Dressing your distaff

Still under construction here! Pictures will follow.

Dressing your distaff is attaching your fibre to it in preparation for spinning. There are more ways to dress a distaff than there are cultures that use them (and there’s plenty of those!) so I’ll show you how I do it. My methods work and look like the distaffs in 15th century images. If something different works for you then that’s fantastic too!

Dressing a distaff with wool is easy. If I’ve combed my own woll then I tend to comb it twice the length I want my bundle of fibre on my distaff to be. If you’re using a long bit of roving then you could tear it into lengths. Take what you’re using to tie your fibre on with (I use a ribbon) and tie it around the middle of your wool.

Centre your wool over the top of your distaff and fold it down over each side.

Take your ribbon and secure your fibre to the distaff by criss crossing over the wool and tying it.

Now it’s ready to spin!


Dressing a distaff with flax stricks is more of a process. First step is to undo your strick and have a lok at the flax. Some flax stricks are wonderful quality and ready to spin. Others still contain fibre matter that needs to be removed. Flax processing tools can be expensive or hard to procure. I’ve tidied up flax with a metal dog comb with fair success. Hold the flax strick firmly by one end and the dog comb with the tines pointing upwards. ‘Whip’ the comb with the free end of the flax strick then pull it through. The free end of the flax strick should start to feel softer. When you’re happy with it you can take hold of that end and repeat the procedure.

Next take a tie (a sturdy ribbon or length of twill tape works well) and tie the middle of the tie to one end of the flax. Secure this end of the flax in some way. Some like to tie the ties around their waist and work on a cushion on their lap, others will kneel on the end and work on the floor. Taking small bunches at a time fan your strick out into a fine mesh. You want your layers of flax fibres to criss cross over each other but you don’t want any clumps of strands.

When you are done you no longer need to hold the tied end of the stricks secure.

Take your cone and align the pointy end at the tied end of the stricks and roll your flax onto the cone. Once it’s all on criss-cross your ribbons down and tie.

You can see pictures of this (and other methods) here.

One thought on “Dressing your distaff

  1. Pingback: How to spin 15th Century Style | Cathelina di Alessandri

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