The rolag created by carding hardly looked like yarn, but it was the beginning of the spinning process. To start, the spinner pulled away and twisted a few fibers, determining the size of the yarn to be spun. Sometimes spinners used drop spindles, like tall tops weighted at the bottom, to create long pieces of twisted yarn.
Spinning wheels, which may seem more complicated than spindles, were actually easier to use and provided a faster way to spin yarn. Spinners used a treadle, or foot pedal, to spin the Saxony Wheel and a drive wheel to spin the larger Great Wheel while walking backward. The direction in which the spindle or wheel spun determined the twist of the yarn.
Using a spindle or spinning wheel to produce yarn took coordination and practice, but this step was not the end of the spinning process. Before it was finished, spinners plied, or twisted together the yarns for strength. If they used a Great Wheel, they plied the yarn from a swift. For Saxony Wheels, they plied together two yarns from the bobbin. Next, spinners used tools, such as a yarn winder, to measure yarn. Then, they rotated a niddy-noddy to wind the yarn into skeins or used a swift to hold the yarn while winding it into a ball. If spinners were careful not to pull too tightly, they could also use the swift to wind a skein
Spinning wheel on display at exhibit