January 7, 2011

St. Distaff's Day!

A Return to the Spinning Wheel After Christmas Festivities!
On a delightful Autumnal trip, Diane acquired this beautiful antique Shaker spinning wheel! She retained the name that she was found with... Ann Lee. As with the Autumnal day on which she was discovered, doesn't she have a nice mellow glow?

Diane and her Father made a special trip after he came home from work to the bookshop to buy "A Practical Guide to American Spinning Wheels" by D. Pennington and M. Taylor. Diane has always been interested in old spinning wheels. Diane has referenced the book many times and it has seen much use through the years as the covers have come off and the book is in several pieces. When Diane first laid eyes on "Ann Lee", she said "That spinning wheel is almost identical to the one on the cover of 'A Practical Guide to American Spinning Wheels'". Of course "Ann Lee" had to come home as it was one of Diane's favorite spinning wheels in the book!

Saint Distaff's Day; or, The Morrow After Twelfth Day 
Partly work and partly play
Ye must on St. Distaff's day;
From the plough soon free your team,
Then come home and fother them.

If the maids a spinning go,
Burn the flax, and fire the tow;
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-hair.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men:
Give St. Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good night;
And next morrow, every one
To his own vocation.
- Robert Herrick

Prepared stricks of flax as purchased.
Diane puts the flax stricks through different size hatchels a few more times to ensure the best line fiber.
The distaff before it's dressed.
 To dress the distaff Diane wets the distaff a little and holds the distaff over the flax that has been layed out on a table and as she turns the distaff the flax fibers start to cling to it. She just keeps winding on the flax until the distaff is full. A little cup of water is hung on the spinning wheel and Diane keeps moistening the flax by dipping her fingers in the water as she draws the fibers down. To Diane it seems so graceful to spin flax.
Diane has also made a distaff out of a branch of a tree.

The U-shaped device is the flyer that has hooks on it to guide the thread. The flyer is mounted to the maidens (the two posts holding the flyer) with leathers, and the maidens make their home on what is called the mother-of-all. The mother-of-all is attached to the tensioning knob.

The horseshoe made by the blacksmith and the shiny tin box made by the tinsmith on the handspun, handwoven linen runner, all given to Diane at her bridal shower.
Diane's memories of her bridal shower at the museum where she worked:
"One evening I sensed something different was going on as my co-workers started gathering at the museum tavern after work. I was asked to go to the historic tavern on an errand. When I opened the door I was greeted by a surprise bridal shower! All my old friends were there showering upon me the wares of their trade. From the carpenters I received a cutting board with a personal engraving on one side and wooden knitting needles with the little verse: "In the pattern of your Married Life May your stitches All be perfect!". The broom-maker made me a new broom to keep my floors swept clean and from the store clerk I got a bag of root beer barrels and a note saying "May your marriage be a barrel of fun!". The pharmacist presented me with a bouquet of herbs and from the doctor's office I received a jar of honey. The tinsmith made me a tin box and the note within said "May your marriage be as bright and shiny as this tin container". From the old schoolhouse I received a slate and slate pencil. A horse shoe and hand wrought nails were the gift of the blacksmith and the lawyer's office gave me a document that offered me any legal help I needed. The printer's gift was a print of "Domestic Economy". The lady at the tavern embroidered some beautiful linen pillow covers and the ladies at the farmhouse gave me gingerbread cookies, the receipt to make them, and tin gingerbread cookie cutters. The spinners and weavers from the loft made me a handspun, handwoven linen m's and o's runner. What a fun shower with such wonderful gifts from my dear old friends!"
 Gingerbread folk and a gingerbread receipt given to Diane by the ladies who worked with her at the farmhouse.
 Some of Diane's handspun linen thread which has multiple uses at Corgyncombe Cottage.
 Tasha Tudor spinning on Diane's 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."

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 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.

 Click Here to read about Blog Thieving...


Jeri Landers said...

What wonderful bridal gifts,handmade treasures every one! The wheel is beautiful and I can almost smell the wonderful scent of the flax. Spinning must be in your blood with such a long line of spinners as those above.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I have been learning how to spin for about ten years now.... I think some classes at the Marshfield School of Weaving are in order! You used to work with kind and generous people; a truly memorable thing unto itself. Have a great January! Beth from Vermont

Marqueta (Mar-keet-a) said...

Dear Diane and Sarah,

What beautiful memories for you! I love all your stories, and just knowing a little more about Tasha is such a treat.



The BUTT'RY and BOOK'RY said...

You got me spinning flax again! ;-)
.......there's fiber on the bottom of my socks...hee hee...

Beautiful W-Shower story!!!

Blessings Linnie

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