Distaff carving

Close-up of a person carving

A couple  of weeks ago I had a distaff carving day!

The lime avenue

We have a beautiful old lime-tree avenue just outside our house. Ever since someone told me that lime is a perfect carving wood I have longed to get out and make distaffs for in-hand spinning. It has been a cold un-spring so far and far too cold to carve outdoors. According to the weather report, it was supposed to be a little less cold a couple of weeks ago. I prepared to get out and saw the branches down on Saturday morning.

Saturday came, and when I peeked out from behind the curtains, it was a sunny day. I was out the door at nine and got some low hanging branches. I had big plans to sit in the March sun and carve, but the sun got shy and hid behind the clouds, resulting in quite a cold carving session.

Three distaffs

I made three distaffs for different purposes – one 30 cm hand distaff, one 100 cm belt distaff and one 120 cm floor distaff. The lengths are just as I want them. The floor distaff may be a bit too short, though. Or perhaps I just have to get used to the floor distaff spinning technique.

Three hand carved distaffs
Distaffs for belt, floor and hand.

The carving was wonderful – the bark just peeled off  like butter and it was a very nice feeling to carve in fresh wood from such a soft and carving friendly material. I managed to carve all three distaffs without any personal injuries (I did ruin the first hand distaff, though), just a cut in my thumb nail, you can see it in the featured image. Boy, they are practical. Nails, I mean.

I did nothing fancy, I just followed the shape of the sticks and made a few notches at the top to hold the fiber better. There was a small branch at the bottom end of the hand distaff, which I took advantage of to make a more ergonomic handle.

A hand holding a hand distaff
A branch bump fits perfectly in my hand

I carved and carved, made little embellishments and improved imperfections. I didn’t want to stop carving. Why would you want to let a raw, natural material out of your hand?

Dressed for success

I have dressed the two longer distaffs with Värmland wool and given them a test run. They work very well. I will make another skein of the yarn I made in a winter video of in-hand spinning in medieval style. Blog post about the video here.

A distaff dressed with grey wool
Dressed floor distaff. Wool is from Värmland sheep, spindle from NiddyNoddyUK and whorl from Pallia.

I like that the distaffs are organically shaped and the fact that I have to adapt myself to the natural shape of the distaffs. They feel more alive that way.

Happy crafting!

Crafting leadership course

A sheep made of wire

Since september I have been taking a craft leadership course at Slöjd Stockholm. The overall focus of the course is all kinds of crafting for kids, although my personal focus is spinning courses for intermediate to experienced adults. Each class runs a whole day and during the class we mix theory with practice and discussions. We have crafted with recycled textiles, wire, wool (of course), paper and wood and with techniques such as felting, braiding, bending, printing and carving.

Hopefully the course will help me become a better spinning teacher and give me ideas of new and exciting spinning classes.

A felted sheep head
Of course I had to needle felt a sheep!

Our common love of crafting

The participants have very different backgrounds, everything from DIY-ers to museum educators and archaeologists. But we have our love for crafting in common. And this has turned out to be a very strong trait. We understand each other. We know what it means to give in to the material and the process of making and we respect each other’s artistry and creativity. And most importantly: We all know the power of being in the making.

A cloth bird with colourful embroidery
Homework over the holidays: Make an embroidered cloth bird!

Five minutes after we have started crafting the room is totally quiet, but at the same time full of activity. Everyone is deeply focused on the making. Nobody knows what the others are doing, but we all know that our minds are deeply and joyfully engaged in the crafting process. It is such a bliss to realize that we all share this deep love and respect for the materials and the making.

The beauty of the materials

Today was carving day. We worked with axe, knife and shaving horse. The smell of the fresh wood and the cool feeling against my hands gave me goosebumps. The satisfaction of making a raw piece of wood flat and smooth with the draw knife in the shaving horse really surprised me. And who knew carving with an axe could be so much fun!

A carved insect
We made (sp)insects with the help of knives, drawknives and axes.

The crafting mind

After the course I needed to get some fruit, so I went in to the mall nearby. And I had a massive culture shock. From the crafting room filled with creativity, flow and concentrated joy to bright lights, commercialism and plastic. From sweet music that makes my heart tingle to white noise that gets in the way of my thoughts. I made a mental note about what crafting does for me. Perhaps more people should try it.

I enter the space of making
where the making makes me

(from my spinning video For the love of spinning)