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:
Reverse single crochet, also known as crab stitch, creates a decorative cord-like effect. But if you’ve never done it, it can be tricky to understand exactly what the instructions are asking you to do.
The most important thing to understand is that you are going to be working in the opposite direction from ordinary crochet. If you are right-handed, you normally crochet from the right to the left.
If you are left-handed, you normally crochet from the left to the right.
But in reverse single crochet, you are going the other way!
Follow the instructions below, referring to the right-handed or left-handed images to for additional help. I’ve also included a helpful video which you’ll find at the bottom of the post.
At the end of the last row, chain 1, but do not turn the work.
As you crochet this row, keep your hook headed in the same direction that you have been working. (Pointed to the left for right-handers and to the right for left-handers.)
Keep your index finger on the stitch on the hook so that it doesn’t jump off the hook. Insert the hook into the first stitch.
Yarn over and pull up a loop. Remember to keep the hook pointing to the left or right as described above.
Now yarn over and pull through both loops on the hook to complete the first single crochet.
Holding the loop on the hook, insert the hook into the next stitch and complete a single crochet.
Continue working all the way across the row. Remember to keep your hook pointing to the left if it’s in your right hand, or to the right if it’s in your left hand. Use your index finger to keep the loops on the hook when they want to jump off.
And relax! Breathe! You’ve got this!
Watch Crab Stitch in Action
The following may contain affiliate links. If you buy something when you use one of those links, I may get a small income, but it won’t cost you anything extra.
Intarsia knitting can be a fun color knitting technique! The trick is in understanding how to prevent holes at the color changes. While a lot of intarsia projects are knitted in stockinette stitch, it’s easy to do in garter stitch if you know how.
Let’s work through this simple intarsia sample together, and I’ll show you how wonderful it can be to knit intarsia in garter stitch. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a video.
This post may contain affiliate links which may provide a small income to me if you buy something, but don’t cost you anything.
What is Intarsia Knitting?
Intarsia is a color knitting technique that uses one yarn color at a time to create blocks of color. You work across stitches in one color, then drop the old color and pick up the new color to begin working the next stitches.
The yarns are twisted around each other at the color change to prevent holes.
Compare this to stranded knitting techniques where you hold multiple colors across a row, or slip stitch techniques which use just one yarn and just one color across the entire row.
If you’ve never done intarsia before, it can seem intimidating. Just remember that you are only holding one strand of yarn at a time, so how hard can it really be?
There’s a simple rule for remembering how to twist the yarns at the color change:
Hold the old color to the left
Pick up the new color from underneath (and to the right of) the old color
Begin working with the new color.
The trick is to cross the yarns on the wrong side at each color change to prevent a hole. In stockinette stitch this becomes intuitive, because the yarn is just where it needs to be, at the front or back of the knitting, as you come to it. In garter stitch, however, when you are knitting wrong side rows, you have to bring the yarn forward between the needles to allow that yarn crossing to happen on the wrong side.
Confused? Me too. I’d rather show you.
Reading a Chart
Garter stitch is usually worked from a chart. While there are different ways of presenting the information for a garter stitch chart, we’ll be working from this one.
I’ve made a printable pdf of the chart available to make it easier for you to follow along.
This chart is read in the ordinary way, with each rectangle representing a stitch. Right side (odd-numbered) rows are worked from right to left and wrong side (even-numbered) rows are worked from left to right. Note that all the rows are knit.
Cast On and Row 1
You’ll read the chart beginning with Row 1, a right side row. If you use a long-tail cast on, you can count the cast on as Row 1. This is what I like to do when working garter stitch.
Using a long-tail cast on, cast on 10 stitches in blue, then 10 stitches in green. At this point, the cast ons will not be connected to each other.
Row 2 is a wrong side row, read from left to right. Knit 10 stitches in green.
Now that you’ve finished with the green for this row, it’s time to change to blue, but you need to twist the yarns to prevent a hole. This twist needs to happen on the wrong side. Since this is a wrong side row, that means that the twist needs to happen on the side closest to you.
Bring the old color (green) to the front between the needles. Hold it to the left. Pick up the new color (blue) from underneath the old color and bring it between the needles to the back.
Begin knitting with the new color, and knit to the end of the row.
This is a right side row, and the color change will happen on the back (wrong side). Knit 10 with blue, then hold the old color (blue) to the left
and pick up the new color (green) from underneath the old color. Knit 10 with green.
Once more on a wrong side row, for good measure: Knit 10 blue, bring yarn forward between the needles. Hold the blue to the left. Pick up the green from underneath the blue and bring the green to the back. Knit 10 with green.
It’s time to add a third color! Knit 9 stitches in blue. Leaving a long tail, knit 2 stitches in pink. Hold the pink to the left and pick up the green from underneath, knit 9 stitches in green.
Work in pattern according to the chart, crossing the yarns when the colors change.
Bind Off and Weaving In Ends
Bind off on a right side row, using the following trick to make sure you maintain a clean color transition. Beginning with blue, bind off until there is 1 blue stitch on your right needle and 1 blue stitch on your left needle.
Knit the next stitch in green (turning the blue stitch into a green stitch). Continue binding off in green.
Use the remaining pink tails to close up the holes at the beginning and end of the diamond, then weave in those ends on the wrong side of the pink section. Weave in remaining ends.
