Having looked at the loose thread the reel contained it reminded me of the threads you see on those lovely antique trims and braids you see for sale on Etsy and eBay.
SO I figured it was probably from a loom that made a trim or braid.
I googled 'braid loom' and look what popped up!
Here's a picture of a braid loom in action weaving multiple braids in different colours at the Museum voor Industriële Archeologie enTextiel in Gent, Belgium. And there are the little doodads like the (formerly) puzzling thing in our original photo.
Katherine Sanderson's website has some wonderful images of the amazing machines in this museum so if you are interested in how textiles are produced I'd head on over to her blog. I found it fascinating and I'd love to visit. I love watching how machines work - right up there with watching construction sites - yeah we all know I'm strange!