Projects and Science



France, spindles 2
French spindles. Wooden supported spindles without whorl. From left to right: Spindle with an iron tip with notch, spindle with a removable iron spiral tip, spindle with removable iron hook and two spindles where the spiral is carved into the wood. 19th century. Lengths left to right: 11,02"; 10,67"; 11,18"; 10,07"; 10,03".
France, unusual spindle 2
Wooden spindle. Length: 12.7".
France, Aquitaine, spindle
French spindle, probably from the region of Aquitaine. Turned from one piece of wood with metal hook (not removable). Early 20th century. Length: 11,61".
France, spindle 2
French supported spindle, turned wood, 19th-20th century, length: 13".
France, Brie, spindles_2

Six spindles from the Brie region each lathed from a single piece of wood. Three fitted with a removable tip made of wood (left). It seems as if the original tips of all spindles broke off and were replaced with new ones. Lengths of the spindles with secondary tip: 15.4"; 11.5"; 11.2". Length of the spindles without secondary tip: 8". 19th century.

France, Brie, spindles_1

Two spindles from the Brie region each lathed from a single piece of wood. The left spindle (length: 13.4") is made entirely of wood while the right spindle is fitted with an iron tip with hook and the thickened lower end (the "whorl") was made heavier with a lead ring (length with hook: 12.6"). 19th century.

France, Brie, spindles_3

Four spindles from the Brie region each lathed from a single piece of wood with removable iron tip. Lengths from left to right: 11.2"; 10.9"; 11.1"; 11.4". 19th century.

France, Brittany, Roscanvel, woman spinning
Old woman spinning. Spindle with  whorl. Roscanvel (Breton. Roskañvel), Dép. Finistère, Bretagne. Photogravure 10,03" x 6,49", c. 1927.
France, Bethmale, woman spinning
Woman from the Bethmale valley spinning with a spindle with whorl. 1908.

France, Bethmale, spindles

French spindles with whorls from Bethmale valley, Dep. Ariège, Central Pyrenees. Two of the spindle shafts have hooks at the top end, and were therefore used as drop-spindles. The two spindle shafts with carved spirals can be only used as support spindles. The whorls are made of faience, glass, ceramics and wood (from left to right). Length and whorl diameter from left to right: 15,74" / 1,25" ; 12,59" / 1,25"; 13,38" / 1,37"; 13,59" / 1,49".

France, Bethmale, distaffs

Distaffs from dem Bethmale valley, Dep. Ariège, Central Pyrenees.Length (left to right): 35,82" and 33,46".
Literature: For more spindles with whorls and distaffs from the Bethmale valley see: Musée départemental de l'Ariège (Hrsg./ed.), Bethmale - Collection Jacques Bégouën (Saint-Lizier 1993), 175-185. 

Basque, distaffs

Finely decorated distaffs from the French part of the Basque Country (western Pyrenees) or the Central Pyrenees, France. Left: carved and painted, length: 35.8"; Right: just carved, with three brass rings, one of which is decorated. Length: 30.11 ".


France, Pyrenees, woman spinning






Woman from the Ossau Valley, Département Pyrénées-Atlantiques, while spinning. She uses a distaff with a ring-like top end similar to the one displayed here.

France, distaff with cross
Finely decorated distaff with cross on top and the name Peraudau carved on the lower end. In old documents from the 17th and 18th century the French surname Peraudau  can be found mainly  in the Départment Charente-Maritime in western France on the Atlantic coast. Wood and iron, 19th century. Length: 39,76".


France, Rhone-Alpes, distaff
Distaff from the Rhône-Alpes region, wood, 20th century, Length: 34,84".

France, Auvergne, distaff
Distaff with a basketwork "cage" to hold the unspun fibers associated with a simple, hand-carved spindle. Looking at old French postcards one can notice that this type of distaff occurs mainly in the Auvergne. Late 19th – early 20th century. Distaff length: 36,22, length of spindle: 11,61".

France, distaffs with cage
Close up views of some distaffs shown on old postcards depicting spinners from the Auvergne.
France, distaff
French distaff with basketwork. 19th century. Length: 37,79".
France, Savoy, distaff
Distaff from the Savoy region. Wood with chip carvings, engravings and pewter inlay with the initials E.R.  Length: 101 cm/39.7". 19th century. Savoy is a cultural region in Rhône-Alpes, France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps between Lake Geneva in the north and Dauphiné in the south.
France, silk spindle
Small, light spindle of bone and wood, probably for spinning silk. Length: 8.5".
France, unusual spindle
Rather unusual wooden spindle with metal hook. Length: 12.4".


Frankreich, Spindelhalter_2
Spindle rack with three spindles. Wood. Length: 13.2”; Height: 11.4” Width: 3.5”. The longest spindle measures 11.7”.



Auvergne Garnwickler

Vintage yarn winder that also serves as spindle rack. Auvergne, 19th century. Height (without spindles): 18.2”; Length of one spoke (total width) 22.4” (2x 11.2”). Spindle lengths: 9” to 11.6”.


France, spindle rack, spinning wheel, woman spinning
Triangular spindle rack with French spindles.
France, woman spinning, spindle rack

The old french postcard shows an old woman spinning. On the table there is a triangle spindle rack with nineteen other spindels. On top of the postcard a poem is written.

A triangle spindle track like this one is also to be seen on the article about Italy.


The old french postcard shows an old woman spinning. On the table there is a triangle spindle rack with nineteen other spindels. On top of the postcard a poem is written.

A triangle spindle track like this one is also to be seen on the article about Italy.

File bonne grand´mère
De ton fuseau, rouet,

A mes noces j´espère, 
Ton lin sera parfait.

Jadis, Madame la Comtesse 
Se rendait souvent à la Messe, 
Ornée de quenouille et fuseau 
Pour montrer labeur et repos. 

Quenouille fluette et menue,
Sois encore la bienvenue
Fuseaux légers tournez toujours,
Il nous manque de beaux atours.

De Duguesclin1 femmes de France,
Vous avez filé la rançon,
Aujourd´hui dans notre souffrance,
Imitez donc cette leçon.               J.C.

1 Bertrand du Guesclin (c. 1320 – 13 July 1380), known as the Eagle of Brittany or the Black Dog of Brocéliande, was a Breton knight and French military commander during the Hundred Years' War. He was Constable of France from 1370 to his death.

The translation of the last verse of the poem is:

“For Du Guesclin, women of France,
you have spun the ransom.
Today, in our suffering,  
repeat that lesson.”        

It is said that, when Du Guesclin was once prisoner of the Prince of Wales negotiating the height of his ransom, he said:
“Sir,” he said, “Prince Henry may truly vaunt that he will die king of Spain, cost him what it may, if he but lend me half my ransom, and the king of France the other. If I can neither go nor send to these two, I will get all the spinstresses in France to spin it, rather than that I should remain longer in your hands.”

You can find the whole story here:
The Baldwin Project - BERTRAND DU GUESCLIN   


Bretonin beim Spinnen

Many old postcards from various regions of  France show women spinning with French spindles.
For more pictures please check the picture-gallery.




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