Monday, August 6, 2012

And a Distaff.

1646-48 Old Woman Spinning, Micheal Sweerts, Flemish

I have been searching high & low for "how to dress a distaff with wool" and so far, all I've found is either vague references or flax instructions.  A few You-Tube videos show spinning from a loaded distaff, but as there is so very much in fiber preparation for your drafting, it's just plain frustrating... so, without further ado, here is how I loaded my make-shift distaff, which (with some changes) I think will work well... just take note, this did NOT work well on the first try.... nope, not at all, not one little bit. 

(Edit: 8/8/12)
I tried again last night (8/7), and by switching the distaff to between my legs, I was able to spin like nobody's business.  It shortened the distance between spindle & distaff, my drafting hand was able to control the amount coming off the fiber bundle & I was able to spin the spindle or let it go as needed.  Sometimes it was suspended, sometimes it hit my leg, but as the twist was all at the top, it didn't seem to bother the yarn one bit. 
Occasionally I had to readjust the tie or turn the distaff, or splice on more fiber, but it worked.
Still need a longer distaff & a smaller spindle - but this method works.
(End Edit)

Please note: I could be 100% wrong on this.

This is the painting maul that I used to test-run the distaff theory of the "stick & finial" variety.  It has a smooth shaft (not perfectly so), with a place to tie the ribbon at the top, which is the important thing... though I'm not sure that securing it this way is correct... the Romanian You Tube video shows the lady with her massive load of wool sorta sliding down the distaff as she goes, but many of the paintings & illuminations through centuries & various countries show the top being wrapped & secured.

Unfortunately, it's a bit short and the drafting zone is a little too low for perfect comfort.

wool for a bat on a distaff
The fiber has to be a relatively long staple, at least 5" to work with this method. (I think).  I'm using the "shorts" from the Border Leicester here.

carded wool bat
I found a reference to using bats of wool on the distaff, so that's what I'm doing.  Rather than rolling a rolag, I stop as soon as I've doffed the carded fleece.

Here is the "how to roll the bat onto the distaff.  (Near as I can figure)

Dressing a distaff with wool
Tie the ribbon onto the distaff, point it up (not to the side like is pictured here)
Lay the bat on the table,  with the distaff at one end of it.
Roll the distaff & bat together until you've reached the end.
Make up a few more (or a bunch more) bats & roll them on.  You can start each one a bit lower than the top bat to create a graduated cone of fiber.
Wrap the ribbon around the wool & tuck the end in on itself.

Distaff kinda dressed right.
This is the finished "dressed" distaff.

There are some problems with it that are easy fixes.
- The distaff is too short.  It has to fit comfortably on your arm, with the wool above your hand for easy drafting.  Get Longer Stick.
- The wool I used here is too "sticky."  Your wool bats must slip easily & cleanly off the distaff, this particular fiber does not.
- Longer ribbon / Silk ribbon... first, my twill tape tie is way too short.  Second, it doesn't allow the wool to "slip" past it, it catches & holds, which is not what I want it to do... I want it to hold gently, but not grip.
- My spindle is too big.  WAY too big.  Solution: get smaller spindle.

The next technique I will try is pre-drafting the fiber & winding it around a "y" shaped stick.  I think once I get the hang of it, I'll do OK.  It sure will save on shoulder strain.

I should also mention that this type of spinning is done with low whorl only, and the spindle can be long, but the rock/whorl needs to be relatively small... as you aren't doing the Greek/modern style of suspended, with an extended spin time, a smaller weight is just fine.

For your enjoyment, here are some images of women spinning wool with a distaff throughout the ages.

1529, Marten van Heemskerck,
woman spinning,
She's spinning on a wheel, but the distaff principle is the same.
The Tenant's Daughter
Haines & Sons
Yale, London

1180's Normandy (the Hague)
Hers is pre-drafted

1 comment:

Carol Douglas said...

Where would you be without art history to guide you?