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Vintage wooden bobbins, cylindrical, empty of wound fiber, dimensions 16 in. high by 9 in. in diameter. Vintage wooden cylindrical bobbin .jpg
Vintage wooden bobbins, cylindrical, empty of wound fiber, dimensions 16 in. high by 9 in. in diameter.
Vintage wooden bobbin, unflanged, wound with yarn and attached to a "shuttle" that fits it for use in a floor loom. Shuttle with bobbin.JPG
Vintage wooden bobbin, unflanged, wound with yarn and attached to a "shuttle" that fits it for use in a floor loom.

A bobbin or spool is a spindle or cylinder, with or without flanges, on which yarn, thread, wire, tape or film is wound. [1] [ full citation needed ] Bobbins are typically found in industrial textile machinery, [2] as well as in sewing machines, fishing reels, tape measures, film rolls, cassette tapes, within electronic and electrical equipment, and for various other applications.[ not verified in body ]


Industrial textiles

Bobbins are used in spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, and lacemaking.[ citation needed ] In these practices, bobbins were invented to "manage the piles of thread and yarn that would be mechanically woven into cloth," [2] which would have originally been wound through the use of human power, but which eventually became machine-driven.[ citation needed ] In these applications, bobbins provide storage, temporary and permanent, for yarn or thread.[ citation needed ] Historically, bobbins were made out of natural materials such as wood, [2] or bone. [3] While not in principle an invention of the Victorian era—bobbins in the production of textiles were in earlier use[ citation needed ]—the machinery introduced in that era "were some of [its] greatest inventions" in that they "helped to revolutionize textile manufacturing". [2] In the machines used in such manufacturing,

The automated weaving machines would have hundreds of spindles operating simultaneously, with each spindle holding a bobbin that either released or collected the thread. Most mills had wooden bobbins made specifically for their machinery, which accounts for the many varied shapes and sizes of these spools. [2]

In more modern times, natural bobbin materials such as wood are no longer used in textile manufacturing, [2] instead having been replaced by metal and plastic.[ citation needed ] The traditional bobbins made, for instance, of hardwoods such as ash and birch are unsuitable for the machinery of modern manufacturing, given the higher speeds involved, and the synthetic materials that are used in weaving; as well, bobbins were relatively customised parts made for the specific machines of each mill (and so of varying designs, each uniquely shaped of wood, [2] with metal parts in places of high wear[ citation needed ]), thus requiring "a great deal of handwork" such that the cost of continuing to make them was unfavorable to modern textile business. [2]

Since the retirement of the machinery involved, such bobbins and related parts have become items used in craft productions, given the numbers of distinct types, and the fact that "[e]ach... has its own 'battle scars' that give it unique character". [2]

Sewing and lacemaking


Hua Nan sewing machine - 06.jpg
Hua Nan sewing machine - 07.jpg
Bobbin (right) and bobbin case for a shuttle hook sewing machine, introduced by Singer for the "Improved Family" model in 1895

The lockstitch sewing machine, invented and developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, forms a stitch with two threads: one passed through a needle and another from a bobbin. Each thread stays on the same side of the material being sewn, interlacing with the other thread at each needle hole thanks to the machine's movement. Tension of the bobbin thread is maintained with a bobbin case, a metal enclosure with a leaf spring which keeps the thread taut. The bobbin case has to be free-floating (not attached to an axle) in order to allow the top thread to pass around the bobbin completely and hook the bobbin thread.

Bobbins vary in shape and size, depending on the style of bobbin driver in the machine for which they are intended to be used. Long, narrow bobbins are used in early transverse shuttle and vibrating shuttle machines. These earlier movements were rendered obsolete by the invention of the rotary hook and the shuttle hook, which run faster and quieter with less air resistance. These shorter, wider bobbins are familiar to modern sewers, as the rotary/shuttle hook remains in use on modern machines essentially unchanged.


Bobbin lace requires the winding of yarn onto a temporary storage spindle made of wood (or, in earlier times, bone) often turned on a lathe. Exotic woods are extremely popular with contemporary lacemakers. Many lace designs require dozens of bobbins at any one time.

Both traditional and contemporary bobbins may be decorated with designs, inscriptions, or pewter or wire inlays. Often, bobbins are 'spangled' to provide additional weight to keep the thread in tension. A hole is drilled near the base to enable glass beads and other ornaments to be attached by a loop of wire. These spangles provide a means of self-expression in the decoration of a tool of the craft. Antique and unique bobbins, sometimes spangled, are highly sought-after by antiques collectors. [4] [ page needed ]


In electrical applications, transformers, inductors, solenoids, and relay coils use bobbins as permanent containers for the wire to retain shape and rigidity, and to ease assembly of the windings into or onto the magnetic core.[ citation needed ] (Such coils of wire carrying current create the induced currents and magnetic fields required in these devices.[ citation needed ])

