(Pattern developed by Caroline Hershey. Any similarity to other patterns of the kind are purely accidental and unintended).
Women’s size 9 foot.
8-9” around ankle
15” around calf
16.5″ from floor to back of knee.
Moderate snug stitches with 2 ply ~worsted weight wool. 5.5-6 loops per inch. 600yds will more than cover the pattern and leave some for repairs as they’re needed from wear and tear.
Tightening stitches will make a smaller sock and use up more yarn. Using a less dense stitch likewise will result in a smaller sock and use up less yarn, but also will likely wear out more quickly at the ball and heel.
**Begin for Finnish 2/2 as usual
**Make a chain of 8 loops
**Pick up the second and third to last loops on the chain and work three loops into them as one.
(Picking up the previous once would be too tight and you risk breaking your needle to pull the yarn through. You can tighten the hole in the middle by pulling on the beginning yarn, which you will want to wear in after finishing. )
**Pick up a new and an old lp and work 3 lps as one. Repeat once.
**Pick up a new lp with one old and work one loop. Work one lp into the “new” lp only. Repeat around (~3 rounds) until you have 50 lps.
(May substitute whichever round start you’re comfortable with to give you 50 loops or however many fits comfortably around the ball of your foot)
**Work 8 or 9 rounds or so, increasing in two sets of 4, once in the 6th row and again in the 8th, or until the foot reaches the start of the heel.
**Work 17 loops unattached. It should reach the edge of your heel and just start to curl around.
**Skipping the first 2 loops, work a loop starting at the third loop from the end.
**Work two more loops into the same plus one of the overshot loops together. Work back down the caterpillar until you are two unattached stitches from the foot.
**Pick up two loops plus one old loop and work one loop. Pick up three loops to close the gap at the turn.
**Pick up two new and one old loop and work a loop. Repeat once.
**Work around until 4 loops from the turn.
**Decrease four in a row by working two loops as one four times in a row.
**Work up to the turn of the caterpillar and increase three times around evenly spaced.
**Work down the caterpillar and decrease four times in a row to make the turn.
**Make the next 2 rows in this way, but omitting the increases at the heel edge.
**On the next round, add two increases at the arch of the foot as well as making the decreases for the heel. On the round after, add four increases at the arch as well as the heel decreases. This will help the sock bend comfortably at the arch.
(There will be four total rows of decreases after the original set)
**Work four plain rounds.
**Make two increases at or near the shin on the next round, make the next round plain. Repeat four times or until the large swell of the calf of the leg starts. (If the leg is significantly shorter than that indicated in the pattern, a repeat may be omitted. Try on the sock as repeats are made to assure a good fit).
(These increases really can be placed either at the shin or back, at your discretion, just so long as they’re evenly distributed. The end of this part would be a comfortable cut off for an ankle length sock).
**For the next three rounds, make four increases at the back of the leg, then make two increases on the next round. (Note that if the calf is significantly thinner than the 15″ of the pattern, a set of four increases can be omitted. It is recommended to try on the sock as the increases are made to assure more or less are not required).
**Make rounds enough to reach two or three fingers below the back of the knee.
**On the next two rounds, make four decreases at the back of the leg
**Work two rounds and end behind the knee.
Please be aware that I’m left handed, so if you’re right handed what you will do will look like it mirrors my photos. The pattern, however, should not need any changes to accommodate handedness.
For a larger half, omit one or two repeats of the shin increases and replace with one or two rows of the calf repeats, depending on one’s own comfort.
For a calf 12-14″ around, omit one of the calf increases unless it feels too snug.
Be aware that washing may mean some shrinkage. Hand wash gently and stretch afterwards to assure it will fit well again. If this pattern seems to big at the beginning it can be washed with warmer water will a bit of agitation (but not the washer!) to allow it to shrink a bit to fit more snugly.
Adding a ribbon at the top is a nice touch, especially if the calf is thin. It will help keep the sock up while allowing the sock to stretch as it should. A yards length is sufficient to be able to tie a bow without much trouble. It should be removed for washing.
How one should dress and use the distaff is both a difficult and simple question to answer. There are a variety of ways to hold the distaff, to dress it with fiber, and you will find some of them are more comfortable than others. It is really what works for you that makes one way right and the other wrong, and it may take some experimentation and practice to find that out!
