Curios for Writers - Tools for Spinning

It's an established fact: writers are curious people. Curious, meaning each one is a curiosity, but also curious, meaning they want to know things.

Now that I'm starting to dabble in historical fiction, I've realized that the more serious I am with my stories, the more trivial knowledge I'm going to have to store up. Hardly a page into my Arthurian legend retelling, I mentioned a spinning wheel...and in another paragraph, found myself asking just exactly what a spinning wheel was. As I progress in my writing journey, I thought it'd be cool to keep track of what I learn, not just in my head where it will surely get lost, but filed away somewhere. And what better place to document such things than in a blog?

So here it is: my list of writer's curios, which I intend to add onto in the days and months ahead. Enjoy!

Curio #1: The Spinning Wheel

What is it?
It's a tool used for making fleece into yarn. (Not into cloth, as I had some vague idea of its doing before looking it up...) Historically, it didn't come into the European picture until the 1200s sometime. (Which means it probably won't work for my early Middle Ages Arthurian legend...darn.)

What does it look like?
Like this:

     Image result for spinning wheel

What does it sound like?
It doesn't sound very pleasant, actually. I had formulated some idea (I think due to the wonderful old book The Princess and Curdie) about a gentle hum....but actually the spinning wheel makes a dull, heavy grating noise. Think a big kitchen chair getting dragged across the floor. It isn't continuous, either - it grinds for a few seconds, pauses for a few seconds, and then grinds again. Grurrrr....grurrrr....grurrrr. I know because I looked it up on Youtube. :)

Curio #2:The Spindle and Distaff

What is it?
Well, if you can't use a spinning wheel, you naturally have to have something to make yarn with. :) This is a pair of hand-held tools rather than that big old wheel. It's a much older invention than the spinning wheel is....which means I can use it in my story! Yay! (But it also doesn't make a sound, the way the spinning wheel does.....darn again.)

What does it look like?
Like this:

How does it work?

Well, the distaff holds a clump of fleece - sort of a cloud of fluff that doesn't have any use yet. :) The spindle is this nifty little thingy-ma-bob that's basically a stick to wind the thread onto. You pull a bit of fleece from the distaff and use the spindle to twist it into thread; then, you wind the length of new thread onto the spindle and keep on going.


  1. Interesting. I can see how it'd be disappointing to not be able to write about that sound. : ) I'm always trying to think of more unique things to use for stuff like descriptions, actions between dialogue, and stuff like that. :)

  2. Precisely. *sniff* 'Twould have been so nice to write about it.....gee, you Medieval people, why couldn't you have invented the spinning wheel sooner? It's not like you had anything else to do, fighting off barbarians and such....
    Thanks for commenting, Andrea!


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