Bobbins in these applications may be made of thermoplastic or thermosetting materials (for example, phenolics).[ citation needed ] This plastic often has to have a TÜV, UL, or other regulatory agency flammability rating for safety reasons. [5] [ better source needed ]

Miscellaneous applications

Bobbins are also used for fly tying and tidy storage without tangles.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jacquard machine</span> Control device attached to weaving looms

The Jacquard machine is a device fitted to a loom that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with such complex patterns as brocade, damask and matelassé. The resulting ensemble of the loom and Jacquard machine is then called a Jacquard loom. The machine was patented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804, based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (1725), Jean Baptiste Falcon (1728), and Jacques Vaucanson (1740). The machine was controlled by a "chain of cards"; a number of punched cards laced together into a continuous sequence. Multiple rows of holes were punched on each card, with one complete card corresponding to one row of the design.

Spinning is a twisting technique to form yarn from fibers. The fiber intended is drawn out, twisted, and wound onto a bobbin. A few popular fibers that are spun into yarn other than cotton, which is the most popular, are viscose, animal fibers such as wool, and synthetic polyester. Originally done by hand using a spindle whorl, starting in the 500s AD the spinning wheel became the predominant spinning tool across Asia and Europe. The spinning jenny and spinning mule, invented in the late 1700s, made mechanical spinning far more efficient than spinning by hand, and especially made cotton manufacturing one of the most important industries of the Industrial Revolution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Loom</span> Device for weaving textiles

A loom is a device used to weave cloth and tapestry. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the warp threads under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads. The precise shape of the loom and its mechanics may vary, but the basic function is the same.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spinning wheel</span> Device for spinning thread, yarn, or silk from natural or synthetic fibers

A spinning wheel is a device for spinning thread or yarn from fibres. It was fundamental to the cotton textile industry prior to the Industrial Revolution. It laid the foundations for later machinery such as the spinning jenny and spinning frame, which displaced the spinning wheel during the Industrial Revolution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bobbin lace</span> Handmade lace

Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lockstitch</span> Stitch made by sewing machines

A lockstitch is the most common mechanical stitch made by a sewing machine. The term "single needle stitching", often found on dress shirt labels, refers to lockstitch.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spinning jenny</span> Multi-spool spinning frame

The spinning jenny is a multi-spindle spinning frame, and was one of the key developments in the industrialisation of textile manufacturing during the early Industrial Revolution. It was invented in 1764 or 1765 by James Hargreaves in Stan hill, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire in England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sewing needle</span> Needle with hole to hold thread for sewing

A sewing needle, used for hand-sewing, is a long slender tool with a pointed tip at one end and a hole to hold the sewing thread. The earliest needles were made of bone or wood; modern needles are manufactured from high carbon steel wire and are nickel- or 18K gold-plated for corrosion resistance. High-quality embroidery needles are plated with two-thirds platinum and one-third titanium alloy. Traditionally, needles have been kept in needle books or needlecases which have become objects of adornment. Sewing needles may also be kept in an étui, a small box that held needles and other items such as scissors, pencils and tweezers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Textile manufacture during the British Industrial Revolution</span> Early textile production via automated means

Textile manufacture during the British Industrial Revolution was centred in south Lancashire and the towns on both sides of the Pennines in the United Kingdom. The main drivers of the Industrial Revolution were textile manufacturing, iron founding, steam power, oil drilling, the discovery of electricity and its many industrial applications, the telegraph and many others. Railroads, steamboats, the telegraph and other innovations massively increased worker productivity and raised standards of living by greatly reducing time spent during travel, transportation and communications.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Darning</span> Sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric or knitting using needle and thread

Darning is a sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric or knitting using needle and thread alone. It is often done by hand, but using a sewing machine is also possible. Hand darning employs the darning stitch, a simple running stitch in which the thread is "woven" in rows along the grain of the fabric, with the stitcher reversing direction at the end of each row, and then filling in the framework thus created, as if weaving. Darning is a traditional method for repairing fabric damage or holes that do not run along a seam, and where patching is impractical or would create discomfort for the wearer, such as on the heel of a sock.

A shuttle is a tool designed to neatly and compactly store a holder that carries the thread of the weft yarn while weaving with a loom. Shuttles are thrown or passed back and forth through the shed, between the yarn threads of the warp in order to weave in the weft.

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Textile manufacturing is a major industry. It is largely based on the conversion of fibre into yarn, then yarn into fabric. These are then dyed or printed, fabricated into cloth which is then converted into useful goods such as clothing, household items, upholstery and various industrial products.

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The spinning mule is a machine used to spin cotton and other fibres. They were used extensively from the late 18th to the early 20th century in the mills of Lancashire and elsewhere. Mules were worked in pairs by a minder, with the help of two boys: the little piecer and the big or side piecer. The carriage carried up to 1,320 spindles and could be 150 feet (46 m) long, and would move forward and back a distance of 5 feet (1.5 m) four times a minute.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cotton-spinning machinery</span> Machinery used to spin cotton

Cotton-spinning machinery is machines which process prepared cotton roving into workable yarn or thread. Such machinery can be dated back centuries. During the 18th and 19th centuries, as part of the Industrial Revolution cotton-spinning machinery was developed to bring mass production to the cotton industry. Cotton spinning machinery was installed in large factories, commonly known as cotton mills.

