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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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:
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!)
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.