January 7, 2010

Winter Splendor and St. Distaff's Day!

Snowflakes, Birds, and A Return to the Spinning Wheel!

Afternoon tea with Chirpy Cheerful.
The book of Emily Dickinson poetry, "A Brighter Garden" illustrated by Tasha Tudor, is open to an illustration of a farm with a horse and sleigh approaching in the snow. It reminds Diane of Corgyncombe Cottage and barn in the snow. It is one of Diane's favorite illustrations, but all of the illustrations in this book are just lovely! We named our Corgi Emily after Diane's great great grandmother Emily Jane (Jones) Shepard and Emily (Jones) Shepard's cousin Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, as well as Emily Dickinson's mother Emily (Norcross) Dickinson.

Two dear little birds, relatives of Chirpy Cheerful, find shelter in the snow under an umbrella.

A beautiful Corgyncombe Snowflake!
There are zillions of these beauteous snowflakes at Corgyncombe!

Like my shiny new Tasha Tudor reproduction tin kitchen, I love, love, love the sparkly shining snow!


Fall all the night-time,
Falling all the day,
Crystal-winged and voiceless,
On their downward way;
Falling through the darkness,
Falling through the light,
Covering with beauty
Vale and mountain height, -

Never summer blossoms
Dwelt so fair as these;
Never lay like glory
On the fields and trees.

Rare the airy wreathing,
Deftly turned the scroll,
Hung in woodland arches,
Crowning meadow knoll.

- J. V. Cheney

It has been snowing and blowing at Corgyncombe as of late. Chirpy Cheerful looks with sympathetic interest at the two trudging through the blowing snow. Whilst going to and from the barn at Corgyncombe it has seemed like the Tasha Tudor illustration in "A Brighter Garden". There are times when you can hardly see anything. In Laura Ingalls Wilder's books she speaks of blizzards and how they would have a line from the house to the barn to have something to guide them to keep them from getting lost and to find their way in the blinding snow. Chirpy Cheerful is not a Blue Jay, but is a Blue Tit that can frequently be found in England.

Song of the Snowflakes

Round and round
With never a sound,
Hill to hollow
Fall and follow;

Thicker, faster, merry flakes!
Over the land and over the lakes,
Here and there, everywhere,
On the wings of air.

Oh, it's hither and thither,
Blithe to hurry and flurry and shine;
You take the spruce; and you, the pine; 
While the tips of the hemlock I'll make mine.

White, all white,
Come, spirits of light,
Hill to hollow
Flock and follow!

Thicker, and faster, flake to flake -
First to the forest across the lake!
Softly, softly, drop we now,
Into the warm, dark bough.

- John Vance Cheney

The Blue Jay flew over the Corgyncombe Corg'ery where the Corgyn Eliakim and Lydia played in the snow, and then landed in the old apple tree. After some loud squawks, the Blue Jay caused a kerfuffle at the bird feeder and pushed it's way in.
The Blue Jay puts on a good show but, as "A Year with the Birds" by Wilson Flagg says: "He is a thief and a disturber of the peace." Wilson Flagg continues on: "While searching for food in the field or in the open plain, he is extremely noisy; but when he ventures into a barn to take what does not belong to him, he is silent and stealthy and exhibits all the peculiar manners of a thief. It would be no mean task to enumerate all the acts of mischief perpetrated by this bird, and I cannot but look upon him as one of the most guilty of the winged inhabitants of the wood." Wilson Flagg also wrote: "Like the Magpie, the Jay has considerable talent for mimicry, and when tamed has been taught to articulate words like a parrot."

Corgyncombe Kaleidoscope "Blue Jay Blue"

A Blue Jay that visited Corgyncombe a previous year.

Snowshoes, all the white that can be seen is snow.

The Snowstorm
Winds from the north do blow;

See whirl and dance of snow;
Now driving, leaping down,
And whitening farm and town,
And, from the leaden clouds which crowd the sky,
Hiding familiar things from foot and eye.
The paths are lost and gone;
The streets have no one on
Their hidden, soundless stone,
Where piles of flakes are blown
From fields of gray, where move the viewless stars,
And smokeless battle leaves no telling scars.

Still come the flakes of white,
Like blossoms pure and light,
From heaven's great orchard trees,
Which feed no humming bees,
Borne by the wind which shook them from their hold
Down on the hills, where flocks all seek their fold.

- J. Hazard Hartzell

A Corgyncombe January morning moon.

Today, January 7th is St. Distaff's Day!

