Winding Thread the Renaissance Way

How do you wind your thread around you replica bobbin? Comment below!!

Reblog from Medieval Silkwork Blog at


I’ve made it a point to assemble a period sewing kit, which includes a few types of bobbin for thread. When taking the thread off of the paper bobbin they come with, I’ve found it a tedious process to wind it around my period bobbin. I’m sure my Renaissance counterparts felt the same way. I was hoping to find information on devices they might have used to wind thread around bobbin. Here is my favorite find from


Stuttgart. Cod. Poet. 2° 2: Schachzabelbuch, 1467, fol. 196 v.


So, I found this image lingering on my computer. I made a drawing of it a couple of years ago for a friend who was writing about cloth production and needed an illustration to accompany the text. Looking at it again, I found this interesting detail in the forgeground of the scene. See the little box? It has two sticks pointing upwards with a horizontal bar in between. On the bar you can see a round disc or wheel, and on the left of the wheel a bow shaped thing. On the other side of the weel there appears to be a stick with yarn wound around it. In the box are more reels with yarn.


ca. 1509, penelope with the suitors, PINTORICCHIO, national gallery of london, Fresco on canvas, 125.5 x 152 cm



Laura made me aware of the existance of another work of art showing a very similar tool. Here the bow is missing, and the wheel isn’t massive but it has four spikes connecting it to the shaft.

The bow shaped thing right a way reminded me of a bow lathe. Bow lathes were used in Medieval (and earlier) times for small turning projects, like bone beads etc. By moving the bow up and down you can turn round the object you are working on. However, with this mechanism your object also always turns in two directions: it will always turn back at you.

When winding up yarns you cannot have a mechanism that turns in two directions, because then the yarn will never be wound on the reel.

So someone with more insight on things like this could throw in some ideas?

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