The manufacture of textiles is one of the oldest of human technologies. To make textiles, the first requirement is a source of fiber from which a yarn can be made, primarily by spinning. The yarn is processed by knitting or weaving, which turns yarn into cloth. The machine used for weaving is the loom. For decoration, the process of colouring yarn or the finished material is dyeing. For more information of the various steps, see textile manufacturing.

Textile manufacturing is one of the oldest human activities. The oldest known textiles date back to about 5000 B.C. In order to make textiles, the first requirement is a source of fibre from which a yarn can be made, primarily by spinning. The yarn is processed by knitting or weaving to create cloth. The machine used for weaving is the loom. Cloth is finished by what are described as wet process to become fabric. The fabric may be dyed, printed or decorated by embroidering with coloured yarns.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bradford Industrial Museum</span> Industrial museum, Mill museum, Textile museum, in Eccleshill, Bradford

Bradford Industrial Museum, established 1974 in Moorside Mills, Eccleshill, Bradford, United Kingdom, specializes in relics of local industry, especially printing and textile machinery, kept in working condition for regular demonstrations to the public. There is a Horse Emporium in the old canteen block plus a shop in the mill, and entry is free of charge.

Doubling is a textile industry term synonymous with combining. It can be used for various processes during spinning. During the carding stage, several sources of roving are doubled together and drawn, to remove variations in thickness. After spinning, yarn is doubled for many reasons. Yarn may be doubled to produce warp for weaving, to make cotton for lace, crochet and knitting. It is used for embroidery threads and sewing threads, for example: sewing thread is usually 6-cable thread. Two threads of spun 60s cotton are twisted together, and three of these double threads are twisted into a cable, of what is now 5s yarn. This is mercerised, gassed and wound onto a bobbin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">String (structure)</span> Flexible structure made from fibers twisted together

String is a long flexible structure made from fibers twisted together into a single strand, or from multiple such strands which are in turn twisted together. String is used to tie, bind, or hang other objects. It is also used as a material to make things, such as textiles, and in arts and crafts. String is a simple tool, and its use by humans is known to have been developed tens of thousands of years ago. In Mesoamerica, for example, string was invented some 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, and was made by twisting plant fibers together. String may also be a component in other tools, and in devices as diverse as weapons, musical instruments, and toys.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Schiffli embroidery machine</span> Industrial embroidery machine invented in 1853

The schiffli embroidery machine is a multi-needle, industrial embroidery machine. It was invented by Isaak Gröbli in 1863. It was used to create various types of machine embroidery and certain types of lace. It was especially used in the textile industry of eastern Switzerland and Saxony Germany, but also in the United Kingdom and the United States. Schiffli machines evolved from, and eventually replaced manually operated "hand embroidery" machines. The hand embroidery machine used double ended needles and passed the needles completely through the fabric. Each needle had a single, continuous thread. Whereas the schiffli machine used a lock stitch, the same technique used by the sewing machine. By the early twentieth century schiffli machines had standardized to ten and fifteen meters in width and used more than 600 needles.


  1. Oxford English Dictionary definition of "bobbin".[ full citation needed ]
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 TOFA Editors (October 21, 2011). "Wooden Bobbins: Woven in History". The Old Farmer's Almanac ( . Dublin, N.H.: Yankee Publishing. Retrieved February 3, 2022. Bobbins and the machinery they ran on were some of the greatest inventions of the Victorian Era. Originally created to manage the piles of thread and yarn that would be mechanically woven into cloth, bobbins helped to revolutionize textile manufacturing. The automated weaving machines would have hundreds of spindles operating simultaneously, with each spindle holding a bobbin that either released or collected the thread. Most mills had wooden bobbins made specifically for their machinery, which accounts for the many varied shapes and sizes of these spools. Traditional wooden bobbins have been retired from current manufacturing. Modern economics does not favor the use of wooden bobbins since a great deal of handwork is involved in making them. And wooden bobbins are not well suited for today's synthetic fibers and high-speed machinery. Primarily made from ash, birch, and other hardwoods, bobbins have withstood the test of time. Each one has its own "battle scars" that give it unique character.
  3. Lemin, Brian. "ENGLISH LACE BOBBINS AND THEIR HISTORY. A BRIEF OVERVIEW" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 June 2023. Retrieved 21 June 2023. They can be made from wood (mostly), bone, brass, and more rarely pewter, silver and ivory.
  4. Earnshaw, Pat (1984). A Dictionary of Lace. Shire Publications. ISBN   0852637004.[ full citation needed ]
  5. Xmultiple Staff (n.d.). "Transformer Bobbins". . Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2014.