"In one corner another woman, old and bent, was spinning"
Drawing of girl using spindle and distaff (1880)
Public DomainDrawing of girl using a spindle (1880) - Credit: Wilibald von Schulenberg
Painting of woman using a spinning wheel
Public DomainPainting of woman using a spinning wheel (1883) - Credit: Albert Anker

Wool spinning is the process of drawing out thread from an animal fleece, such as a sheep's fleece.

 

Traditionally, it has been done by hand using a  spindle  or a spinning wheel. In both types of spinning, the fleece is held on a pole known as a distaff.

 

In the painting on the right, the distaff is particularly prominent; the spinning wheel is behind the little boy.

 

Spinning wheels are still used today, but the spinner usually wears the distaff on her/his wrist.