiently twisted, whereupon it is wound upon the stone and the process repeated over and over.

The next method of twisting yarn is with the spindle, a straight stick eight to twelve inches long on which the thread is wound after twisting. At first the stick had a cleft or split in the top in which the thread was fixed. Later, a hook of bone was added to the upper end. The bunch of wool or plant fibers is held in the left hand. With the right hand the fibers are drawn out several inches and the end fastened securely in the slit or hook on the top of the spindle. A whirling motion is given to the spindle on the thigh or any convenient part of the body. The spindle is then dropped, twisting the yarn, which is wound on to the upper part of the spindle. Another bunch of fibers is drawn out, the spindle is given another twirl, the yarn is wound on the spindle, and so on.[2]

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