Thursday, January 18, 2018

St Distaff Day: A Celebration of Spinning

St. Distaff Day

Partly work and partly play
You must on St. 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 maiden-hair; 
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men. 
Give St. Distaff all the right:
Then bid Christmas sport good-night, 
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation. 
Robert Herrick (, 1/7/12)

What pray tell is St. Distaff Day?

St. Distaff Day is an ancient holiday, observed on January 7, after of the work of Christmas was over. After celebrating, they returned to their normal chores of daily living. The women tended the home and the spinning; the men tended the land and the plows. The name Distaff comes from the tool used in spinning fiber into thread and was a symbol of female industry.
The distaff stores the thread spun with the spindle.

Wheel from Wales, Note the distaff.
Karen's Welsh wheel has two flyers
The Spinners from the Craft Guild of Iowa City gather together to rejoice, "We Are Spinners."  Unlike in ancient days, this is not labor per se, but a labor of love. Our celebration this year was an equipment rodeo, shared repast with that tasty dessert ending. Check out these example of equipment. It was a simple sharing of good times at the wheel or the spindle. 
Grace using the spindle cradle. 
And a merry time was had by all. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Quilters' Restoring the Past, Memories Embeded in the Stitching.

Quilt #1
One of our quilters while looking through her mother's things, trying to decide what to throw and what to keep, what to recycle and what to treasure, came upon three vinage quilt tops her mother and grandmother had pieced. Lois could identify some of fabrics; it was like a walk down memory lane through the eyes of her mother and grandmother. The quilt tops had been pieced by hand, had considerable dust, wear and tear, and had not been made into quilts. Was this worth salvaging? Was it worth the cost and effort? Were the memories intertwined in the quilt top important enough to make quilts from the piecings. And even it it was worthy of restoration, how do you salvage history in cloth?
Quilt #2
One of our guild members, Katherine stepped up with ideas and knew a little about restoration. She took the tops home and with careful attention to the age and condition of the fabric, handwashed and throughly cleaned the tops. She examined them for worn or tattered spots as well as stitching in need of repair and set out to do those things. Next became the decisions. Hand-quilting vs machine: hand quilting was chosen in that the age of these fabrics could be as old as 75-100 years and possibly too fragile for machine quilting. Batting-wool, cotton, poly; a cotton/polyester blend was chosed for its ease in hand-quilting. Backing was it to be simple, cotton, or what?? A plain cotton fabric was chosen to complement the simplicity of the top. Next was the decision what type of stitching should be used.In the ditch, shadow, or design. Maybe the Amish quilters will know.  The decisions made, off it went to be hand quilted in our local Amish community. This group of women have a reputation for excellent hand quilting.
Quilt #1 Border Hand Quilting
Quilt #2 hand quilting

As you can see the first two were completed to given to the sons of our quilter,  to be passed on to future generations. It's just a quilt. No, not really, it's a quilt of love,  passed down from the mother to her daughter, to her daughter and now to the son. Each adding their own hand, their own moments of caring, of memories, of family. What a treasured gift these quilts are! What stories they will tell.

How can we restore old quilts? One resource I found which may help is a book entitled Quilt Restoration: A Practical Guide by Camille Caplhond Cognac. Another is to contact your location quilt guild for individuals who might know about achival quilts. Personally, passing on the memories of one life to another is always worth the work. Beautiful Job, Lois and Katherine.