Myself, I find that there are two different and equally useful ways to dress a cage distaff with wool roving. The first is what I call the “fold and tuck” method, and the second is the wrap method. The “fold and tuck” method is created by folding the roving and tucking it in between the reeds in whichever way that will make it stay. The following is a series of pictures to illustrate how I do this. (Please understand that I am left handed, so the right handed way would mirror it).
The “fold and tuck” method is created by folding the roving and tucking it in between the reeds in whichever way that will make it stay. The following is a series of pictures to illustrate how I do this. (Please understand that I am left handed, so the right handed way would mirror it).
The first step is to fold the roving on itself and to tuck the fold behind a reed
The working end is left out where it may be reached.
Second, fold the roving on itself again.
The third step is to tuck the second fold into the reed to the right of the first tuck.
In this way, the roving crosses over the preceding tuck and keeps in place.
The second and third steps are repeated all the way around and up the distaff until you have as much as you wish on it or you run out of roving. I find that about 3 ounces are comfortable and do not result in wrist fatigue (at least, for me) after a day of spinning.
This is the position I find most comfortable for holding the distaff. It leaves the first two fingers and thumb for drafting.
When I draft, I’ll lightly pinch the fiber end between the first two fingers and thumb. For a spinner who is unfamiliar with in the hand spinning, or twiddling, one-handed drafting may take some getting used to. My advice is to take it slowly, keep the twist from moving up between your fingers, and to keep trying!
When the working end has been all spun up, simply pull on it undo the next tuck. If it undoes too much, you can rotate the distaff in your hand to take up the roving until it feels comfortable. When you have worked a third to half the way through your fiber, you may wish to push it down to the handle or re-dress it.
For further help with spinning with a distaff, a helpful video can be found on YouTube entitled “Spinning with a Hand Distaff.”
The second method which I had earlier mentioned as the wrap method, which consists of opened roving around the distaff. First, you will need to determine if you want the fibers to lay parallel or perpendicular to your distaff, which is important for whichever spinning method you wish to employ.
For the woolen method, you may want to start with about a half to a full meter length of roving. Lay it on a table and open it up, spreading the fibers evenly along the length.
You will roll the distaff along this length to wrap it around the cage.
Take a ribbon and tie it at the top and around to the bottom of the cage to keep the wool from unwrapping. This may slip or loosen from time to time, but it is easy enough to retie it.
For the worsted method, take lengths of wool roving that are the length of the hand distaff (including handle) and open them up like you would for the woolen method.
It may be convenient to start with 3 to 4 sections until you become comfortable with the process. Lay them parallel and overlapping, and then lay the hand distaff on it at one end with the wool extending beyond the tip a few centimeters.
Remember that the wool at the top will need to wrap over the cage and still allow you some length to tie with the ribbon.
If the working end extends too far over the handle, you can pull up some on the wool that covers the cage, but you will want at least some wool past the ribbon to draft from.
These are the methods I find most convenient for dressing a hand cage distaff with commercially prepared wool roving. They can used with the style distaff as well, whether large or small. If one prefers to use carded wool batts from a drum carder, the same methods can be used without the need of opening up the fibers as they will already be conveniently arrayed. For a guide to the method I use for wrapping hand-carded batts of wool to a distaff, please see my earlier blog. The same practice can be applied to a cage distaff without much difference.
My relationship with the distaff all started in the quest to spin flax, which I firmly believe can only be rightly done from a long distaff. I began by searching for a person or company who makes spinning supplies for this elusive and arcane item. I discovered that Ashford makes a distaff for one of their models of spinning wheel, and there seemed to be a plethora of antique waist distaffs from eastern Europe, as well as a few cage distaffs, all at outrageous prices. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to spend over a hundred dollars, no matter how pretty the stick is!
Eventually, I discovered a way to make a simple distaff by finding a long branch, stripping it of bark, and attaching a bead near the top. It makes a perfectly serviceable distaff for flax, but it’s not quite the thing I wanted for wool.
Hence, I began my search for the hand distaff, which eventually led me to copy my idea for the long distaff in short form. I didn’t attach a bead, but instead I carved deep notches at various points to catch the cord that would tie down the wool.
As a person in the SCA, this pretty much fit the bill for me. I think most hand distaffs would have been hand carved, because that would have been easier and more readily available at the time. I haven’t researched this yet, but it makes sense to me. If one had the time, inclination and skill, I think that a lathe turned distaff would be preferred. Therefore it follows that, now that I have access to a lathe, I would like a turned distaff!
