Textile Terms : The “Distaff Side”

A distaff is a tool used in spinning, to hold the unspun fibers, usually flax, to keep them untangled and ready to be spun. In the photo to the left, it is the object on the upper left that appears covered in long hair.

Because spinning was such a universal chore during medieval times, the distaff became a symbol for domestic life.

Gradually, the term “the distaff side” came to signify the female side of the family, or womanhood itself. In recent times, this descriptor has fallen out of common usage. The image at right shows a spinning wheel with a distaff dressed with flax. Sometimes  a gourd would be hung from the distaff, for holding water, with which the spinner would moisten her fingers while drawing out the flax fibers, to help “set” the new linen thread.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Textile Terms : The “Distaff Side”

  1. I feel entirely educated. I’ve been trying to read as much as I can on wheels and just stumbled upon this while looking through the blogs I follow. Thanks for sharing. : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s