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Hand-spinning was a cottage industry in medieval Europe, where the wool spinners (often women and children) would provide enough yarn to service the needs of the men who operated the looms. This would occur in districts favourable to sheep husbandry. The introduction of the flying shuttle upset this balance. The subsequent invention of the spinning jenny water frame redressed the balance but required water power to operate the machinery, and the industry relocated to West Yorkshire where this was available. The British government was very protective of the technology and restricted its export.

Spinning is the twisting together ofdrawn-out strands of fibers to form yarn, and is a major part of the textile industry. The yarn is then used to create textiles, which are then used to make clothing and many other products. There are several industrial processes available to spin yarn, as well as hand-spinning techniques where the fiber is drawn out, twisted, and wound onto a bobbin.


Ring spinning is one of the most common spinning methods in the world. Other systems include air-jet and open-end spinning, a technique where the staple fiber is blown by air into a rotor and attaches to the tail of formed yarn that is continually being drawn out of the chamber. Other methods of break spinning use needles and electrostatic forces.

The processes to make yarn short-staple yarn (typically spun from fibers from 0.75 to 2.0") are blending, opening, carding, pin-drafting, roving, spinning, and—if desired—plying and dyeing. In long staple spinning, the process may start with stretch-break of tow, a continuous "rope" of synthetic fiber. In open-end and air-jet spinning, the roving operation is eliminated. The spinning frame winds yarn around a bobbin. Generally, after this step the yarn is wound to a cone for knitting or weaving.

In a spinning mule, the roving is pulled off bobbins and sequentially fed through rollers operating at several different speeds, thinning the roving at a consistent rate. The yarn is twisted through the spinning of the bobbin as the carriage moves out, and is rolled onto a cop as the carriage returns. Mule spinning produces a finer thread than ring spinning. Spinning by the mule machine is an intermittent process as the frame advances and returns. It is the descendant of a device invented in 1779 by Samuel Crompton, and produces a softer, less twisted thread that is favored for fines and for weft.

The ring was a descendant of the Arkwright water frame of 1769 and creates yarn in a continuous process. The yarn is coarser, has a greater twist, and is stronger, making it more suitable for warp. Ring spinning is slow due to the distance the thread must pass around the ring. Similar methods have improved on this including flyer and bobbin and cap spinning.