This stoneware globular object was made in Raeren in present-day Belgium. The whorl has a central hole for inserting the spindle shaft. Holding a distaff containing the unspun wool fibers under one arm, the spinner would pull out the fibers causing them to wind around the spinning spindle held in the other hand. The whorl functioned as a fly wheel, keeping the spindle rotating at a constant speed, thereby increasing efficiency.
Hand spinning with a spindle was gradually replaced by mechanical production using a spinning wheel, which was in common usage by the 16th century. However, the older method of producing yarn continued to be used in rural England as it was a portable system that allowed its user to spin while doing other tasks such as working in the fields or feeding the chickens! Two spindle whorls have been found in the excavations of James Fort.