Before sewing machines were invented, and before thread was sold on spools, thread was sold in hanks (or pre-wound on cardboard threadwinders) and had to be wound onto threadwinders to be used for sewing or embroidery. Threadwinders continued to be made after sewing machines became commonplace, but their necessity had diminished. They were frequently made of carved ivory, bone, shell, horn, or wood, but occasionally were made in silver, inlaid wood, and other exotic materials. Modern ones tend to be made of plastic, wood, and base metals, with reproduction of antiques made of shell, horn, bone, and wood. My collection includes antique Chinese carved wood, hallmarked sterling silver, bone, MOP shell, MOP game counter converted into a threadwinder, "tortoise shell" plastic, modern painted wood butterflies, and paper. I also have c1930s (?) "Quilt Matching Threadwinders."