Of course, this is all easier said than done. One cannot start turning on a lathe and immediately start making perfect pieces. A great deal of skill goes into turning spindles. For starters, technique needs to be learned and practiced and then you need to worry about how to tell if your tools are sharp enough and then how to sharpen and hone them and oh, I’ve spent quite a bit of time on youtube just watching the angle of the chisels and what a difference it can make!
My first distaff was is pretty simple. I only added a couple notches and some design at the top. At 73 grams it feels a bit heavy to me, although some might find it comfortable.
My next one is a great deal more complicated. Not perfect, but a definite improvement. It’s nice and light at 42.2 grams. I prefer to keep them light, as one adds weight with the unspun fiber.
Of course, this is all well and good to make a distaff, but what use is it if you don’t know how to use it? That is the purpose of this post, and below I present a detailed description of my method of dressing a hand distaff with wool for spinning.
I will break this process down into four steps, most of which I’m pretty sure you’re already familiar with:
placement of fiber on the distaff (three methods),
how the fiber is tied down onto the distaff,
how to hold the distaff,
and finally how to draft from the distaff while spinning.
It sounds very complicated, but I hope my instruction and illustration will simplify this process so that you can benefit from the use of the distaff in your spinning.
Placement of the fiber on the distaff
In spinning, there are two basic schools of fiber arrangement: woolen and worsted. You can dress the distaff for both methods of spinning. For worsted spinning, you would arrange the fibers to be parallel to the distaff.
To spin woolen from the distaff, you would simply rotate the fiber to wrap around the distaff in a perpendicular manner like so
If you choose you can also dress a distaff with commercially prepared top. You would want to open up the top and spread out the fibers a bit so you’re not spinning from compacted fibers.
Attaching the fiber to the distaff
Now that the fiber is rolled onto the distaff, you attach it with a cord or ribbon. I prefer to use a ribbon because it is less likely to attach itself to the fiber and become tangled.
First you will start a cow hitch knot, which I have illustrated below.
Next, you slip this knot over top of the distaff. You can loop it over fiber also, as I have done, or you can loop it over the distaff only and then start wrapping the fiber below. You can wrap the distaff clockwise or counter clockwise, it’d doesn’t really matter, but i like to follow the way that the fiber was wrapped onto the distaff.
At the bottom I will wrap the excess ribbon about 2-3 inches above the end of the fiber. This is the fiber you will be drafting from.
Drafting from the distaff
When you’re ready to spin, you will be holding the distaff in your drafting hand, (addendum: the hand you normally use to hold the fiber while spinning), by the ring and pinky fingers. This is why I like a lighter distaff, because you will only be using one third of the strength of your hand to hold it while the thumb and first two fingers will assist in drafting as illustrated:
This method really lends itself to spinning with the supported or medieval style spindle because these spindles can be used one handed. If one uses a spindle that requires the use of a half-hitch knot, this can also be down one handed with a little practice.
After you have spun for a bit, you will notice that the fibers on one side have all been taken up. At this point you would rotate the distaff in your hand so that the other side is facing your fingers. When these have been spun, i would undo the loop you saw keeping the ribbon tied, unwind it to expose more fibers, and retie it. i would do this until i have either spun everything on the distaff or, if i chose, I could untie everything, move the fibers down halfway, and retie everything. Some distaffs are better for this than others, and in one of my pieces I included in the design a convenient place for this.
And there you have it! you may have noted during this process that it seems to be the complete opposite of everything you are used to. For example, most spinners are used to holding fiber under their hand and drafting from the palm. Indeed, the wrist distaff accommodates this spinning method. When using the hand distaff, the fiber is above the hand and you draft from above. It is very easy to get used to, though, and with the added benefit of being able to take this method of spinning wherever I go without having to take off a wrist distaff or messing up my nicely arranged fibers, this has become my preferred method of spinning.
I hope your enjoyed my instructions, and perhaps you’ve found something here that you have found useful or interesting. If there’s anything here that is unclear or confusing, please feel free to leave a comment, or you can reach me directly through my Etsy shop Hershey Fiber Arts.
Our table at Masque de la Fou. My friend, Meg, is behind in. At the far table is another vender selling bobbles and trinkets.
I am, it seems, a capitalist.
Let me tell you, it is great fun!
