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.

How to Work Reverse Single Crochet (Crab Stitch)

Completed reverse single crochet/crab stitch

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.

Direction of normal crochet for right-handers
Right-handed crocheters usually work in this direction.

If you are left-handed, you normally crochet from the left to the right.

Direction of normal crochet for left-handers
Left-handed crocheters usually work in this direction.

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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

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.

Reverse single crochet: Insert hook into first stitch; right-handed
Right-handed
Reverse single crochet: Insert hook into first stitch; left-handed
Left-handed

Yarn over and pull up a loop. Remember to keep the hook pointing to the left or right as described above.

Reverse single crochet: Yarn over and pull up a loop; right-handed
Right-handed
Reverse single crochet: Yarn over and pull up a loop; left-handed
Left-handed

Now yarn over and pull through both loops on the hook to complete the first single crochet.

Reverse single crochet: Yarn over and pull through two loops; right-handed
Right-handed
Reverse single crochet: Yarn over and pull through two loops; left-handed
Left-handed

Holding the loop on the hook, insert the hook into the next stitch and complete a single crochet.

Reverse single crochet: Insert hook into next stitch and complete the next single crochet; right-handed
Right-handed
Reverse single crochet: Insert hook into next stitch and complete the next single crochet; left-handed
Left-handed

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!

Completed reverse single crochet/crab stitch edging
A completed crab stitch edging

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.

You’ll find edgings that incorporate crab stitch/reverse single crochet in Around the Corner Crochet Borders and Every Which Way Crochet Borders. For more crochet tips and techniques, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

I’ve got more links to crochet resources at Crochet: Basics & Beyond.

The yarn I used in the photos and videos is Red Heart Chic Sheep. The crochet hook is Clover Amour, size 5 mm.

How to Knit Intarsia in Garter Stitch

Garter Stitch Intarsia
Garter Stitch Intarsia Swatch

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.

yarn balls and yarn butterfly
I’m using three colors. The pink is wound into a yarn butterfly.

You can use separate full balls of yarn, or wind your yarn into yarn butterflies or yarn bobbins.

In this sample I used full balls for the blue and the green and a yarn butterfly for the pink. I’m using Marly Bird’s Chic Sheep from Red Heart, and Clover Takumi bamboo knitting needles, size 5 mm.

Intarsia in Stockinette Stitch vs. Garter Stitch

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.

Intarsia in Garter Stitch chart

I’ve made a printable pdf of the chart available to make it easier for you to follow along.

Download the PDF for chart Button

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.

Intarsia in Garter Stitch chart

Cast On and Row 1

Garter Stitch Intarsia Cast on and Row 1
Cast on 10 stitches in each color.

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

Row 2 is a wrong side row, read from left to right. Knit 10 stitches in green.

Garter Stitch Intarsia Row 2, photo 1
Bring old color between needles to the front.

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.

Garter Stitch Intarsia, Row 2, photo 2
Pick up new color from underneath so that the old color crosses over the new color.

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.


Bring new color to the back and knit with new color.

Begin knitting with the new color, and knit to the end of the row.

Row 3

Garter Stitch Intarsia, hold old color to the left
On right side rows, hold old color to the left.

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


Garter Stitch Intarsia Pick up new color from underneath old color.
Pick up new color from underneath old color.

and pick up the new color (green) from underneath the old color. Knit 10 with green.


Row 4

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.

Row 5

Garter Stitch Intarsia Add pink on Row 5
Add pink on Row 5.

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.

Rows 6-24

Work in pattern according to the chart, crossing the yarns when the colors change.

Bind Off and Weaving In Ends

Garter Stitch Intarsia Bind off closeup
Knit the last stitch of the blue with green yarn.

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.



Garter Stitch Intarsia completed bind off
This bind-off method prevents the blue from creeping into the green section.

Knit the next stitch in green (turning the blue stitch into a green stitch). Continue binding off in green.


Garter Stitch Intarsia Weave in ends.
Weave in ends.

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?

Stocking Stuffers for Knitters and Crocheters

Stocking Stuffers for Knitters & Crocheters
Stocking Stuffers for Knitters & Crocheters

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.

Stitch Markers

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.

Scissors

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.

Wondering about scissors in your airplane carry-on? According to the TSA, scissors with blades less than 4″ are allowed. However, razor blade style circular thread cutters are not allowed.



Small Tools & Notions

Besides stitch markers and scissors, there are all kinds of little tools that make a fiber artist’s life easier. Here are some suggestions.

Hint: Check before buying tape measures. They either have WAY too many already, or not quite enough.


Note Cards & Paper

We can’t play with yarn ALL the time! Sometimes we have to write old-fashioned notes, on paper.

A Google search will lead you to lots of knitting and crochet-themed paper products. Here are some of my favorites.

Things to Drink From

It’s important for crafters to stay hydrated. Whether that’s water, soda, or wine, there are plenty of options for yarn-related beverage containers.

Once you open your eyes to the possibilities, there are lots of stocking stuffers for knitters and crocheters.

Want ideas for larger gifts? Read 12 Gifts for Knitters and Crocheters, and Sheep-Themed Gift Roundup.

If you find something I’ve missed, please share your ideas in the comments below.

How to Wind a Yarn Butterfly

How to Wind a Yarn Butterfly

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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

How to wind a yarn butterfly Step 1: Hold yarn tail under thumb.
  1. Hold the yarn tail under your thumb and out of the way.

Begin wrapping in figure-8.

2. Begin wrapping the yarn around your fingers in a figure-8 pattern.


Keep strands parallel.

3. As you wrap, keep the strands parallel to each other. Don’t let them cross over each other.


How to wind a yarn butterfly Step 4: Pinch the yarn bundle together at the center.

4. When you have wrapped enough, pinch the yarn bundle together at the center point, and slide it off your fingers.


Wrap the tail around the bundle

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.


Tuck end under center wraps.

6. Tuck the end under the center wraps. A crochet hook is handy to use for this task.


Step 7: Use the free end of the yarn to work with. It should pull neatly out of the butterfly.

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.


The yarn I used for the demonstration is Chic Sheep by Marly Bird. Looking for more yarny information? Check out How to Wind Yarn with a Yarn Swift and Yarn Winder and How to Block Knitting and Crochet.

Now that you know how to wind a yarn butterfly, what will you make with your yarn butterflies? Leave a comment below.

12 Gifts for Knitters & Crocheters

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!

Read How to Wind Yarn with a Yarn Swift and Ball Winder for more information.

#2 Yarn Swift

Yarn swifts work arm-in-arm (see what I did there?) to make holding skeins a snap.

#3 Blocking Mats, Pins & Wires

No one loves to spend the time blocking projects, but it’s an important step to finishing things off professionally. Make that job easier with the right tools!

Read How to Block Knitting and Crochet.

#4 Steamer

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!

Read Navigating Knit Stitches with Stitch Maps and my knitCompanion review.

#9 Sheep-Related Items

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!

Check out my sheep-themed gift roundup from a couple of years ago for more ideas.

#10 Books

There’s a book or five on every crafter’s Wish List: books about techniques, books full of stitch patterns (called stitch dictionaries), books full of projects. Check out these popular favorites.

For more book recommendations, check out Knit: Basics & Beyond, Crochet: Basics & Beyond, and Knit & Crochet Design Resources.

#11 Yarn Storage

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.