Thursday, October 13, 2011


 I did not learn to use a distaff when spinning wool. Then, I read a post in the blog, A stitch in time, and she pointed out that all the old pictures of spinners have distaves. So, I tried it. 

It works. OK, that is part of my Niddy poked into a hole in my Traddy, but it works!
For worsted spinning, it is like having 3 hands. The drafting hand can keep some tension between the distaff and the drafting zone to keep the fibers aligned. This is sort of like continuous pre-drafting. While a wrist distaff or wrapping the roving around the drafting arm can store fiber and help keep it orderly and out of the way, these methods do not aid in the drafting process like a real distaff.  A good distaff aids in the drafting process.  
Those old timers had a lot spinning to do, and a short time to do it.  They knew how to spin a high-quality thread as fast as possible.  They used a distaff
I swear that I have not seen modern spinners using real distaves, but then a few days ago I would have sworn it was not in the books either.  However, there it is, in the first paragraph of Chapter 7 in Amos.  He did not write “Use a distaff when spinning linen.”  No, he wrote, “Use a distaff.”
The problem that I had with the distaff was that my grist rose from my intended 9,000 ypp to 14,000 ypp. I have to retrain my drafting hand -- or change my yarn design. 
What works best? Actually a wooden yard stick stuck in my waist band worked fairly well, and is fairly typical of what we see  in Classic Greek art.  However, it is a bit awkward for sitting at a spinning wheel.  For a spinning wheel, Amos suggests a free standing distaff.  However, I like to spin in my window corner beside the breakfast table - not much floor space there.  Thus, my solution is a distaff attached to my wheel.

How good is it?  Well I am spending all day making a better one.  It is a technology with huge promise.

Russian Distaves
It is like knitting sheaths.  They made them because they work very well.

PS. It is not pretty but the Mark II distaff is very, very functional:


DebbieD said...

Who's blog was it that mentioned the distaff?? I can't find it. There are an awful lot of "A Stitch in Time" references in blogland. I admit to having distaffs on two wheels and not using either of them. Will have to investigate this further. Mind you, at this point I am not trying to get as fine a single as you are... but that will change sometime over the winter months.

Aaron said...


and the posts before and after.

Teri said... has several posts about using a distaff. I picked up two from Bulgaria. I haven't used them a lot, but am encouraged to try them again after reading this post.