In centuries past, Distaff day marks the day women resume their everyday household duties of which spinning for textiles was a major part of. People returned to normal duties following the day of Epiphany, a religious holiday where the Three kings arrived to meet the son of God, Jesus. Epiphany is the realization.
There are numerous websites, that for the most part, have all the same information about Distaff Day. I liked these two (note, I didn’t copy the actual link- copy paste in search should pull it up as if it were a link):
nationaltoday.com/distaff-day/ – states what it is, followed by some history, followed by a few sections of fun extras. Scroll down to Why We Love Distaff Day…I like that little section.
almanac.com/fact/distaff-day-the-day-after-epiphany-january-holiday – info about the day, plus a silly little, almost nursery rhyme, tale of historic tradition.
On this Distaff day, I have enjoyed hours of easy online research. Thinking of distaffs and spindles and spinning wheels, I couldn’t organize a solid mental timeline for the history of spinning. Oh certainly I’ve picked up information here and there, only to quickly not file it away. So off I went to create a brief overview of the history of spinning. Don’t worry, my notes fit on a 5 x 8 inch note page. It is a quick rundown of a few key things.
*No one actually has a date for when drop spindles started being used.
*Distaffs are long (or short) sticks used to hold wool for a spinner.
*Spindles date back to Neolithic time. Neolithic time was 7000 – 1700 BCE. Neolithic, which is also known as New Stone Age is the period of time people started to live in settlements, started farming and domesticating animals.
*Middle Ages, also know as the Dark Ages spans from 476 AD (the fall of Rome) – 1450 ish AD when the Age of Discovery began. Age of Discovery is 1400 – 1600 AD.
*No one actually has a date for the origin of the spinning wheel either. It is known to have happened between 500 – 1000 AD. Note, all textile making was done with spindles for 8,000 to 9,000 (probably more) years. That’s a lot of spindle spinning.
*The earliest drawing found of a spinning wheel dates 1035 AD.
*Spinning wheels were invented in the 11th century. First type was Charka style used for cotton. The spinning apparatus did make its way across countries over years and finally arrived to Europe approximately 1200 AD.
*NZ Spinning Wheels: “The first known pictures in Europe of spinning wheels are in several illuminated manuscripts from around 1335-1340.” and “The first picture showing a flyer and bobbin dates from the 1480s and comes from Southern Germany.”
*Very early 16th century spinning wheel starts to look more like our “modern” ones, they have bobbins and flyers!
*Thoughtco.com: “Around the year 1533, a spinning wheel featuring a stationary vertical rod and bobbin mechanism with the addition of a foot pedal debuted in the Saxony region of Germany.”
*1764 the spinning jenny was invented – key in textile industrialization.
From the 18th century forward, we have documented many many many different spinning wheel types. Pretty much all of them are based on the design from the 16th century with bobbins, flyers, and treadles. Many of those spinning wheels have a distaff to hold the wool or plant fibers while the spinner creates yarn and/or thread.
While I do not use a distaff regularly, I do spin almost daily. Spinning is alive! Although it’s not part of household duties anymore. It is a valuable part of the past and is still valued today. Maybe more so as we find ourselves inundated with fast fashion and over manufactured goods that really aren’t that healthy for us. I won’t get on a soapbox. Speaking only for myself, spinning and working with wool makes my heart sing and gives me purpose. The artist in me wants to design and create and make something functional and beautiful. So, it’s Distaff Day, time to get to work.
It’s been a really nice year in my fiber world. 2022 was filled with meeting people that love yarn, love wool, love spinning, want to love spinning, and love making with yarn. Thank you so much to everyone who took a few minutes to glance at my yarn work. Especially thanks to those of you who took a chance and purchased my handspun and hand dyed yarn.
It is truly my pleasure to work with wool and make lovely yarns. Then, to see those yarns go out into the world and be appreciated and transformed into functional, beautiful, long lasting, things… brings me a tremendous amount of joy. I look forward to sharing lots more with you in 2023. Let’s keep talking about spinning and yarn and making.
Wishing you lots of fiber and yarn moments during the holidays. Cheers to making yarn and making with yarn! — Angela
All things wool!! All things wool!! If only I had the courage (and time) to go around chanting this in public. Can you imagine me downtown, in front of the congress building, holding up a sign, chanting for change among all the other special topics of the times. Haha, someday… There are many issues to grapple with and figure out. I tend to focus a lot on environmental health. Environmental health directly relates to everything – the health of our animals, our food, a healthy textile industry – it all leads back to our personal well being. I’ve always been a fan of natural. Keeping things simple and as close to natural as possible. It seems almost silly to say out loud. It seems like an obvious choice. But if you take a good look around, it can be quite complicated. I will not attempt to dive into particulars with this simple post. There is much to ponder and much to learn.
As I do my daily work of spinning, washing and hand processing raw fleece, and small making projects, I wonder about being mindful of the things we need and hold off on the things we are told we need. I think of ways to cut back on synthetics of all sorts, especially everyday fabrics and plastics. I wonder if we can grow the culture of making essential clothing and other necessities with our own hands. I wonder how much change could happen if many more of us take a tiny bit more time to seek out natural products made by-hand from small businesses (local or otherwise). I wonder if we could ever grow forward by embracing handmade items for everyday use (not just that one special thing). I wonder, if we do all that (or even some of it), would we guide the way the textile (and food) industry functions, especially in areas like sourcing and waste.
