Spinning wheel

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A spinning wheel is a device for spinning thread or yarn from natural or synthetic fibers.



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.[2] According to Irfan Habib, the spinning wheel was introduced into India from Iran in the thirteenth century.[2]

According to Mark Elvin, 14th century Chinese technical manuals describe an automatic water-powered spinning wheel. Comparable devices were not developed in Europe until the 18th century. However, it fell into disuse when fiber production shifted from hemp to cotton. It was forgotten by the 17th century. The decline of the automatic spinning wheel in China is an important part of Elvin's high level equilibrium trap theory to explain why there was no indigenous industrial revolution in China despite its high levels of wealth and scientific knowledge.

The spinning wheel replaced the earlier method of hand spinning with a spindle. The first stage in mechanizing the process was mounting the spindle horizontally so it could be rotated by a cord encircling a large, hand-driven wheel. The great wheel is an example of this type, where the fiber is held in the left hand and the wheel slowly turned with the right. Holding the fiber at a slight angle to the spindle produced the necessary twist.[3] The spun yarn was then wound onto the spindle by moving it so as to form a right angle with the spindle. This type of wheel, while known in Europe by the 14th century, was not in general use until later. It ultimately was used there to spin a variety of yarns until the beginning of the 19th century and the mechanization of spinning.

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