A wonder on the wave: water became bone.

Since I have time, today being still Spring Break, you get an extra post this week. It is somewhat related to Wind Age things.

Before you ask, yes, I have had a good Spring Break. It was nice not having to go anywhere, and nice not having deadlines, and very nice not having to think about what strangers think of me. I got a lot of work done on Wind Age, and I think not having a deadline for it helped me be more motivated — perhaps because I’m not writing to order.

The news is: I have an empty distaff!

I’ve been doing a lot of spinning this week, being home and all, and this morning around ten o’clock I took the last bits of fluff off the distaff. I now have a full spindle and an empty distaff, and I think there ought to be an Anglo-Saxon-style riddle in that somewhere.

When I give to my wife

the greater she grows

fashioning a fine thing

while I wane.

Name me my name.

Or something like that. The only problem is that the words for distaff are feminine nouns, so the double meaning (the picture of a man providing for his wife who’s with child) doesn’t work.


Here’s the lovely couple. Lorh is made of buckthorn found growing in our grove. The darker branch was dead already when we cut her, which is why it’s more brown than the rest. The bit of bark still on the end I left there because when we cut it to fit me (Olivia did most of the cutting, which is why I’m saying “we”) I ended up wanting her a little longer than I thought she’d be when I peeled the bark. I may eventually peel the rest, or I may not. Spinel is not period, with a large flat whorl glued to the shaft for a long, slow spin. I learned from Lois Swales’ videos that medieval spinners valued short, quick spins and so used smaller, rounder whorls, sometimes intentionally making the spindle wobble to get faster. It helps when you’re making really thin yarn.  Someday  I should like to make a more accurate spindle myself.

This picture isn’t very good quality, being taken in a hurry last night before we left for Book Discussion at church. I am here spinning in something like a position found in medieval art. Granted, not in my own period. But then we don’t have very much from mine, and I figure spinning in a style 300 years too late is better than one 650 years later than that.


Yes, that is my pocketknife you see. And yes, we’re about to walk out the door and I’m barefoot. Bare feet are period.

In case any of you followed the link to 15th Century Spinning and are now wondering what kind I’m doing, it’s suspended. Only in this picture I’ve just gotten started, so my hands aren’t as far apart as they tend to be.

I found out that although I am usually left-handed, I spin right-handed. I’m not sure why. Period art shows women spinning both ways.

I can do a longer thread at one time if I’m standing to spin, but there I need a belt to tuck the distaff in, and I never wear belts except when I’m in garb, so I often forget to grab one. In period I’d probably have been spinning while standing and walking more than when sitting.

What think you, reader? Do you like this kind of post? Or would you rather hear about the domestic dispute that led, indirectly or otherwise, to the Synod of Whitby? Or is that equally boring?

The title is an Anglo-Saxon riddle. Can you guess the answer? Googling it is cheating. 


About Nolie Alcarturiel

Creative Writing major and Philosophy minor, contemplating a Master's degree in Medieval History. I enjoy practically anything to do with medieval history, including the domestic arts, with an especial emphasis on the Anglo-Saxon Era. In my spare time I read endlessly, do medieval living-history, hold philosophical debates at the drop of a hat, and write books on even slighter provocation.
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3 Responses to A wonder on the wave: water became bone.

  1. So now you’re a spinner of both tales and wool.


  2. ladyelasa says:

    This is cool that you keep this old art form alive! Props to you!



    • Nolie Alcarturiel says:

      Thank you! I find having experiences of my own to draw from helps making my writing more realistic. Thanks for stopping by.


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