From Russia With Love

I acquired this thing at an antique show a while back – like most textile tools, the seller didn’t know what he had, but he thought it was cool. And I had to agree.

Old & lovely

It’s a distaff, for spinning wool. (Or flax, but I’d've thought it would have a comb on top if it was for bast fibres.) You’re looking at the public side of it; the spinner sits on the flat part, and spins from the other side. It’s likely Russian, though I’m not going to rule out any of the Baltic countries; they have a great many textile traditions in common. I couldn’t even guess at its age; it does show a fair amount of use wear and there’s a few bits broken off.

For more than a year, the distaff has been waiting quietly in a corner of my living room, just perched on a shelf being beautiful. And then a thread came up on the Spindle Lore board on Ravelry, asking if anyone used a distaff… and I felt ashamed that I had this┬ámarvellous┬áthing right here, and had never even tried it out.

So I did.

I’m not very good at it yet, but I can already see how incredibly useful this tool is – I can spin fine yarns faster and more productively. I have no idea why distaffs never migrated to North America, and why they’ve never found a place in modern spindle spinning. My mind is blown by this wonderful, useful, gorgeous thing.

PS: There’s no sound in that video, but the only thing you’d hear is the dog snoring anyway. And me swearing softly.

PPS: See that basket sitting on the cheese box beside my chair? There’s an Athabasca sleeve in there. But more on that in another post.

One thought on “From Russia With Love

  1. Awesome spinning, I see no clumsiness here!

    I think I should investigate a distaff … I have lots of neat little trees here, I should be able to fashion one from some branches…

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