What are you going to knit next? Will you give garter stitch intarsia a try?
Stuff a stocking with tools and notions for a fiber artist in your life. They’ll love you for it, and you may even get a handmade gift in return! Here are some suggestions for stocking stuffers for knitters and crocheters.
Scroll over the image for more information, or click the links to learn more.
This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to me if you buy something, but won’t cost you anything extra.
Every crocheter and knitter uses stitch markers, and if they don’t, they should! And markers have a way of getting lost, so we always need more.
There are several different styles of marker. Even if the gift recipient has a current favorite, it’s always a good idea to try new products. Try them all!
Hint: Crocheters need markers that open. Look for the words “locking”, “split ring”, or “opening” in the title to make sure you are getting the right kind.
A good pair of scissors is always appreciated. I’m always on the lookout for tiny scissors that pack easily but are sharp enough to cut well.
Sometimes you need just a small amount of yarn for a project, and it would be uncomfortable to use a full ball of yarn. That’s when you need a yarn butterfly! Here’s how to wind a yarn butterfly. It’s quick and easy.
A yarn butterfly is simply a “re-packaging” of yarn into a small butterfly-shaped bundle. If prepared right, the bundle stays wrapped and secured, making it possible to use the working end of the yarn for your project while the rest of the yarn waits patiently.
Yarn butterflies are usually used for the intarsia method (knitting or crocheting), but they can be used any time.
It can be easier to use a butterfly than a yarn bobbin. In my experience, plastic yarn bobbins get tangled more than butterflies. Plus, I can never find enough bobbins when I’m ready to start a complex intarsia project.
OK, I didn’t say that very well in words. It’s really quite easy to do, so let’s try some pictures. Follow these step-by-step instructions or watch the video at the bottom of the post.
Hold the yarn tail under your thumb and out of the way.
2. Begin wrapping the yarn around your fingers in a figure-8 pattern.
3. As you wrap, keep the strands parallel to each other. Don’t let them cross over each other.
4. When you have wrapped enough, pinch the yarn bundle together at the center point, and slide it off your fingers.
5. Leaving at least 12″ [30 cm], cut the working yarn. Wrap this end around the center of the bundle. Wrap tightly, but not too tightly.
6. Tuck the end under the center wraps. A crochet hook is handy to use for this task.
7. When you have finished, use the working end (the end that was under your thumb). It should pull out neatly as you need it, leaving the rest of the yarn still wrapped up in its butterfly shape.
Looking for a non-yarn gift for your favorite knitter or crocheter? Find gifts your favorite crafter will love in this round-up of fiberarts-related holiday gifts. If you are the crafter, bookmark this page and forward it to your family and friends as a not-so-subtle hint.
This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to me if you buy something, but won’t cost you anything extra.If you can’t link to the item you want, leave a comment and I’ll give it to you directly; I am having trouble with some external links, but I’m working on it!
#1 Ball Winder
A yarn winder is a must-have for anybody who uses a lot of yarn in hanks. It winds the yarn into nice, center-pull cakes. No more balls rolling around on the floor picking up cat hair!
As long as you are getting the blocking wires, pins and mats, why not upgrade to a garment steamer? Save the iron for clothes. A garment steamer puts out a lot more steam.
#5 Needles and/or Hooks
It is not possible to have too many crochet hooks or knitting needles. The ones you need are often tied up with a work in progress, or hiding somewhere under a sofa cushion or in a project bag. A single luxury tool, or a whole new set of needles or hooks is always welcome.
The following are just a few options. There are as many styles and types of needles and hooks as there are yarn crafters. If you are buying for someone else, check first to see what their preferences are. The cheapest tools are often not the best quality. Crafters can have strong opinions about their tools!
#6 Yarn Bowl
Yarn bowls can be either life-savers or simply a nice extra hand, depending on the crafter. Find them made by local artisans at your local craft fairs, or check out the following ones available online.
#7 Project Bag
Crafters can never have too many bags! From tiny tool bags to project bags to giant bags that hold everything you need for a two-week crafting vacation, you can’t beat a great bag.
[Note to family reading this post: The madder root sheep mini-trundle bag is my go-to sock project bag, but I would 100% love any of their other bags.]
#8 Clubs, Subscriptions, and Apps
There are subscriptions to everything these days. Buy a yarn box/kit subscription or a software services subscription. Your recipient will thank you all year long!
This is probably my favorite category, because there are so many cute sheep things out there. And you don’t have to stick to sheep! Alpacas and Llamas are having their moment in the merchandising sun right now!
Where is all that stash being stored? If it’s in random boxes and bags, stuffed under beds and in drawers, maybe it’s time to organize. Whether the yarn goes into plastic tubs or fancy shelving units, having it organized will bring joy and perhaps allow you to know what you have.
#12 LYS Gift Certificate
If you’re still not sure about what to get, buy a gift certificate from your local yarn shop (LYS). Local yarn shops are the heart and soul of our yarn world, and we want to support them with our love and money, so they will continue to be there for us. And if you don’t have a LYS, a gift certificate from an online retailer like WEBS or Jimmy Beans will work, too!
Have I missed anything? If you have ideas for other gifts for knitters and crocheters, please share them in the comments.
Be on the lookout for Stocking Stuffers for Knitters and Crocheters, coming soon to this blog.