Operation of a spinning wheel

When spinning, you use your hands to create the yarn by pulling the wool or other fibers to the desired thickness. The spinning wheel brings the twist into that yarn and winds it on the bobbin. The main wheel is driven by the foot (feet) and causes the assembly of the flyer and bobbin to rotate through a belt. This rotation of the two brings the twist into the yarn and their difference in speed winds the yarn onto the bobbin.

Double belt system

In the double belt system, the flyer and the bobbin are driven by pulleys of different diameters, making them rotate at a different speed. Because they both spin the twist comes into the yarn. Because of the speed difference, the spun yarn is wound onto the bobbin with a tension that you can adjust by tensioning the belt which must be able to slip. Therefore, on a spinning wheel with a double belt system, the belt is usually made of cotton or linen cord.

Single belt system

The single belt system where the belt drives the bobbin is called Irish tension. Because the spun yarn runs through the flyer and is attached to the bobbin, the flyer is pulled by that yarn. The power that is needed for this is felt as a draft on the yarn. By adjusting the brake of the flyer, you thus regulate this draft. If you let go the yarn, the flyer will slow down as a result of the brake and the bobbin will wind up.

The single belt system in which the flyer is driven is called Scotch tension and works just the other way round; there is a brake on the bobbin and this will slow down and wind the yarn if you let it go.

If you completely loosen the brake of the flyer at a Irish tension spinning wheel you may still keep tension on the yarn because the air resistance slows down the revolving flyer. At higher speeds, the air resistance increases and with that the tension on the yarn you are spinning. This can be a problem when spinning very thin yarns. They have more twist per length and a high speed of the spinning is desirable, while you want to spin such a thin yarn with little tension. This problem does not occur with Scotch tension. Because the bobbin has less air resistance due to its shape and you can spin, almost without tension on the yarn.

Spinning thin with Irish tension

There is a simple trick to spin with a low tension on the yarn at a high spinning speed on an Irish tension wheel. When the bobbin becomes more filled up, the bobbin pulls on the flyer in a different direction, namely more in the direction of its rotating movement. This requires less force and there is less draft on the thread. If you want to spin very thin on an Irish tension spinning wheel, you can therefore use a half full bobbin. We also supply a bobbin with thick shaft that has the same effect.


The ratio is the relation of rotations between the main wheel and the bobbin and/or flyer. It is determined by the diameter difference of the main wheel and the pulley or bobbin disc over which the belt runs. They work just like the gear on a bicycle. At a higher ratio you can slow down treadling at the same speed of bobbin and flyer, but treadling is heavier. Ratios under 10 are mentioned slowly, above 16 are seen as fast. The purpose of the higher ratio is actually to spin faster.

To change the speed, you place the belt over another pulley or bobbin disc. In the Irish tension spinning wheels of Louët, the bobbins have three grooves, and therefore three ratio’s. With the Scotch tension spinning wheels, the flyer construction has three or four pulley diameters, and therefore three or four ratios.


The treadles of Louët spinning wheels have a so-called heel-toe function. Because your heel is in front of the pivot point, you can move the treadle upwards and with the rest of your foot you can move the treadle downwards. You can also hold the footboard and thus the wheel in any position and start it again in the right direction by pushing either with heel or with your forefoot. The fact that your ankle joint is right above the pivot point of the treadle is very important: Not your leg, but only your foot goes up and down. Your leg rests on the treadle while treadling and that is very comfortable.

In recent years spinning wheels with two treadles have become popular. A double-treadle spinning wheel treadles easier, especially at ratios above 1:15. The size of the main wheel also plays a role in this. The better the main wheel action, the easier it is to drive with a single treadle.

A spinning wheel with two treadles can in practice also often be driven with one foot and only at higher ratios both feet are involved. The advantage of using one treadle is that you do not have to sit straight opposite the spinning wheel and you can change your position from time to time.

Our invention of a rocker arm that connects the two treadles instead of working with a double eccentric makes the price difference between single-treadle and double-treadle smaller.


The Louët spinning wheels all have round orifices. The height of the orifice is therefore not important. With a round orifice you can keep your hands where you want, the yarn will be led to the orifice anyway. The orifice of our flyers are so large that you can thread the yarn through it easily without a hook. Only in the high speed set for Scotch tension spinning wheels a hook is indispensable, which is why it is supplied with that set.


In our spinning wheels we use maintenance-free ball bearings and nylon bearings. If the nylon bearings make noise, they only need a drop of (sewing machine) oil. Use very little oil, because it attracts dust and that can cause wear. If you do not use your spinning wheel, it is good to relax the belt by removing it from the bobbin disc or pulley.