Saxony wheel, 1750-1800.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This small wooden spinning wheel is designed to wind the thread onto the bobbin as fast as it is spun so that it operates continuously. This type of wheel was known as early as 1480 and was improved in the 16th century by the addition of a treadle drive, allowing the spinster to have both hands free to draw out the fibres in a controlled way. As it is very difficult to pay out short fibres evenly to prevent the thread from becoming too thin and parting, the Saxony wheel was used mainly for spinning long fibres such as flax and wool.