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.
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 marvellous thing 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.