I’m not attempting to make any political statements or start a war on industry. Haha, no, that’s not me. I am but one simple wool loving person. I’ll do my part and maybe a little more given the nature of my small business. I advocate for small change over time. Reverse the process (a lot or a little) of how we got to this point of waste in the world. It is possible to find balance. I’ll start with balance in daily life. I’ll keep working (mostly silently) on wool projects in my “wool office”. Spinning provides me with balance and purpose. What I do, is small, no doubt, but it’s small initiatives, work, joy, appreciation, support that lead to impacting others directly and so many times, indirectly and unexpectedly.
I attended this outdoor gathering for the first time last year purely as a consumer. It was a lovely sunny day and I was eager to get out of the house to shop the small businesses and see what the heck was going on out there at the Blue Mule Winery. Lots of us where just coming out of our COVID lockdown at that point, eager to get out and about. Despite a tad bit of wind, it was a wonderful event with lots of yarn (of course) and other fibery things, music, classes, a food truck, and drinky-poos for some extra delicious relaxation.
This year, April 2022, I will be vending and teaching at this lovely event. I’ll have a variety of handspun yarns and spinning fiber – batts, flicked fiber, and washed fleece available.
Sign up for my Beginning Drop Spindle Spinning class and learn some of the basics of spinning yarn. My class starts at 10:30 am and runs two hours until 12:30 pm. It’s a great time slot! You read more about it and sign-up at texasyarnloversevent.com.
If you take my class, you will have plenty of time to get into the event and get your bearings and maybe even browse a few vendors on the way in. There will be plenty of time after to relax, get some food, drinks, sweets, shop, and enjoy the serenity of being away from the city and in the fresh calm outdoors of the Blue Mule Winery. In addition to the big outdoor tent area, there is plenty of one-off spaces to break for knitting, sharing with friends, or some cherished self time. It would not be weird to bring a blanket or a lawn chair to relax on. Hopefully, like last year, it’s another wonderful sunny day.
For all you knitters our there, there is a KAL! It is scheduled to start April 3rd. The knit project is by Designer, Morgan Wolterdorf. She announced the design on her Instagram account @morthunder. Follow her on IG and sign up at her website for additional information about the KAL. The final piece of the KAL will be done at the Texas Yarn Lovers Event, April 23rd, in person with Morgan. There will be a group picture of everyone with their project.
Texas Yarn Lovers Event – Saturday, April 23rd, 2022
Blue Mule Winery – 8127 N FM 1291, Fayetteville, TX 78940
So much to look forward to.
Happy holidays! Whether it be fleece, roving, or yarn, you cozy up to, I hope everyone is enjoying the season with a bit of warm fiber. In between making gifts, decorating, baking/cooking and shopping (and maybe even guests this year), make sure you give a little free-fiber-time to yourself. Enjoy the twists and the stitches. It feels especially good in these cold months. I know I’ll be cozying up with some fleece in my lap for sorting and batts in my hands for spinning. In between making hats and wreaths for my December 4th Wimberley Market Days, of course.
Without putting too much emphasis on shopping, I’ll quickly point out that today is Small Business Saturday. It’s a wonderful thing to have declared a day for supporting small business in this mad-rush big shopping time of the year. Shopping small businesses supports people and local communities directly. Shop small businesses when and where you can all year long. It’s a good thang.
I hope each of you find the warmth of the season in all the ways that make you happy.
Today is the first day of autumn – the Autumnal Equinox. It’s one of two days per year there are equal amounts of day light and night. Starting tomorrow, the sun will start rising later and the darkness of night will ease in a little earlier. Shorter cooler Autumn days are here.
I can see and feel the change here in Austin today. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more aware of this change than I am this year, today. As I hopped out of the car this morning for our daily school drop-off, there was a breeze, an almost cool breeze! Our summers hover around 100 degree with many days of high humidity. It can be somewhat oppressive and the heat gets exhausting. So, while a breeze seems minor, it was surprising and a big change from what we’ve experienced in many months. The air distinctly different from previous summer days. The air is lighter, cooler. Sweeping breezes have refreshed the air, making way for crisper fall, and soon winter, days ahead.
On this balanced day, it seems fitting to work outside. I’ll absorb the sun, listen to the trees, and smell the fresh air while spinning, while crocheting.
I mean year.
ok, ok, I was feeling a little defeated as of New Year’s Eve eve. Didn’t even come close to what I had envisioned myself getting wrapped up for the year. My End of Year Cram was more like an End of Year Dashed Fiber Hopes. My little experiment of making the end of the year a wool wrap up didn’t really pan out. I won’t ramble on about why. It’s all the same normal reasons. Instead of feeling bad or awkward, I’m just going to keep moving forward. Positive is productive (btw, that’s about as far as I go for inspirational speech’s) and that’s where I want to be going into this new year. Focus on the things I did accomplish and what I have to look forward to going into 2021.
