In this instance, though, my windmill is specifically related to spinning. Here are some of the things I frequently hear from spinners around the SCA:
"This is called a 'drop spindle.' This is because you drop it a lot/because it drops from your hand as you spin"
"I don't use a distaff because it's too hard/makes no sense/inconvenient/easier without one."
"Using a spinning wheel is so much faster/easier than using a spindle."
These statements are as mythical as Don Quixote's dragons. To perpetuate these myths is to harm the practice of medieval scholarship seriously. The thing that prompted me to start writing about this was this article from a month ago, shared on the SCA twitter account, about the SCA and what it is. What set me off, and what kept me going back to ruminate about this post, was the primary image of the piece, showing two women spinning, one with a modern drop spindle and very typical modern posture (sitting, left arm holding some roving wrapped around her wrist, elevated well above her head, right arm reaching out in front of her to work the spindle) and the other sitting and working at a very modern spinning wheel.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love modern tools. I came to the SCA primarily because I was already a knitter and spinner. I have some beautiful modern spindles and a Saxony wheel that would at least pass for late period. That said, it makes me batty to think anyone would show a modern skill like these at a demo or event (or even worse, teach it to someone else) and try to pass it off as either "the way they did it then" or "just the same."
This brings me back to my frequently-heard statements about spinning above. Let's see if we can relate them to the photo from that article and to what we actually know about spinning in period. For a look at some of this stuff, you can check out my post about why the distaff matters from almost exactly a year ago.
The lady in the article with the spindle is spinning a position that she can't sustain for long. It looks awkward and will inevitably lead to sore shoulders/wrists/arms from her raised left arm, not to mention back/hip/tailbone issues from her slouching seated posture. You can't spin like that for very long without pain, certainly not all day, definitely not frequently enough to spin the amount of yarn you'd need to make a garment or supplement your income.
If we take a look at some typical period images of people spinning, we see mostly stuff like this image of Eve from St. Mary Church in Martham, Norfolk (15th c):
P.S. you can see way more period images of spinners on my pinterest spinning and dyeing board.
Now, I should mention that in all my searching I have seen precisely one image of someone spinning with a posture like the woman in the photo. I saved it, actually, specifically because the spinner is remarkable in several ways. Firstly, the spinner is a man. Second, he uses no distaff but has the fiber wrapped around his left arm. Just for the sake of fairness, I'll share it here too. If you need documentation of male spinners, here it is.
As I discussed in my why the distaff matters post, the characteristics of the medieval spindles (wobbly, short-ish spin time) necessitate having one hand on them the majority of the time. The distaff acts as a second hand to hold the fiber, and if it is well-prepared ahead of time, the left hand can feed out the fiber all on its own while the right hand spins. This brings me back to statement number two. When I started with period spinning, the distaff was hard for me too. It made no sense and seemed pointless and awkward. It only works well when used with the spindle and fiber it's meant for, but in that instance it is crucial. You can't use a period spindle easily without a distaff. End of story.
Finally, I'll close by saying period spinning wheels are certainly a thing. In addition to the modern flyer-style wheels first appearing in the 16th century, hand-crank wheels did occur in the 14th century, as in this image:
I guess my point in all this is that when we represent the medieval world, we have such a wealth of information to share with people about how medieval tools work and when they were used. Medieval people were intelligent, efficient, crafty, and creative, just like we are. They used hand tools instead of machines, and with those tools they created finer items than we could ever hope to create.