Saturday, December 29, 2012

Let the celebration continue with St. Distaff's Day

If you are not familiar with  Roc Day or St. Distaff's Day here is a good description  

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St. Distaff’s Day

In pre-industrial EUROPE many of the agricultural and household chores that marked the turning of the seasons attached themselves to saints’ days. All across Europe, for example, people slaughtered animals and celebrated the harvest on St. Martin’s Day (seeMARTINMAS). In ENGLAND folk tradition carried this tendency one step further, inventing St. Distaff’s Day to mark women’s return to work after the Christmas holiday.
St. Distaff’s Day fell on January 7, the day after Epiphany. On this day folk tradition advised women to return to the daily chores they had put aside during the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. Before the invention of factory-made cloth, the task of spinning constituted perhaps the most representative of all female chores. Women of all ages, ranks, and incomes spun thread. Thus, English folk tradition commemorated women’s return to work on the day after Epiphany by inventing a joke holiday called St. Distaff’s Day. There never was a saint named Distaff. The word “distaff” refers to one of the principal tools women used in spinning, a rod upon which flax or wool was tied and out of which thread was pulled. This tool was also known as a “rock,” hence the day was also known as “Rock Day.”
Although English custom encouraged women to return to work, men remained at liberty until PLOUGH MONDAY. This inequality became the subject of many Distaff Day customs, which encouraged a playful battle of the sexes rather than an earnest return to work. Robert Herrick’s (1591-1674) poem, “St. Distaff’s Day; or, the Morrow After Twelfth Day” records some of these practices:

Partly worke and partly play
Ye must on S. Distaffs day:
From the Plough soone free your teame;
Then come home and fother them.
If the Maides a spinning goe,
Burne the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-haire.
Bring in pailes of water then,
Let the Maides bewash the men.
Give S. Distaffe all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good-night.
And next morrow, every one
To his own vocation [Chambers, 1990,1: 68].

Herrick shows that as women returned to their spinning, custom encouraged men to tease the women by setting fire to their flax or wool. This act in turn allowed women the pleasure of dousing the men with buckets of water. If Herrick’s account is accurate, it would seem that very little work was actually accomplished on St. Distaff’s Day (see also ST. KNUT’S DAY).
Times sure have changed.  I am taking vacation from my work to spend it doing what was once a primary chore - spinning.  I will celebrate St. Distaff's Day by spinning on my new Kromski Minstrel.  That chore is my passion.

How will you celebrate St. Distaff's Day?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions about Chiengora

Cheingora is yarn spun from dog hair.  
It has a halo similar to angora yarn. 


What breed of dogs have good fur for spinning?        
  • Any breed with brushings that are soft and about an inch long.  Cut hair tends to be prickly.

How do I collect the fur?
  •         Collect the fur by brushing or combing your dog. You may want the soft undercoat of your dog's fur, rather than the stiffer outer coat.  This outer coat can be spun but will affect the texture of the yarn.
  •  Washing your dog before you brush may encourage the fur to shed and also makes for cleaner and less smelly fur.
  • Throw away any really dirty or short bits of fur.
  • Don't pack it too tightly in your storage container (bag or box).

How much fur do I need?
  •  A sandwich bag of fur weighs approximately 1 oz.
  • A gallon zip lock bag of fur weighs approximately 3 oz.
  • A plastic grocery bag of fur weighs approximately 7 oz.
  • The finished weight of the yarn is less than the weight of the fur.  This is due to some fur that flys away during the spinning process and the dirt that is washed out.

How much yarn for mittens, hats or scarves?
  • Your pattern will give you the requirements for how much yarn is needed.  The yarn I spin from dog fur is usually a 2-ply sport weight yarn.

Does yarn spun from dog fur smell?
  • No, even though the fur can be smelly. The yarn is washed in herbal pet shampoo as part of the spinning process. 

 How do I care for my finished item made of dog yarn?
  • Hand wash in warm water using shampoo.  Rinse in the same temperature.  Do not agitate or change water temperature.  Gently squeeze the item to remove the water.  Do not ring it. This causes felting.  Roll the item up in a towel to absorb the extra water and then dry flat.  Hanging the item can cause it to stretch and distort its shape.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Baby Season

It is always baby season...Do you need a gift for a special newborn?  I have handknit baby booties and hats for sale.

machine washable booties and hats

these booties are made of angora/wool or baby alpaca
extra soft (recommended handwash)
booties $25
with hat $35 
hat $20

If you would like to purchase something pictured or are interested in me making a set for you, contact me via, tweet me  @keepsakefiber or leave a comment on the blog. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

From dog hair brushings...

It all started with a shipment of Chow Chow fur . 

The colors were blended by lightly hand carding  the dog fur into little batts.

Single ply yarn was spun on a Reeves 24" Saxony wheel.
and then plied using a Louet S15.
single ply

2 ply
The following post shows what was knit from this 2ply Chow Chow yarn.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

That's from dog?

Yep,  these chow chows contributed 

to the yarn I spun for Sharleen Bricker to knit these lovely afghans.