I really enjoyed everyone's guesses and although the guesses all suggested an extendable / foldable device for everything from sheet music to use in the bathroom none of them were correct.
Perhaps putting it together will help.
Here it is with it's box that tells the whole story.
I'm certain that snazzy jazz pattern on the box is the clue to how old this wool winder is. I'm guessing 1920's art deco.
It doesn't look like it will fit does it? I assure you it does. Just.
The label reads:
IMPORTANT NOTICEEach Woolwinder is tested and examined before leaving the factory and the manufacturers will not replace machines broken through rough treatment or carelessness.When opening the apparatus, ease one pair of arms an inch or two, repeat the operation on the opposite pair of arms. Tugging on the one pair of arms will result in straining the machine, so they must be gently eased all around.
The legs are a bit stiff and only 2 of them extend fully.
The arms rotate on their post and can be extend quite some distance.
Quite the nifty little contraption don't you think? When do you think it was made?