Distaff Day is January 7, the day after the traditional 12 days of Christmas. It comes from the old world tradition of women returning to regular household chores on that 13th day, and carries the name “distaff” from the medieval symbol of women’s work.
While women would spin on their wheels in the evenings, they would carry a drop spindle with them throughout their daily chores. A distaff is the rod that holds unspun fibers while using a drop spindle. It facilitates the spinning process by keeping the fibers untangled for the spinner.
Spinning today is a hobby rather than a necessary chore. As such, present day crafters have adopted this day not to return to work, but to gather together and share our love of crafting.
Orlando Distaff Day is all about celebrating the fiber arts. Spinners, knitters, crocheters, weavers, and all other fiber art lovers come together for a day of fun and fellowship.
From the 40 attendees at the first event held in a church community hall in 2004, attendance has continually grown throughout the 16 years the event has been held. Many of the activities introduced that first year by organizers Ronda Colcord, the Sunshine Orlando Spinners (SOS), and Orlando Area Knitters & Spinners; show and tell, a gift exchange, spinning circles, and the recitation of Robert Herrick’s Distaff Day poem, remain part of the event today.
Throughout the years, planning has transitioned amongst various greater Orlando fiber arts groups. Ronda, in partnership with A Loosely Knit Group of Oveido, and later, Terri Pike, moved the event to UCF in 2011, where they added door prizes to the mix. Fiber artists are generous with their time and talents, and 2014 saw the partnership with “Be Orlando” and “Project Warmies” established. Thousands of warm clothing items and blankets have been donated for area homeless over the course of the five year relationship along with hundreds of pounds of canned goods.
Orlando Distaff Day moved to it’s new home at Whirl & Twirl in 2015 with planners Orna Smith & Jody Seigel of Knit or Knot Orlando and Drunken Monkey Spinners. The addition of vendors to the many other activities kept the event growing steadily. Beginning in 2017, the members of Drunken Monkey Spinners took over planning, and added Raffle baskets to support event costs. After Whirl & Twirl closed at the end of 2017, the event was moved to Clarion Inn & Suites near the airport, where it has remained for the past few years. Attendance at the yearly event is now close to 200 fiber artists.
2019 saw the beginning of a new chapter in the event history as Orlando Distaff Day, Inc. was formalized as a 501(c)3, and a Board of Directors established. The objectives of the group remain to encourage cooperation and communication amongst fiber arts groups in Central Florida, promote education in the fiber arts, and to plan, organize, and conduct fiber arts events.