St. Distaff’s Day

Pietro_Antonio_Rotari, Young Girl with Distaff

Distaff Day, or St. Distaff’s Day, occurs on January 7. The twelve days of Christmas are over, and it’s time to get back to work, for real.

Distaff Day is a way to recognize and celebrate women’s work in the home. Spinning was hugely important throughout history, and in European traditions it became synonymous with women’s work.

Pietro Antonio Rotari-Young Girl with Distaff

Today, some spinners celebrate January 7 as a kind of event, getting together for spin-ins and other fun.

Even if you’re not a spinner, I think it’s good to stop and think about all that unrecognized work that women have done to keep generations of people clothed. If you work with any kind of fiber to create fabric, you are doing the same thing. And we don’t need to be gender-specific here. Let’s recognize and celebrate all fiber crafts done by everyone!

What is a Distaff?

A distaff is a tool used to hold unspun fibers. The fiber is loosely wrapped around the distaff. The distaff can be held under the arm when drop spinning, or attached to a spinning wheel.

Man and Woman with Distaff
From 1941. Notice the woman and walking and spinning. [FOTO:FORTEPAN / Schwertner Ágnes, Woman, man, double portrait, street view, moustache, distaff, weaving, hat, village Fortepan 73437, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Woman spinning from distaff
1907 German postcard, spinning flax

There are different styles, but a basic distaff is simply a smooth stick with a finial of some sort. Russian-style distaffs look more like boards, and can be highly decorative.

collection of Russian distaffs
Russian Distaffs [shakko, Russian distaffs 01 (Ferapontov), CC BY-SA 3.0]

Who was St. Distaff?

Nobody. There wasn’t an saint, or even a person. (My opionion? The name probably came about because it is the “13th day of Christmas” and somebody back in history was trying to be clever.)

The 17th Century poet Robert Herrick wrote about shenanigans that happened on “S. Distaff Day”.

Saint Distaff’s Day, or The Morrow After Twelfth Day

Partly work and partly play
Ye must on S. Distaff’s day:
From the plough soon free your team,
Then come home and fodder them.
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow;
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maidenhair.
Bring in pails of water, then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give S. Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good-night;
And next morrow everyone
To his own vocation.

If you’d like to read a bit more about the history of St. Distaff’s Day, and spinning in general, check out these links:

Saint Distaff’s Day
Chambers Book of Days

Back to Work

To celebrate St. Distaff’s Day, I suggest you pick up your favorite fiber tools, gather some fiber (already spun yarn counts!) and get back to work.

Announcing the Premiere of Stitch Makers Live Virtual Crochet Conference!

It’s been hard to keep quiet about this one, but now I can tell you about it!

What is Stitch Makers Live?

This post contains affiliate links, which is how I make money from teaching. Please buy your tickets from this site.

Stitch Makers Live is a 3-day virtual event for crocheters. It’s all the fun of a crochet conference from the comfort of your home!

Join 11 crochet bloggers and teachers LIVE on Facebook throughout the event. We’ll be hanging out with you, teaching and answering questions.

The LIVE portion runs Thursday, September 19 through Saturday September 21, 2019.

What Do I Get?

  • 15+ LIVE virtual classes with industry experts
  • Exclusive bonus crochet pattern with each class (15+ patterns)
  • Discussion and socializing with other attendees and teachers
  • A virtual party at the end of the event
  • Full access to the recordings for one full year

And you’re invited!

Early Bird Tickets are only $55 now through Monday, September 2.

After Labor Day ticket prices will increase to $80, so buy now to lock in the lower price.

Tell Me More

Our experts are passionate about sharing their love of crochet with others. Whether your goal is to improve your skills in hat making, gather the bravery to begin your first sweater, or dive into short rows, our goal is to help you. We have handpicked these teachers and designers to bring you the best instructors on a variety of crochet topics.

Getting to an in-person conference can be a barrier for some crocheters. You want to improve your skills and meet new people, but work, family life and budget constraints can make that impossible. Stitch Makers Live is the affordable alternative, because you’re only paying for the classes, not for flights, hotel rooms, restaurant food, and so on.