The year ended. Those final hours, were in fact, quiet productive. Hours of spinning and spending quality time with some Harlequin fleece before and in between playing games and enjoying food and desserts with my family – my husband and daughter. That’s a pretty darn great day in my book. Truly a good one – New Year’s Eve 2020 is right up there as one of the best I’ve ever had. All the basics (health and wool included) and good company, what more could anyone ask for.
End of Year Cram successes, albeit small: whittled down a one pound bump of Harlequin roving with four more ounces spun and plied into 2 two ounce skeins. I worked those pink rolags! Those six ounces of fluff are spun into a lovely yarn. I started hacking through some Teeswater locks. Really more like gentle snipping. So unfortunate I felted part of the one pound batch shown in my picture list two posts back. Sad, but still completely useable. The locks felted only at one end, which makes me think I just didn’t prep it properly before washing.
In 2020 I learned how to use support spindles and I started knitting! Knitting is an extra big one since I have been meaning to pick it up for many many years. I have done three whole swatches and entirely made one scarf. So much progress, lol!
Hello 2021, looking forward to learning new skills and honing the one’s I have. I am excited for all the wool and yarns to come. Happy New Year everyone!!
I just finished up the post from yesterday when I realized today is the two week mark until the end of the year. This is a good check-in day. Plus, I have some progress to show from yesterday.
I got the Harlequin/mohair plied. I do have some of the chunkier slubby stuff left on the bobbin. I’m not totally sure what to do with the left over. I should just spin a little more of the thin singles, but with all that VM business, I’m hesitant. I need to feel like things are moving along a little more quickly this second week of my End of Year Cram wrap-up. On the other hand, I don’t want to many random things unfinished just taking up bobbins. I already have a few of those awaiting my return.
The pink rolags are all carded up! Two stacks ready to spin.
Should I count these last two mini spins? They are both sample spins for larger projects, but also for drum carder testing. Jacob was last week, Harlequin day before yesterday.
The Jacob was to test an old drum carder borrowed from a guild member – for fun and curiosity. This Jacob is on my End of Year Cram list. (It is one of the wools in the middle pictures in the previous post.) So, yeah, it should count.
One ounce of Harlequin flicked and run through a new-to-me drum carder I just got from Ravelry Spinners Marketplace. It’s a Howard Brush fine fiber carder at 190 tpi. This was not on my radar, in fact the wool (even though I do have several of these fleeces) isn’t even in my fiber collection. I borrowed it from another guild member so we could compare each others washed and worked Harlequin fleece. This one doesn’t count.
More to come.
A quick check-in along with some fiber pics. A week and three days ago, I posted about an end of year wrap up on fiber projects. How great it would be to get a few things finished before January. January is usually my wrap up month, but this year, given the virus, I thought why not get some things done in December.
I have so many projects started. Not being that organized at the moment, I didn’t come up with a specific written list for the last three weeks of this month. Using fiber that’s been sitting around the longest makes sense for piecing together a mental list. Looking around my studio …
A list in pictures! I like it. Above pictures are a good portion of my currently in progress fiber To-Do’s. Basically in the order I should work on them. That Coopworth fleece has been sitting around the longest (since last year) – because I’m saving it to make a throw blanket for myself. That ALWAYS gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do. The Teeswater sitting on top of the Coopworth is roughly half a pound of the one pound washed of the 7 pounds raw that I got early summer this year. Teeswater – I love it, I hate it, I love it, I hate it…
Middle picture is where I actually started last week. I count seven different wools plus those pink rolags sitting on the floor in the back. I started with the round bin hanging on the right toward the back. That’s a Harlequin/mohair mix from sheep and goats in Smithville, Texas, milled into roving at Independence Fiber Mill. That is actually one of my most recent fiber purchases, but I was super eager to dive-in.
Last picture is pillowcase & bag of Southdown (washed last month), 1 bag of gray Harlequin/mohair roving, and last bag unknown (I need to take a peek inside). All piled neatly near my spinning wheel within the last month or so.
10 days and only 5 ounces later… I finally got all the Harlequin/mohair on the bobbins. I guess I should keep in mind for future planning that this is 5 ounces of 1 pound I bought. I am starting with 5 ounces to get a feel for this fiber. I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to spin the bulk of it. Or if I wanted to do several different types of yarn. Get a feel for it, I did. I spent at least 3 or 4 times the spin time picking out VM. VM, VM, VM! Must stay calm and work diligently in the midst of Vegetable Matter roving. Oh the challenge, the fine motor skills struggle of little bitty piece picking, the strain to see them all. The worst part is thinking you’re going to whip up a quick yarn, then coming to a sudden holt, for the most part, before it’s even begun. VM, the yarn blocker! *argh* *sigh* It happens… more often than you would think. I have come to think of it as part of the “charm” of working with wool. If there were no challenges, it would be dull. Some wools are just worth all the trouble. This one is going to be great, it’s Harlequin and mohair.
Feel free to share your projects in the comments. I love to hear about what everyone is working on – struggles, successes, mishaps.