Silk twister's wheel, cros and reeler for twisting silk by hand, c 1770.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
First designed in the late 18th century, the wheel, cros and reeler shown here were still in occasional use up until the 1930s. Single filaments of silk are too fine and delicate to be used in weaving proceses, so to strengthen them, the filaments from 10 to 40 cocoons are twisted together into a hank in an operation known as reeling. Here the threads have been hung on the 24 hooks of the wheel head, taken round the hooks of the cros, and back again. The twister then turns the wheel which rotated the hooks and twists the doubled thread. The threads are then put together in groups of three and the twister turns the wheel in the opposite direction, to reverse the twist. Eight threads are formed, which are finally reeled into a skein using the reeler.