Projects and Science



A traditional Russian distaff is L-shaped and consists of two elements: the lopastka or blade, a vertical panel with wide flat top to which the bundle of flax or wool, called kudel is fixed, and the dontse, or base, a horizontal oar-shaped board on which the spinner sits and stabilizes the structure with the weight of her body. Sometimes the distaff is carved from a single piece of wood - a tree stump with a root protruding at a right angle. In some areas of Russia the upper part of the blade has the shape of a comb, and the kudel was mounted on the teeth.

Russia, distaff 2
Russian distaff painted on both sides with sleds and birds. Province Archangelsk, 19th century. Hight 34,64"; length of the base (dontse) 22,83".
Russia, woman spinning

Russian woman spinning.
From: Kate Heintz Watson, Textiles and Clothing. The Library of Home Economics 10 (Chicago 1907)   (17.06.2016)

Russia, distaff detail
Detail of a painted distaff. 19th century. North Dvina. Vologda region.
From: Natalija V. Taranovskaya, Nikandr V. Maltsev, РУССКИЕ ПРЯЛКИ / Russian Distaffs (Leningrad 1970).

Supported spindles turned from one piece of wood. Lengths: 13.8" and 12.8".
Russia, distaff
Hand-carved Russian distaff with geometric motives and red paint, 19th century. Length: 51". This distaff is not of the traditional L-shape but provides the spinner with greater mobility. Tucked under the arm spinning can be done while walking.
Russia, woman spinning, pre 1950
Russian woman spinning. In this photo you can see the typical L-shaped distaff and the long, wooden spindle. Before 1950.
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