For St. Distaff's Day I posted back in 2005 on an online group the following post:

January 2005
Subject: St. Distaff's Day
Greetings All,
Yesterday was St. Distaff's Day. I spun into the late hours. Traditionally St. Distaff's Day was the day when spinners returned to their work at the wheel after the Christmas festivities. I just love to spin, knit, and weave. I spin wool, flax, angora rabbit, mohair, llama, alpaca, silk, cat, corgi, and anything else I can get my hands on. I'm learning to spin a very fine thread of cotton. It's so different from spinning the rest of the fibers.

We hope all the spinners on the list have also returned to their wheels. We strongly encourage those who have not learned to spin to give it a try as it is one of the most pleasurable and satisfying of activities!
Take care,
Diane and daughter Sarah

I was dismayed and disgusted to find that last year the leader of an online group had taken my post almost word for word, put it on her blog, and claimed it as her own. It was like she was making believe she was me, in a strange and creepy way.
Before she finally removed it from her blog, she had altered my post a bit more to try to make it less obvious that she copied me, but alas, the altered post that she copied is still on her feed in "Google Reader".

Update: She has recently changed her feed in "Google Reader" to a short feed showing only the first few sentences of her new posts. Sigh and alas, the altered St. Distaff's Day post that she copied from me and claimed as her own, is still on her long feed in "Google Reader", further down past her short feed posts, well into her long feed, in her "Google Reader" feed.

Cotton to be spun on Diane's Charkha.
Below is one of Diane's Charkhas. Diane also has a Journey Wheel.
What a joy they are to spin on!

Natural coloured fleeces to be processed and spun here at Corgyncombe Cottage. I truly like the smell of the unwashed fleece. Spinning in the grease is not for everyone but I do not mind the smell of the fleece, in fact I find the smell comforting as it reminds me of when I was a little girl going into the old barn with the beautiful stone foundation and seeing all the lambs with their mamas.

"Tasha Tudor's Old-Fashioned Gifts" by Tasha Tudor and Linda Allen, has many things to make by hand including patterns for knit slipper socks, mittens, and a tutorial to make a wool rabbit! Things look marvelous made with handspun yarn!
Beatrix Potter illustrated "Three Little Mice" as they "sat down to spin" with distaffs and spinning wheels.

In "Mother Goose" Tasha Tudor illustrated "Cross Patch" with a girl spinning flax.

Tasha Tudor spinning on my wheel.

After seeing my yarn, Tasha Tudor declared me "The Queen of Spinners". She always loved my spinning and evenness of spin and ply and frequently said to me that she was "shockingly envious" of my "spinning skill". Tasha Tudor was inspired by my spinning to again take out her spinning wheel after several years of not using it.

Diane and Sarah descend from generations of spinners and shepherds. Diane's 5th great grandmother was Martha Lyon May, wife of Eliakim May. Diane and Sarah have inherited a natural ability for turning fiber into thread. We think that Martha Lyon May was "The Queen of Spinners"! "The Lyon Memorial, Massachusetts Families" says: "The Hartford Courant, Jan. 6, 1766, had this item: Miss Levina Lyon, daughter of Capt. Nehemiah Lyon of Woodstock, and Miss Molly Ledoit carded and spun in one day 22 skeins of good tow yarn and a few days after, Martha Lyon, sister of Levina, spun 194 knots of good linen yarn in one day."

An old linen label with a pretty picture of a lady spinning.

I spin flax and I just love it. I made a distaff out of a branch of a tree. To dress the distaff I wet the distaff a little. I hold the distaff over the flax that I have layed out on a table and as I turn the distaff the flax fibers start to cling to it and I just keep winding it on until it is full. I hang a little cup of water on the spinning wheel and I keep moistening my fingers as I draw the fibers down. To me it seems so graceful to spin flax.

St. Distaff's Day, a day for returning to the pleasurable and satisfying task of spinning!


1 comment:

Marqueta said...

Dearest Diane and Sarah,

Oh, my, your pictures are splendid, indeed! We rarely see blue jays (or tits, for that matter), around here, but do admit that they are pretty things :) .

How sweet of Tasha to call you "The Queen of Spinners"~such a title of distinction! My kind friend sent me a drop spindle and some fleece from her sheep to learn to spin, but alas, it looked more like dread locks than yarn! Someday I would love to own a wheel and really learn to spin. You have inspired me.

I'm sorry about someone stealing your words about St. Distaff's Day; that must have been distressing.

Have a blessed day today,



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