Above is a picture from the one and only event that I have merchanted. I was convinced by a fellow scadian to teach a class, which brought me great anxiety until I actually got into the room and looked at my students, all three of them. Another thing that stressed me was actually setting up a table of my wares to sell. I had wondered, as there was a fiber guild in the area, if they would find me, test my spindles and find them wanting. I think part of this comes from my experience on Etsy. I had, by this point, sold a few pieces on line. However, I have not gotten reviews of any (excepting an email from a near blind woman. She loved hers).
Let me tell you another thing: always write a review! Sellers need feedback. At least I do. I get nervous without it.
Where was I? Oh yes, merchanting. My fear of rejection was again unfounded. There was a lady who was teaching a class on spindles and she, I think, was happy to see someone attempting to make period spindles out of documentable materials. In fact, she handed me a small bag of shale to play with after I mentioned my intention to make a few shale whorls. She had just collected them on a walk. What synchronicity! It was also my luck to meet a new friend and fellow artist who seemed delighted to find my table. She had been looking for spindles which she could use at SCA events. Needless to say she decided she wanted one of my spindles.
I think, by any stretch of the imagination, my first merchanting experience was a success. I made friends, I made money, and I filled a few bellies because I had the genius idea to sell cookies as well! I think I lost my fear of merchanting in person, so I’m looking forward to new (and cheap) venues to pop up at.
I suppose all of this encourages me to take this business-thing seriously. At least, the selling has become serious enough to make me think I ought to be treating it like a business. With business comes (and goes) money, and where there’s money, there’s paperwork. It has grown beyond paying for itself as a hobby. It is now paying for the management of said hobby.
Not quite a filing cabinet. Didn’t think I’d actually use all the sections
Hershey Fiber Arts currently lives under the old Singer. It still operates in the basement, though
A few of my latest pieces
I actually had to repeat my stone order from Blick. I’m almost out of these lovely stones! (Yeah, it blows my mind: I’ve sold enough to need to order more….)
On the way: some beautiful new colored and speckled soapstones, a peachy veined alabaster and pipestone out of Utah, the dark green soapstone and white alabaster you see above.
As I’ve though before, “we’ll see how this goes :/” I’m keeping my old attitude of what it don’t sell, I’ll certainly be happy to keep. But maybe that won’t happen. Maybe Etsy shoppers will love the new stones as much as I do. I certainly hope so! This whole experience has me very excited and, humbly, I’m over the moon that it has paid for itself. Having crunched the numbers (I’m one of those weird ones that likes office work), I’ve discovered that I’ve actually turned a rather small profit. The next bit of research will entail collecting sales tax, what I will need to report when I file my income taxes and how to cut my biggest costs.
I think I my be transversing into a business owner.
That’s really weird to say.
I own a business.
And what about all those projects I outlined earlier? Here’s the rest of the manx wool I own, spun on a medieval-style spindle. There’s about 2200 yds there:
And here’s the progress on Mike’s blanket:
There’s about 600 yds of very fluffy wool-alpaca weft yarn. I don’t normally start with the weft, but it’s the alpaca that got me going. Get into the project where you can, I guess.
Over the course of this winter, some saying it was the coldest in 50 years, I have fallen in love with flax. Oftentimes I will consider trying to grow it myself, as the cost of the finished stricks for spinning is expensive. $12 for a four ounce strick! Alas, the cost of building the processing equipment is even more prohibitive. There’s the breaker, heckler, scutching sword and board…. And then there’s devoting the land itself. About 10 square feet required for one strick.
Not encouraging, I must say. I shall have to content myself with buying it.
Looking for a source of Henry’s Attic Blonde Belgium Line Flax:
I have one lonely, precious, tempting strick of this lovely bundle of aggravation. Perhaps for about two weeks or so I searched in vain for anyone, anywhere, that sells this flax in particular. I haven’t seen anything like it. It’s as close to silk as a vast fiber can be, soft honey- gold tones prettier than any of the dull grey braids I’ve found all over the place. The flax at The Woolery is well enough, and I’ve spun several stricks well and they have a wonderful sheen. Won’t touch the twisted braid again, though. Now The Woolgatherers, they’re the best I’ve found in my search for El Dorado.
During the course of this search I would tease myself by watching videos of people spinning flax both on the wheel and spindle. And I discovered the bead spindle.
The bead style spindle falls into the same classification as supported and medieval style spindles. I determined to find one or two of reasonable cost because I liked the idea of learning how to spin in a new way. I’ve been spinning for over 15 years now, and the fact that there was something I hadn’t tried yet had an irresistible pull. Imagine my reaction when I discovered something else I had never done in tandem with a new spindle: spinning with a distaff. It wasn’t difficult to find some wonderful YouTube videos illustrating how one dresses and spins from a distaff. I was well on my way to being addicted to the idea of using one. In fact, it seemed rather unnatural to me when I went back to my modern roving.
