How to Use a Distaff While Sitting

A common sight in medieval manuscripts is ladies standing while spinning, like this lady spinning wool amongst the sheep.

Also common, is the lady taking a break to spin, like this lady spinning wool amongst the sheep.

Which sometimes raises the question “How do I use a distaff while sitting?”


Well, there are many answers and the right answer is what works for you.

This lady has a beautiful standing distaff.

Grabow Altarpiece, Bertram von Minden, c 1379-1383

Grabow Altarpiece, Bertram von Minden, c 1379-1383

Sometimes the lady clasps the distaff between her knees


1380, Mary spinning

I would love a standing distiff, but I don’t have one yet.  People have asked how I sit with my distaff and as it’s hard to explain I decided to do a video.

This is simply how I sit with my distaff, what works for you may be different. Please feel free to share what works for you in the comments!



5 responses

  1. Most pictures of distaff spinning show a kind of haystack-on-a-stick construction. Makes sense with long rough fibers like flat or hemp. I spin modern short wool from combed top and found it easier to wind the top around the distaff and unwind it while spinning. Now I seem to recognise that methode on two illiustrations in your post about sitting spinning. The fibers are shown spiralling around the distaff in stead of haystacking.

    • Tank you for your comment! There are many ways to dress a distaff with wool, I thing a lot of what people choose depends on the wool (as in the fibre length etc), the fibre prep (raw, combed, carded etc), what they are spinning and personal preference.
      Spiraling around the distaff is certinly an option!
      This post here shas links to different ways of dressing a distaff, but I don’t think I have a link covering spiraling it around the distaff. If you have a photo series or video you would like me to link to, please let me know!

  2. I use my distaff while sitting, I have the best ottoman end between my feet and wrap my left arm round the distaff- that seems to be the most comfortable way, for me anyway!

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