Stitch Makers Live is the only crochet-only online conference, and we’d love you to be part of the excitement.

How Does Stitch Makers Live Work?

When you buy a ticket to Stitch Makers Live you’ll get access to a private Facebook group that is only open to Stitch Makers Live participants and teachers.

The event runs September 19-21. The live video classes and interaction with the teachers will take place on the private Facebook group. Instructors will be teaching and interacting with you from 11:00 am until 8:00 pm Eastern each of those days.

And we’ll be having a virtual party from 7:30 pm until 9:00 pm Eastern on Saturday night, September 21!

Edie, What Will You Be Doing?

I’ll be teaching techniques from The Village Hat pattern. You’ll learn my tips for great-looking crocheted motifs and join-as-you-go techniques. The Village Hat pattern includes both charted and text instructions, and it’s free with your Stitch Makers Live attendance.


Want to buy a yarn pack so you can make the hat using the same yarn I did? You can! It’s available now from Wonderland Yarns.

Buy the Yarn Button

Other teachers and topics include:

Teacher collage
Logo collage
  • Tamara Kelly of Moogly: Plan Your Projects Perfectly with Weight and Gauge Basics and Fabulous Crochet Sweaters are Simple with Finishing Techniques
  • Mary Beth Temple of Hooked for Life Publishing: Hop on the Tunisian Trend with Basics from a Professional Teacher and Level Up Your Projects with Surface Crochet Techniques
  • Alexis Middleton of Persia Lou: Build Better Crochet Baskets with Rope or Cord and this Crafty Star
  • Marie Segares of Underground Crafter: Conquer Amigurumi with Tips and Tricks for All Those Bits and Get Slouch Hat Savvy with Crochet Tips from an Urban Designer
  • Andee Graves of Mamas 2 Hands: Master the Tricks to Create Easy Perfect Crochet Spirals
  • Jessie Rayot of Jessie at Home: Produce Perfect Granny Squares Every Time with these Clever Tips
  • Pia Thadani of Stitches n Scraps: Stretch Your Crochet Skills with Elastic Waistbands for Wearables
  • Linda Dean of Linda Dean Crochet: Fall in Love with Crochet Short Rows for Wonderful Shaping
  • Julie Desjardins of Accrochet: Success with Crochet Socks Can Be Yours – Start with the Basics
  • Courtney Whitehead of Creations by Courtney: Handy Help for Hat Makers – Both Top Down and Bottom Up

Join Stitch Makers Live

Have I convinced you about how excited I am to be a part of this brand-new venture? After all, I get to share my love of crochet from the comfort of my home, too!

Won’t you please join us? I can’t wait to see you there!

Buy Tickets Now button

Learning On Site with the Craft Yarn Council

Onsite Certified Instructors Program graphic

You’ve heard about the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program, and you may have even signed up for their correspondence course. But did you know that they have an on-site program, as well?

With the on-site program, you can cover both Knit Levels 1 and 2 or Crochet Levels 1 and 2 in one weekend. There’s homework to do, of course, but there are additional benefits to taking the course in person.

Learn from Others

You get to spend a couple of days with both a Master Teacher and a roomful of other experienced knitters or crocheters. There is plenty of opportunity to learn from each other and ask questions in real time.

Immerse Yourself

Get away from the hustle and bustle of your home life, and concentrate on your craft for two days. What could be better?

Discuss Real-Life Situations

What really happens in a class, in real life? We’ll discuss ways to deal with challenges you’ll face as a teacher. Everyone will have a chance to speak up and offer suggestions of what has worked for them in similar situations.

Learn the Business of Teaching

Teaching is not all about sitting down and sharing your knowledge with someone. You have to consider how to market your classes and how to get paid. Learn how to be a professional from professionals.

Make New Friends

You’ll begin the course with a bunch of strangers, but you’ll leave with a group of new friends. These new friends will become a new virtual support group. With them, you can share your joys and frustrations as you take your new teaching skills out into the world.