So what happened when I looked for a distaff online? Lots of demos. No product. Sure, there were many antiques on ebay and even a few distaves for the Kromski Minstrel and Ashford Elizabeth, but nothing for my wheel or even a hand distaff. So, this is my response:
Pretty? No. Functional? Absolutely! Pure, unadulterated necessity. Just grabbed a stick from my back yard and stripped the bark off, added a few notches for grip and there you go. It was only natural to extend this ingenuity towards bead spindles.
While I was enjoying my two new supported spindles, it occurred to me that it would be fun to use a spindle that my persona, a viking on the Isle of Man, would have used.
And here is my current angst: finding primary and secondary sources for spindle whorls on the Isle of Man. This is where the Internet fails me. So far I have found sources talking about viking spinning in general, and one that even talks about viking spindle whorls and the sources the author has found (http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/spindles.html). Unfortunately this is a tertiary (3rd hand) source so I can’t use it at all. Therefore I’ll swallow my pride and crawl back to Akron Public Library, pain in the rear that it is, and find some sources I can borrow from the local universities.
Thankfully there’s always pinterest. Found some lovely close up photos of what are reportedly medieval or earlier whorls. While I don’t think I’ll be replicating any exactly (unless well documented) it lets me know at least what general shape to shoot for. I have only found one source for one whorl on the Isle of Man, unfortunately, which I can’t even seem to find again. I’ve considered the likelyhood of Irish influences on the isle during and prior to the Viking Era, and when I delved into this further it didn’t surprise me to find that the Norse king who controlled the Isle of Man did so out of Dublin (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godred_Crovan). So if I can’t find strictly manx sources, It is reasonable to settle for norse and irish.
Not that I would let this stop me from diving in head first, anyways. I went ahead and ordered soapstone, or steatite, and alabaster from Blick. Little did I know that turning stone could be so fun! (And messy!!)
That, I think, relatively sums up the process. I discovered that I had some 6mm rubber gaskets which were better for the soapstone, but rubber bands were good for the alabaster, which is prone to cracking. I kinda went a little overboard. At first I only wanted a few soapstone whorls for my personal collection. After I saw how many I would make from the small blocks I ordered, I thought “Well, if I’m interested in this stuff, maybe it tickled someone else’s inner geek as well!” And that’s how it ended up on my shop at etsy.com/shop/HersheyFiberArts.
I have mixed feelings about this, to be perfectly frank. I love all the whorls I make. I design nothing ahead of time, excepting maybe the shape in the most general of terms, like conical, discoid, convex, etc. It all springs from my head in the moment, and I would be happy to keep all of them if they don’t sell. Below you can see the rest of the whorls I’ve made so far. I am by no means near finished, as I am determined at some point to make several whorls with hand carving, perhaps including runes or the manx knot work.
Spindle whorls in soapstone (dark) and alabaster (light) of various sizes and designs. You can find close ups at etsy.com/shop/hersheyfiberarts and on my pinterest boards.
One spindle whorl that looked like it was too close to cracking for use, so I use it as a pendant on white luceted cord.
What good is a whorl without a spindle? I can make three out of an oak dowel, which I prefer for feel and durability, and four out of pine dowel from Home Depot. Looking into sources for birch and poplar. Average length is about 10″
It would, I think, be a tragedy becried by all my college professors if I did not manage to remember some of what they taught me, and here must I start a work, as any other work, with an initial declaration outlining and illustrating of my intentions.
Firstly, I want to document my excursions into unknown, familiar, strange and confusing territories on the crafting frontier. There is quite a lot of experience behind me, but I think that this will make for an even more interesting journey.
Second, insofar as my introversion may allow, I would work towards something of a recognition within the SCA for my dedication and passion for all that I study. Alas, for all of my introversion and self-effacement, I think I’m pretty hot stuff.
Lastly, I love what I do, and the only thing I love more is shouting about it from the rafters. There is only so much pictures can tell, and I don’t think Facebook could take all I have to say about how those pictures got there.
Here now, my friends, you have been fairly warned. Buckle your seat belts and grab that “oh, SHIT!” bar, cause I’m not sure where we’re going on this crazy train!