Medieval Suspended Spinning using Distaffs

Master spinner demonstrates how to dress a medieval-style cone distaff with flax (linen)

Dressing a cone-shaped distaff with flax

While at Avacal September Crown (a SCA event) I took a class on using a distaff for suspended spinning. I didn’t quite get the idea behind suspended spinning (it kind of made my hand hurt pretty quickly) but I did enjoy using the distaff to control the fibre for spinning.

Master spinner demonstrates how to dress a medieval-style cone distaff with flax (linen)

Dressing a cone-shaped distaff with flax

We used a rough combed wool to learn to do the suspended spinning, a carded wool on a short hand-held distaff, and finally some flax (linen) on a tall distaff to learn that method as well. Apparently we need a tall distaff for flax, because the ‘triangle’ where the fibre is drawn from needs to be much larger.

I took some photos at the event, along with some video, that I thought I’d share here. Most of these are from while our instructor (her society name is Effym Murray, and mundanely she is a master spinner) was showing the method of dressing a cone-shaped distaff with flax.

Master spinner demonstrates how to dress a medieval-style cone distaff with flax (linen)

Dressing a cone-shaped distaff with flax

Part of the method was to pin one end of the fibre and then fanning the ends out in an accordion style, creating bit of  a ‘spiderweb’ of fibre. Our instructor did this on top of a towel to control the flax.

Videos

First attempt to dress the distaff cone – the fibre is too high up.

Second attempt – the right placement of the fibre on the cone.

Wool

Hand-spinning combed wool using a hand-held short distaff and a drop spindle.

Hand spinning with a hand-held distaff

I was so keen on trying the suspended spinning with the distaff, that I didn’t get a photo of spinning with the wool that we started with from class. Instead, I got a little photo once I got home, and got spinning with it a little more! This is the hand-held distaff, and combed, not carded wool.

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