Leave Energized

You’ll be tired after spending hours thinking and learning. But you’ll also be energized and excited to use your new knowledge.

Where Do I Sign Up?

UPDATE as of 5/29/19: Unfortunately, we didn’t receive enough sign-ups for the knitting portion of the onsite course, so that portion has had to be cancelled. I’m very disappointed! Continue to watch the Craft Yarn Council website for announcements of upcoming onsite classes.

The next on-site class for crochet is being offered July 14-15, 2019, in Manchester, New Hampshire. It takes place immediately following the Crochet Guild of America’s Chain Link Conference. I’ll be teaching the knitting program. Barbara Van Elsen will be teaching the crochet program, and we’ll probably be teaming up to team teach some sections together.

If you can’t make it to the on-site class in July, but you are interested in learning more about teaching in your community, consider signing up for the Craft Yarn Council’s (CYC) Certified Instructors Program (CIP) correspondence course. I serve as one of the “Master Teachers” for that program, so you might be assigned to me!

Learn More button

 

Leisure Arts Takeover

On Monday, March 25, and Tuesday, March 26, 2019, I’m taking over the Leisure Arts, Inc. Instagram and Facebook pages. Visit me there, and check here for more information on some of the things I’ll be sharing there.

My most recent books with Leisure Arts are:

Stoneybrook Shawlette

On Instagram Live, I took you on a quick tour of my studio. The knit scarf I was wearing is the Stoneybrook Shawlette. It’s knit in garter stitch, and is perfect for beginners.


Delving into Double-Knitting with Alasdair Post-Quinn

While I’m more of a generalist in that I love to do a bit of this and bit of that technique in my all fiber arts, I’m in awe of crafters who delve very deeply into one aspect of a craft. Last month I had a chance to see the recent work that double-knitting guru Alasdair Post-Quinn has been doing and to talk with him about his work.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to me but do not cost you anything extra.

Alasdair’s designs are both beautiful and mind-boggling. When I heard about a new learning opportunity that Alasdair is offering, I decided you needed to hear from him directly. Here’s an interview:

For those unfamiliar with double knitting, give us a quick explanation of what it is.

Hesperos Scarf from Double or Nothing
Hesperos from Double or Nothing

Alasdair: Double-knitting is a method of knitting a fabric with no “wrong side”. The way I use it involves colorwork motifs that reverse in color on the other layer. There are two separate layers of fabric, worked simultaneously, which are linked together at the color changes (unlike brioche, for example, which is a fully integrated fabric).

This looks difficult. Do I need to be an expert knitter to start double knitting?

Kontinuum Hat from Double or Nothing
Kontinuum from Double or Nothing

Alasdair: Not at all! As with anything, you can start with the basics and build on them as you get more proficient. Basic double-knitting, as I teach it in my intro classes, requires only that you know how to knit and purl. If you’ve done other colorwork before, it may help you follow the chart – but it’s not necessary.

Who does double knitting appeal to?

Sierpinski L5 from Extreme Double-knitting
Sierpinski L5 from Extreme Double-Knitting

Alasdair: I think it appeals to anyone who’s ever looked at the wrong side of a knitted item and wished it was more presentable. It is a double-thick fabric, so it may appeal more to those who live in colder climates (or who have loved ones who do) – but depending on the weight of yarn and how you use it, you can make three-season garments as well.

You have taken double knitting to the “extreme”. Explain what makes your designs unique.

Adenydd Shawl from Extreme Double-knitting
Adenydd from Extreme Double-knitting

Alasdair: Since I started double-knitting in the early 2000s, rather than simply playing with motifs and patterns, I have been striving to find the “limits” to the technique. I have adapted many single-layer techniques to double-knitting (including cables, lace, intarsia, and entrelac, among others). I’ve also developed techniques that are specific to double-knitting. I’ve documented these in my books Extreme Double-knitting and Double or Nothing, and I am continuing to expand on my existing techniques and develop new ones.

