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Distaff

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from Carluke, Lanarkshire

Distaff
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A distaff was used in conjunction with a spindle when spinning by hand. This carved example from Carluke in Lanarkshire is dated 1704 and bears the initials 'R.L.' and 'M.C.'

A wad of combed wool or flax was hooked around the top of the distaff and drawn out towards the weighted spindle which was then spun around under its own momentum, twisting the fibre into yarn.

Distaff spinning is still used by non-industrialized peoples, such as South American Indians, to this day. It persisted in parts of Scotland into the 20th century. Photographs exist of women spinning on St Kilda and in the Highlands and Islands.

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