Roman Folkestone 16: a whorl What is this? What’s it made from? Expand It’s a spindle whorl - a weight added to a spindle to keep it spinning smoothly. A spindle was a wooden stick used to spin woollen thread. In Roman times spindle whorls were made of carved stone, pottery, wood or bone. This disk-shaped spindle whorl was found on the site of Folkestone Roman Villa. It is made from a recycled piece of decorated Samian ware pottery and is about 4cm in diameter. What are they doing? Expand The lady in this fine mosaic is teasing a thin trail of wool out of the large clump at the top. She spins the spindle at the bottom to twist it into woollen thread. Can you spot the black spindle whorl near the bottom? This one is ball-shaped, rather than disk-shaped. Where do all these colours come from? Expand Wool was dyed lots of bright colours, using natural plant dyes and minerals. It was then woven into cloth on a loom and used to make clothes and blankets. The owners of Folkestone Roman Villa would have kept large flocks of sheep, to be sheared for their wool, as well as providing meat. Fascinating fact The word spinster (now used to describe an unmarried woman) originally meant a woman who spun thread. Why not spin your own wool? It’s great fun. You can buy a kit online, or there are lots of YouTube videos, so it easy to see how to make a spindle, and how to spin.