CAZENOVIA – The Cherry Valley Country Spinners and Fiber Artists Guild (CVCSFA) is a collaborative group that shares common interests in all aspects of the fiber arts, with an emphasis on spinning.
Later this month, to celebrate Distaff Day (also known as Roc Day or Rock Day) on January 7th, the Fiber Arts Guild will come together for a potluck lunch and work to raise awareness of their work.
“In the old days, women put away their wheels and looms to take care of the 12 days of Christmas,” wrote CVCSFA President Kirsten Weyter in a Jan. 4 press release. “Quenouille or Roc Day marked the end of the festivities and the return to work. . . The day of the Rock falls [the] day after the feast of the Epiphany. The saying “tow on a rock” means to have business to settle. “
A distaff, or rock, is a tool used in spinning to hold fibers (usually flax but sometimes wool) before spinning them on a spindle. The design keeps the fibers untangled, making the spinning process easier.
“Using a distaff for spinning was an efficient way to turn linen into yarn for weaving clothes or wool into yarn for knitting,” Weyter explained. “Women of all classes spent evenings at their spinning wheels.”
Roc Day celebrates the distaff and what it symbolized in medieval times, more specifically the work of women in textiles.
In modern times, many local spinner guilds hold festivals around January 7th to celebrate Roc Day.
The CVCSFA Roc Day Potluck Luncheon will be held January 13 at Springside Farm in Fabius.
Founded in 1974 and named after the Cherry Valley Turnpike (Route 20), the local Fiber Arts Guild aims to “preserve and perpetuate the art of hand spinning and the fiber arts; promote interest in spinning and the fiber arts by educating the public through demonstrations, lectures, exhibits and news / social media; and provide education and social life in the field of spinning and lint arts to its members.
The guild meets on the second Thursday of each month. Coffee is served at 10 a.m. with the business meeting starting at 10:30 a.m. and the program ending at 1 p.m.
Before the pandemic, the guild met in the community hall of the Cazenovia public library.
“We have since found another location on a rural farm with much larger spaces to safely congregate,” Weyter said.
Group gatherings are open to anyone interested in hand spinning, weaving, knitting, felting, or any other type of fiber art. Guests and potential new members are always welcome.
The annual membership fee is $ 20.
Membership benefits include workshops on spinning, weaving, felting, dyeing, knitting, crochet and more. Guild members are also permitted to borrow spinning wheels, crafting materials, and books from the guild library.
According to CVCSFA vice-president Marguerite Hickernell, a member since the mid-1980s, the guild once had more than 70 members. Today the tally is around 20 active members.
“We meet on Thursday mornings, which tends to restrict attendance,” she noted.
Hickernell said the tradition of the fiber arts is not only an important historical skill that was once as essential as farming or woodworking, but also a lot of fun.
“Imagine the surprised look when you tell someone that you can start with a fleece mowed directly from the sheep and end with a sweater, blanket or woven fabric,” she said. “By using the raw material of sheep, goats, alpacas and rabbits, we are also supporting and shining the spotlight on the farmers who produce these animals, especially the small farms which are plentiful in CNY.”
For CVCSFA meeting locations and additional information, visit cherryvalleycountryspinners.org.