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Winding Reels for Thread and Floss

February, 2014 - Susan Webster

Medieval References – couldn’t find any


The starting point


Machine winding of balls of thread or machine-wound spools was invented in the early 19th century.  Before that time, thread was sold by weight or as skeins.

So, what did needlewomen do before that to keep their thread (and yarn) ready to use.

Desperate Effort Needed


CC 2285 Bought from Genevieve Cummins.

Fittings include two fixed winding reels.

Contents include the tangled skeins of thread, a ill-wound spool of thread, cardboard and rolled paper winders of thread

A Netting Box


CC 2475 I bought from Bleasdales Dec 2012.  ALSO in Bonham’s Dec 2007 catalogue, Lot 1152, est GBP 500-800.

Note slide-out stands for winding reels and slide-activated, spring-opening drawer


CC 2475  Fittings include

Two winding reels to fit in the slide-out stands

A netting reel which fits into the body of the box

Included, a folded paper holding a skein of embroidery or crewel work thread – rather coarse

A folded paper receipt dated 1892 holding cardboard thread or netting winders

Other skeins of heavy thread – maybe crewel work

A wooden oval box with dried up wax

A separate staff or reel for winding up netting

A Sewing Box


Quill work box with netting reel and fixed winders


Straw work Reels


CC 2384  (Phillips Dec 1998 catalogue says mid-19th century, split straw work, boxwood and ivory.  I bought from Bunny Gorfinkle as part of the dispersal of the Ruth Mann collection – so Ruth must have bought them at the Phillips auction.

Table Top Reels


CC 2541 – Anglo-Indian tabletop reels, bought last year at Melb Antiques Fair in May.  From Sydney

Tortoiseshell and Ivory Reels


CC 2470 – would these really have been used ??

Child’s Reels


Cc 2451 – previously owned by Di Pelham-Burn – ivory – one dollar coin

Extending Tabletop Winder Set


CC 2474 – bought from Bleasdales Dec 2012.  Also shown in Bonham’s Dec 2004 catalogue Lot 668.  English, auction catalogue late Georgian rosewood and satinwood extending winder.


CC  1260      from Heike Belter – German, about 1870, possibly walnut, Berlinwork pin cushion is a replacement

Spool or Reel Winders


Stole this from the internet.

Susan – suffering for her passion


Just wanted to show how hard it is to get decent photographs.