Issue #78 – October 2012


• Spinning Wheel, Sitting Distaff, and Spindle From Hungary
• How To Spin Using A Sitting Distaff
• Henry Zuber, Pennsylvania “Turner”
• Two Freestanding Umbrella Swifts


Highlights From This Issue

In this issue we focus on related tools or accessories, the other tools that spinners and weavers need. We learn about a sitting distaff from what is now Slovakia and a “spooling wheel” or bobbin winder from Pennsylvania. Two unusual free standing swifts are described, and we get some feedback about the Desjardins wheels discussed in the previous issue.

Spinning Wheel, Sitting Distaff, and Spindle From Hungary

Cyndy Donohue’s interest in flax processing and spinning came from hearing about her great-grandmother who was a spinner and weaver and lived in what was then Hungary but is now Slovakia. When Cyndy had a chance to obtain a sitting distaff, as well as a spinning wheel and spindle, from that region of Europe she bought it. She puts these interesting tools into historical and cultural context and explains some of the design elements.

How To Spin Using A Sitting Distaff

Cyndy explains the technique that she uses to spin flax with her sitting distaff and spindle.

Henry Zuber, Pennsylvania “Turner”

“Spooling wheels” or bobbin winders are usually fairly plain and utilitarian, but Michael Taylor found one that was fancier and had initials on it. With a little help from his friends Ron Walter and Bill Leinbach, he was able to trace the maker, Henry Zuber.

Two Freestanding Umbrella Swifts

The majority of swifts, the tool used for unwinding skeins of yarn, are clamped onto a table or a bench. Free-standing examples are quite rare. Carlton Stickney found one in New York State, and Rebecca Jarvi found one in Ohio. These examples are similar but still quite different.


Alvin and Barbara-Anne Ramer have always loved Quebec wheels and have several in their extensive collection of Canadian spinning wheels. Alvin presents some of their thoughts on Desjardins spinning wheels.