A spinning wheel is a device used for spinning thread or yarn that comes from the natural or man-made fibers. This device allows these well spun fibers to twist together to form yarn and eventually fabrics. The initial step of the spinning technology was the invention of the spinning wheel in India between 500 and 1000 A.D. It reached Europe only after passing through the Middle East in the Middle Ages. It replaced the former method of hand spinning with a spindle. A series of developments occurred in the 1700s and resulted in the establishment of the first rotor or open end spinning mill in the US in 1790.
The rotor is kept spinning, and the fibers in the roving are separated at the open end which is then wrapped as the yarn is drawn out from the rotor cup and gets simultaneously twisted. There are many advance machineries that may offer even faster yarn production consisting of the friction spinning, an open end system, an air jet system, spinning a drafting system.
The change in the modern spinning techniques have had their objectives that consisted of providing automatic means to rotate the spindle, an automatic method of drawing out the fibers, and portable devices to facilitate working of large groups of spindles together, at rapid speeds.
Numerous types of spinning wheels exist such as great wheel also known as walking wheel or wool wheel which is known for rapid long-draw spinning of woolen-spun yarns; the flax wheel, which is a double-drive wheel used with a distaff for spinning linen; Saxony and upright wheels are all-purpose treadle driven wheels used to spin worsted-spun yarns and the charkas, native to Asia.
The charkha is a small, portable, hand-cranked wheel and is ideal for spinning cotton and other fine, short-stapled fibers. The charkha works in the same way to that of the great wheel, with a drive wheel being manually turned, while the yarn is spun off the tip of the spindle. The ground charkha and the great wheel closely bear a resemblance to each other.
The great wheel is typically over five feet in height. The great drive wheel turns the much smaller spindle assembly, with the spindle rotating many times for each twist of the drive wheel.
The traditional pointed distaff spindle is not a familiar feature with the treadle wheel. Most modern wheels make use of a flyer-and-bobbin system which twists the yarn and winds it onto a reel simultaneously. These wheels can be of single or double-treadle; which is a matter of liking and does not affect the operation of the wheel.
The flax wheel is a good illustration of a double drive wheel. The double drive wheel is named after its drive band, as it spins wheel twice. A single drive wheel has one drive band, when compared to the double drive wheel, where the drive band goes around the wheel two times. Most of the drive bands for single drive wheels are prepared from synthetic cord, which is elastic and does not trip easily on the wheel.