E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
is from the verb to weave. (Saxon wefan, Danish vve, German weben, whence weib, a woman, one who works at the distaff.) Woman is called the distaff. Hence Dryden calls Anne a distaff on the throne. While a girl was spinning her wedding clothes she was simply a spinster; but when this task was done, and she was married, she became a wife, or one who had already woven her allotted task.
Alfred, in his will, speaks of his male and female descendants as those of the spear-side and those of the spindle-side, a distinction still observed by the Germans; and hence the effigies on graves of spears and spindles.