Thursday, January 7, 2010

St. Distaff Day

Today, January 7, is St. Distaff Day, not really a holiday since it was the day young spinners went back to work after the Christmas break which lasted from Christmas to the Feast of the Epiphany. In modern times it has become a holiday to celebrate spinning which is now more of a relaxing hobby than a chore.

Back in the 1970s when I first started spinning, I read an article in Spin-Off magazine about a group of spinners in Texas that held an annual St. Distaff Day Spin-In and I thought how much fun that would be but I didn’t know enough spinners to organize such an event. Then came the internet, with a few emails to the appropriate lists and I finally had company for spinning on the “rock” which is the other name for the day. I look forward to the event not just for the celebration of spinning but also as it is a chance to catch up with everyone. It’s also an event that runs itself, the Westford Museum does the advertising, docents help with the visitors and all the spinners pitch in as needed. All in all a great event.

I found some interesting superstitions related to the season, all regarding flax spinning which should remind us how important the production of linen was in times past.

In Lower Austria St. Lucia's Eve, December 12, is a time when special danger from witchcraft. A procession is made through each house to cense every room. On this evening, too, girls are afraid to spin lest in the morning they should find their distaffs twisted, the threads broken, and the yarn in confusion. In my house a twisted distaff, broken threads and tangled yarn are a result of feline mischief. I find this can also happen at a spinning demo when the public puts their grubby hands where they shouldn’t be…

In England no spinning might be done during the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was said elsewhere that if any flax were left on the distaff, the Devil would come and cut it as a punishment for lazy girls who had left unspun flax on their distaff. In other countries flax left on the distaff during this season would bring the spinner bad luck. I hope I got all the flax off my distaff before I put it away from it’s last use. I don’t need any bad luck this year.

Here’s wishing everyone a year of happy spinning, the finding of new and fun fibers for their stash and maybe a bit of stash reduction and most of all the good fellowship of many spin-ins!

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