Unfortunately, spinning by distaff and spindle was extremely slow.

One of the oldest known tools whose remains are still in existence today is one that was used for spinning wool. The traditional tool, the drop spindle, was still commonly used up to the 18th century.

The spinner allowed the drop spindle to hang free while twisting with the other hand. The drop spindle teased more wool from the bundle and twisted the wool into yarn. After the spindle had dropped to the ground, the spinner could wind the spun yarn around the spindle and carry-on. The spinner could also carry the loose fleece on a distaff; this allowed the spinner to tend animals or do other work while spinning the wool.

The spinning wheel was introduced to the Highlands in the early part of the 18th century, and although heavy and fixed in position, in the hands of an expert spinner the wool could be spun much faster than by the traditional methods.

The early wheel, the "muckle wheel", was of a simple design. A drive belt linked the large wheel to the small spindle to which the teased wool was tied. A slow turning of the large wheel with one hand, while holding and twisting the wool with the other, would cause the spindle to quickly draw more wool from the bundle. The muckle wheel could be used to spin the wool directly onto a weaver's bobbin.

The muckle wheel was replaced by the "Saxony wheel". This had a number of advantages over the muckle wheel. The small Saxony had a drive-belt system which turned not only a spindle but also a bobbin, and therefore the wool was twisted as it was wound on the bobbin. Also, because the wheel was turned by a foot pedal, the spinner was able to sit-down. The "saxony" type wheel is still used today by the handicraft wool spinners.