History Of Yarn Spinning

Do you want to know more about yarns? What is the secret behind them? Unearth everything you need to know about them in this article.

A yarn is the smallest component of a fabric. Every fabric, cloth or clothe that you see, is made up of many yarns that are interwoven together. Only leather garments are not made of yarn, but every other textile is made of yarn. You cannot have clothes without yarn, unless they are made of another material.

History Of Yarn Spinning

What you need to know about yarns

The spinning wheel has an extensive history of being used to transform diverse animal and plant fibres into yarn. Yarn is another term for thread that is used to manufacture fabrics after being interwoven. However, the exact time when the first spinning wheel was invented is not known.

Since its inception, spinning yarn has come a long way and modern technology has not affected it a lot. It is only that nowadays there are advanced machines, but the process and craft of spinning yarn has remained standing. Fibre was spun by hand for thousands of years using simple tools like stones, sticks and spinning wheels.

Yarn spinning and different cultures

If you look at the history of diverse cultures across the world, you will realize that spindles and spinning are part of their respective folklore.

Stones and sticks are some of the crude tools that were used to spin thread. From archaeological evidence, it was discovered that nomadic tribes were the first to start spinning yarn. Part of the archaeological evidence that was discovered includes the stones that these tribes used to spin yarn.

A leader yarn would be spun by twisting the fibres between the fingers to the required length. The leader thread would be tied around a stone, and then it was rotated to spin the fibres as the person continued playing between the fingers to resemble a drop spindle. This practice has continued until today in certain parts of Asia where nomadism is still practiced.

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How yarn spinning evolved

A spindle, distaff or stick on which flax, wool, and other fibres are spun by hand is held horizontally in a frame. It is then turned by a belt that is driven by a wheel. Initially, the distaff was held in the left hand and the right hand did the work of turning the wheel belt slowly. The distaffs were used to make yarns for fabrics.

However, manual spinning was very slow and could only serve small-scale production. Therefore, there was the need to mechanize it for reliability and efficiency. Instead of spinning by hand, the Chinese advanced it by using water-powered spinning wheels. There was another technological advancement in 1533, when another spinning wheel that featured a stationary vertical rod and a bobbin was introduced. It also had a foot pedal that freed the hands from being involved in spinning, and that significantly eased and made the entire process much faster. Afterwards, the spinning wheel was industrialized for large scale production of yarn.

The spinning wheel in the 18th century

As the world population continued swelling, there was a higher demand for yarn in the textile industry. The technology that was being used then could not afford the humongous amount of yarn that was needed. Since necessity is the mother of invention, this shortage led to the innovation that culminated to the spinning process’ mechanization.

James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny in 1764, which was a hand-powered device that incorporated multiple spools and that made spinning easier. However, there was a challenge because the yarn that this machine produced was not up to standard.

Also read: How Much Does a T-shirt Weigh?

Spinning in the modern world

Hand spinning is a rampant art that is still practiced today, especially in Asia, where people are conservative. This is an indelible mark that is etched into the cultures of different peoples, and they cannot stop practicing it. Therefore, there are those who still spin yarn by hand. Since history repeats itself, even civilized people love knowing and doing what their ancestors did.


Yarn spinning is the mother of the clothing, fabric and textile industries because it is the very basic unit of making fabrics that are used in making garments. This is a prerequisite of the entire fabric and garment making industry.

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