Friday, July 31, 2015


We are studying ancient hand-held distaffs of various materials (wood, bronze, bone, ivory, etc.), and especially the spiral glass distaffs made by the Etruscans and Romans. The glass ones (and some of the others) have a ring at the bottom through which the spinner passes her little finger so as to hold the distaff in a relaxed way (making it possible to spin for much longer periods of time).  Making cloth and clothing was extremely important, and time-consuming, in ancient cultures.
We would appreciate information about distaffs in museums and private collections, and we are also looking to study some of these artifacts straight from the excavations, before they are placed in museums.  The reason we are sending this “Wanted poster” around is that distaffs are frequently misidentifiedso that it is extremely difficult to “search” them in electronic databases. Such artifacts are frequently described as “Wine Stirrers” or “Stirring Rods,” “Dippers” or “Spatulas,” a few even as medical tools.  Those found at archaeological excavations, instead of on the art market, however, virtually always occur in textile contexts.  Please keep an eye out for them, no matter what aliases they may have: they can be hiding in plain view!  Have you seen any of the following?

Glass Distaffs

3 glass distaffs from a private collection.

These artifacts are usually 20-30 cm. (8-12 inches) long; they have slender twisted glass shafts formed into a loop at one end.  They often have a bird on the other end, though sometimes just a knob or flattened piece of glass.  Some, like one distaff in this picture, have a whorl on the shaft.  These are of particular interest to us, as they have a special function in spinning.

Bone and Ivory Distaffs

The Romans sometimes made distaffs of bone.  We are particularly interested in distaffs with a loop on the lower end (for support by the little finger) and also possibly.  Bone and ivory distaffs of this type sometimes have animals carved on their tops, but many have goddesses.  Here is a lovely example with a goddess.


Metal Distaffs

There are a few Roman bronze distaffs with finger loops.  Here is an example.


The bronze distaff below is from Jordan, 1500-1300 BCE.  We would like to know of others that are similar—that is, with a whorl fixed near the middle of the shaft (where it makes use as a spindle very difficult, but aids use as a distaff).  This one was called a spindle, so others may be mislabeled as well.  

from a private collection

Thin bronze shafts with multiple discs or whorls fixed along the shaft, each at about a finger-width distance from its neighbors, may also have been distaffs, although usually catalogued as cloak pins.  (In spinning, such discs help to control paying out the fibers into the thread as it forms.)  Clearly, information concerning exact find-spots will be needed to sort out this problem.
According to ancient literature, there were also distaffs made of silver and gold.  We would like to know of any examples.


There are, of course, other forms of ancient hand-held distaffs, and we would like to learn of them too.  These were of wood, metal, bone, ivory, or glass.  Again, they were generally 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) in length.  Some had support rings—that is, whorls or rings fixed on the shaft for the spinnerto rest on top of a finger, both to support the spindle and to draft fibers over.  Some had movable whorls across their shafts.  There are other artifacts that are not unsimilar and often confused with distaffs, including spoons, hair pins, medical tools, and sometimes spindles.  Sometimes it is hard to be sure what an artifact is without handling it, or experimenting with a reproduction.  

We are hoping to learn of what are probably numerous distaffs in museums and private collections, and we would like, if possible, to collect statistics such as length and weight, as well as photographs.  But we are also hoping to locate distaffs as the excavators discover them, in the hopes that they willbe easier to study closely before they go to museums or salesThere are some key attributes, such as balance, that can be evaluated only by touch.

Vital statistics:
Current location (Contact Info):
Accession or reference number:
Place of origin (provenance):
Date of artifact:

We are trying to understand both the evolution and the use of these surprising tools, and are happy to share what we are learning.  If you spot a distaff, or a possible distaff, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Barber at or Kim Caulfield at

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Swis Fan Lace--

We are on month 7 of our year long knitted scarf project.

This is my June block--so glad to be caught up with this project.  I'm worried that I'll run out of this handspun wool/silk blend to finish scarf.  I do have another roving to spin if I get close to the end of this skein.

Are you keeping up with the project?

#7: Swiss Fan Lace Pattern (multiple of 8+1): 30 beads and 47 sts total
Note: You will increase sts on Row 1 and decrease them on Row 3, so your stitch count will not be the same on each row.

Row 1(RS): +P1, SSK, (YO, K1) 3 times, YO, K2TOG; rep from + to last st, P1.
Row 2(WS): +K1, P9; rep from + to last st, K1.
Row 3: +P1, SSK, K5, K2TOG; rep from + to last st, P1.
Row 4: +K1, P7; rep from + to last st, K1.
Work the above four rows five more times (6 times total).
Knit five rows. On the next row, K3, sm, Kfb, knit to one stitch before the next marker, Kfb, sm, K3. (49 sts total)
Row 1(RS): +P1, SSK, (YO, K1) 3 times, YO, K2TOG; rep from + to last st, P1.
Row 2(WS): +K1, P9; rep from + to last st, K1.
Row 3: +P1, SSK, K2, (B)K1, K2, K2TOG; rep from + to last st, P1.
Row 4: +K1, P7; rep from + to last st, K1.
Work the above four rows five more times (6 times total).
Knit five rows. On the next row, K3, sm, Kfb, knit to one stitch before the next marker, Kfb, sm, K3. (49 sts total)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Saddle Up!

