Spinning wheels on display

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Buffalo Island Museum has two spinning wheels, donated by Kaye Wallace and Marcie Strickland. In the homes of early Buffalo Island, the spinning wheel was a common item in the home.

The "great wheel" type spinning wheel is on display at the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette.

A spinning wheel is a machine used to turn fiber into thread or yarn. This thread or yard could be then woven into cloth on a loom. The spinning wheel's function is to combine and twist fibers together to form thread or yarn and then gather the twisted thread on a bobbin or stick.

Spinning wheels are believed to have originated in India between 500 and 1000 A.D. Early evidence shows that spinning wheels were found in China and Europe in the late 1200s. By the 17th century they were commonly found in homes in the colonies of America. Although most spinning was done at home, women often had spinning bees, where food was served and prizes given to the person who produced the most yarn. Although many used wool on the spinning wheels, women on Buffalo Island mostly used cotton, as cotton was plentiful. The cotton was cleaned by pulling out bits of dirt and then carding pulled the fibers to make them parallel and ready for spinning.

A stick was then rolled by hand over a layer of carded cotton to make a tight cylinder. It was now ready to be spun into thread.

The museum's spinning wheels are called the "great wheel" types. This was one of the most common types used in early America. The fiber is held in the left hand and the wheel slowly turned with the right hand. The large wheel turns the spindle assembly with the spindle revolving many times at each turn. The left hand controls the tension on the cotton or wool. Other popular spinning wheels were the Saxony Wheel, Castle Wheel, and the Norweigian Wheel. Although several companies made spinning wheels, they often were made by a family member or the local carpenter.

There are still spinning wheels made today. Ones made before the mid 1800s are usually identified when there is a slight difference in the diameter of the legs, and the orifice would show a groove where the yarn has passed through. Machine cut pieces of a spinning wheel were not made until about 1860.

Buffalo Island Museum is open on Friday and Saturday from 12:30-4 p.m.

Admission is free. Check out our Facebook page for the latest information on our upcoming annual Quilt Show and to enter the monthly BIM Mystery Artifact contest.

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