What are the benefits of learning this technique in person?

Parallax Scarf Version 3
Parallax Scarf Version 3

Alasdair: In my books, I have done my best to anticipate all kinds of questions (gleaned from thousands of students over more than a decade of teaching the technique) about double-knitting. I try to show the step-by-step instructions as clearly as possible. However, there’s often no substitute for hands-on learning, and being able to get real-time answers to your questions and feedback on your work will help you reach that “A-Ha!” moment even sooner.

Tell us about your special series of workshops coming up soon.

Alasdair: I’m trying something new this year that I’ve never done before. When I go to Stitches or one of the other shows, not to mention smaller workshop weekends at a local yarn shop or retreat, I’m most often running four to six workshops; sometimes one may even be offered twice. To be able to teach all nine of my double-knitting workshops in a single event is an unprecedented opportunity for me as a teacher – and to be able to take any workshop I offer is a huge opportunity for you as a student. That’s what the BuildingBlox Workshop Week, running from April 27 to May 5 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is about.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to double-knit, I’ve got an intro workshop on April 27 and another on May 5 – but between those two dates, I’m available to take you as far into the technique as you’re interested in going. If you already know how to double-knit, I can teach you how to create letters that read correctly on both layers; how to add a third color to the mix; how to use increases, decreases, textures, cables, lace, and more.

The BuildingBlox Workshop Week isn’t a retreat (nothing outside the workshops is planned, and you can take as many or as few as you like), and all the classes run on evenings or weekends to accommodate those with 9-5 jobs, so for those who may be coming in from afar, you’ll have your weekdays free too. You can get more info and sign up at the BuildingBlox page on my website. Thanks!

A Note from Edie

I’ve done double knitting – and even teach an online class about it– but I’d take Alasdair’s workshops in a heartbeat. If I didn’t live so far away and didn’t already have commitments for the last week of April, I’d vacation in Boston during the day and learn from Alasdair in the evening workshops. If you can’t make it to the workshops but want to learn more about double-knitting, start here:

Double or Nothing by Alasdair Post-Quinn
Adventures in Double-Knitting with Alasdair Post-Quinn
Bluprint Class
Double Knitting Workshop with Edie Eckman
Creativebug Class

International Crochet Month Designer Showcase

It’s International Crochet Month! I’m happy to be participating in the International Crochet Month Designer Showcase with Underground Crafter.

What’s it About?

Each day during March, you’ll learn about a different crochet designer who will share a free crochet pattern or a 25% discount on a premium pattern. The Showcase has partnered with some great companies to provide prizes in the form of yarn, hooks, notions, and more.

All of the designers participating in this month’s Designer Showcase are members of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA). CGOA is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to crochet.

What I Love About CGOA

The annual CGOA Chain Link conference is for crocheters of all skill levels, ages and backgrounds. Everyone is welcome!

At this one-of-a-kind show, I get to hang out with the geekiest crocheters I know. Ones willing to talk for an hour about the best way to weave in ends. Ones inventing yet another new and improved way to start a row without a turning-chain gap. Ones who invent new stitches on purpose (or not). Ones who are passionate about improving their skills and improving the skills of others. And ones who crochet just for the love of crochet.

I love to learn, and I love to teach, in such a crochet-rich environment. (And yes, I’ll be teaching at the Chain Link Conference in July 2019.)

Read how another crocheter felt about her first CGOA show.

Save on the Melbourne Shawl

To encourage you to make something special for yourself to wear, I’m offering 25% off my Melbourne Shawl pattern through March 31, 2019 with promo code NatCroMo2019. This generously shaped shawl wraps you in comfort and style, and includes both text and charted instructions. You can wear it with joy year-round! (And if I spy you wearing it at a CGOA conference, you’re in for a special treat!)

CTA Buy the Pattern

More on the International Designers Showcase

March is an awesome time to discover new-to-you crochet designers, learn more about crochet, and to join CGOA. To find out more about participating designers, follow the schedule, and enter to win prizes, visit Underground Crafter.