Yesterday we toured the horses of Deborah Butterfield
so today, we look at saddle blankets and pouches.
Persian Saddle Blanket, mid 20th C from Iran

close-up of this woven wool/silk

Afghan 20th C--decorated horse blanket

cotton, button, velvet, feathers

Dine Horse Blanket, early 20th C

wool--natural color; red, possibly cochineal

Tibetan saddle blanket, early 20th C wool

I love how this blanket has been used!  you can see the warp threads and
in some areas you could see the patch work
Southwestern Blanket--notice the grey patch on the right corner

and in this corner more warp threads exposed from wear
Wool/horse hair

Turkish Saddle Bag--quite elaborate early 20th C

natural dyes on wool

Afghan Region, C 1970

I would hope this is what they call "Turkey Red" but there is no fact to that

Indian Horse cover, India ca 1980

cotton, silk, tassels and mirrors--very typical of Indian work
It was a treat to see these horse blankets, covers and bags.
Thank goodness, some of these textiles have survived their daily uses.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Butterfield's Horses

Early one morning, during member's only time, we walked through the
Denver Botanic Gardens to view an extra-ordinary exhibit
We have come to see the horses from the hands of Deborah Butterfield
My first thought--these are made from driftwood pieces--
definitely!  But, she goes a further step and bronzes the driftwood!

What beauty and grace these horses are!

The gardens is the perfect setting for the magnificent horse

Each horse is named for either a location or a horse in her stable

Laying down as resting horses do

Standing up to show his full height

This horse was made from found metal pieces


Duo of grace

I love horses anyway, but these horses are just breath taking!

Up close you still think you can't believe your eyes!  If you have a chance to view this exhibit, don't miss out--it is awesome!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cheyenne Frontier Days

We have always wanted to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days!  And every year we procrastinate too long and don't get tickets--but, last year, yes 2014, we made our hotel reservations and bought tickets for the rodeo!  We had no idea what we were getting into!!

There is more to Cheyenne Frontier Days than the rodeo--Oh My Gosh!  There is Frontier Night--name entertainment--of course, the day we selected had no entertainment (that's an extra ticket);

Then there is Old Frontier Town-

Buckin' A Saloon

Carnival Rides--which we skipped!

Indian Village

Old West Museum

CFD Amphitheater--free entertainment--Hurrah!

Grand Parade--which we missed :-(

Pancake Breakfast--Oh Yeah--got to get up early though

USAF Thunderbirds--what a great show!!  Perfect for us the morning after our rodeo day!

Art Show and Sale

Behind the Chutes Tour

There is much to see and do during Cheyenne Frontier Days--what a treat to attend!! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Let's Head to the Loom!

 My loom is empty!  Ready and waiting for that special warp..............
I must explore..........
Find a way to get myself motivated.

Dianne's Loom Talk blog is so inspiring!  Just when I think I can't use up any of my odd cones of yarn, this pops up! 

Colors, colors and pattern--I found this lovely piece on Meg Weaves.  It has been years
since I have woven undulating twill--I just might have to give it another go!
I went to Handweaving to find some drafts I could use on my 8H loom
Drawdown Image: Undulating Twill with straight twill treadling, Lora  Burgess, 8S, 8T 

Or we could just play!!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three Came Home....

WOW!  So happy to have that message from Alycia!  She had three of my quilt tops to quilt
and she was finished!  Time to pick up!
This was one large quilt!  A scrappy Rick-Rack Nine that I completed last summer

I dyed the backing with this tangerine orange--love the solid color so I can see all the fine quilting

An Orphan block quilt that was also finished last fall--no rhyme or reason to this quilt but fun to work with and Alycia did it justice

I had this black and white fabric in my stash and it worked perfect for the back

Such whimsical quilting too!

Too much to take in all at once

You can see the meandering lines on the backing

Oh Yes--Downtown Abbey quilt from LoveBug Studios, designer Ebony Love
The only one I finished this year!  I didn't use DA fabrics but
chose to work from my stash

and the quilting!  Alycia did a different quilt pattern in each section

Feathers, swirls, cross hatch--great work!
Now, to spend some time with the binding!
I'll be stitching for another few months!
If you need a quilter, check out Alycia's work!

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Mother's Birth.

Today is my mother's 95th birth-day.  She was born on this day July 24, 1920 in a small town in south Missouri.  I'm sure she was born at home.
We are celebrating with a family party in the town where she resides.
Mother does her best to get around--she has a purple walker--the gals at
the assisted living facility tell her she has the prettiest walker of all!
I don't think she hears them!  Even though she has hearing aids, she
doesn't hear--except WHAT she wants to hear!
I hope I can make it to 95!
Happy Birthday Mother!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

If These Buildings Could Talk..............................................

"come on in!  Make yourself at home--pull up a chair,
if you can find one"
If we listen closely, you might be able to hear what this building is trying to tell us.

I've always been fascinated by old buildings--weathered buildings,
those which have withstood the test of time;
maybe, they could tell me about the family that resided here

about their transportation--wheels turning to bring families from place to place

The walls are empty and contain nothing but memories

The lumber shows the route of many a bug
If only, these buildings could talk...........