Artifact of the Week: Spinning Wheel

This might be a hard one: What machine is this a part of?

When was it invented?

How did it help shape society?



Answers:

What machine is this a part of?

This is a part of a spinning wheel. (Click here for an antique photo of one in action.) The spinning wheel was a machine invented to help spin thread or yarn from natural fibers. The resulting thread or yarn can then be woven into fabric for making clothing or other important textiles for people to use.

When was it invented?

While historians do not know exactly when the spinning wheel was invented, we can be pretty sure it was about 1000 to 1500 years ago. It most likely was invented in southern Asia, where it gradually replaced the more difficult process of using hand spindles. The spinning wheel took a big step forward in 1764 when the spinning jenny was invented, allowing for much more fabric to be made, and also provoking the birth of the factory system.

How did it help shape society?

Weaving fibers into thread has been very important for as long as humans have used fabrics. But the spinning wheel has been very closely tied to science and technology, and when spinning was improved, the the areas making the improvements also grew, in interesting and surprising ways. For example, having more fabrics to sell meant you needed people to sell them to, so networks of trade also grew, and soon people living far away from each other played a bigger role in each other's lives than ever before.



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