The act of spinning stretches and twists fibers of wool, cotton, or flax in such a way that they cannot come apart. Early spinners used just their hands to meld the fibers together. Soon the first simple machine for spinning evolved: the drop spindle. This allowed for betting spinning, but the work was tedious and still required a lot of time. The invention of the spinning wheel in medieval times changed that. The wheel made spinning a lot faster. It still needed a lot of coordination, but the quality improved.
Most of the wool used came from sheep, although any animal with hair can also be used for wool. Usually in the spring, the sheep were sheared. The wool was then washed and carded to be prepared for spinning. The spinster kept the spinning wheel steadily moving with her foot and held the wool tightly between her fingers to twist the wool evenly.
The wool became yarn. Using a "lazy cate," a spinner could ply two skeins (a measurement of yarn) of yarn together to make a stronger fiber. The fiber the spinner spun could be made into various and assorted fiber wares such as clothes, shawls, mittens and gloves, scarfs and hats. In addition, the spinner often used dyes, from natural plants, flowers, and berries and other fruits, to color the wool to make more beautiful garments.
Keep a Steady Pace
Spinners had to keep a steady rhythm as they worked on wheels in order to ensure that the yarn was even. Oftentimes they sang songs to keep the repetitive motion at a steady pace. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is a simple example. Another one that has become popular over the years is the nursery rhyme "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" (originally sung to protest the high taxes on wool in 13th Century England.) Spinners have also often made up songs for whatever task was at hand, like measuring how much yarn is in a skein. A good example of this is used with a...
Niddy Noddy, Niddy Noddy
Two heads, one body
'Tis one, 'Taint one,
Twill be one, bye and bye
'Tis two, 'Taint two,
Twill be two, bye and bye
And so on until all the yarn is wound on a niddy noddy.