Roc Day or Saint Distaff's Day

      I have celebrated Roc Day/St. Distaff's Day with my first guild for 15+ years the first week of January. We get together and have a big spin-in, bring left over Christmas cookies. door prizes, and our Christmas money to spend on more fiber from all the vendors that are invited! It has become my way of starting the new year. I love it because it is a chance to visit with all my spinning friends that I have not seen much due to the holiday season. Friends come from near and far! Now I celebrate with my new spinning friends in Texas. It is great to carry on the tradition no matter where you live.

A couple of years ago my guild (Northwest Regional Spinner's Assoc. Area 2010 "The Fiberholics"-Western Washington State) put together a little write-up on the reason for the event and I thought I would share it with you. You may copy this as long as credit is given to the Fiberholics as contributors.


Of course there was no such saint! St. Distaff's Day, the "first free day after Twelve-Eve Christmas," was a holiday of transition from Christmas revelries to the round of everyday work. It is suspected that St. Distaff was invented by the poet Herrick, who dedicated some lines to her:

Partly work and partly play
Ye must on St. Distaff's Day;

Give St. Distaffe all the right,
Then give Christmas sport goodnight;
And next morrow, everyone
To his own vocation.

Women did not spin during the twelve days of Christmas in old England and this was their day to get back to work.

They were not without their troubles, however, for the plowmen thought it sport to set fire to the flax and tow. Pails of water were kept handy and as fast as the farm hands started their fires, maidens put them out with liberal "bewashings." When the flax was scorched and men and maidens thoroughly drenched the day was properly observed. After that the farmwomen could spin without interruption.

Turn and turn about brought the men their day……


English plowmen went back to work on the first Monday after the Twelfth -day. They took their time about resuming farm routine and spent their day in more boisterous foolery. If they arose betimes it was because they strove to bring their whips or plow staves to the hearth before the farm maidens could put on their kettles. If the plowmen succeeded the master owed them fine cocks at Shrovetide. Later they put on their white smocks, bedecked themselves with bright ribbons and, in groups of thirty or forty, went shouting and singing through the village, dragging the plow. One in each group was always dressed as an old crone and called ' The Bessy.' 'She' carried the moneybox. Another, garbed in bedraggled skins and with a dangling tail was called the 'Fool Plow' and amused everyone with this antics. As they sang at the top of their lungs, the plowmen performed a sort of' morris' or sword dance and 'Bessy' proffered her moneybox. It was best to drop in the coins when the plowmen shouted, "God speed the plow!", lest one's dooryard be plowed under. The coins were supposed to be for a fund to pay for 'plow-lights' -candles burned in the church to invoke blessings. Some of the fund seems occasionally to have gone for ale and beer for the Plow Monday Dinner too, although traditionally the master was supposed to attend to that. The Lord Mayor of London gave a Plow Monday Supper too, but did not entertain any plowmen. They got along nicely on the farms.

Distaff A woman. Properly the staff from which the flax was drawn in spinning. The allusion is to the ancient custom of women, who spun from morning to night. (See Spinster.)

"The crown of France never fails to the distaff." - Kersey.

To have tow on the distaff. To have work in hand. Froissart says, "Il aura en bref temps autres estoupes en sa quenouille. "

"He baddëeore tow on his distaf Than Gerveys knew." Chaucer: Canterbury Tales. 3.772.

St. Distaff's Day. The 7th of January. So called because the Christmas festival terminated on Twelfth Day, and on the day following the women returned to their distaffs or daily occupations. It is also called Rock Day, a distaff being called a rock. "In old times they used to spin with rocks." (Aubrey. Wilts. )

"Give St. Distaff all the right, Then give Christmas sport good night, And next morrow every one To his own vocatiön." (1657)

"What! shall a woman with a rock drive thee away? Fye on thee, traitor' " Digby: Mysteries, p.11.

Spinster An unmarried woman. The fleece which was brought home by the Anglo-Saxons in summer, was spun into clothing by the female part of each family during the winter. King Edward the Elder commanded his daughters to be instructed in the use of the distaff. Alfred the Great, in his will, calls the female part of his family the spindle side; and it was a regularly received axiom with our frugal forefathers, that no young woman was fit to be a wife till she had spun for herself a set of body, table, and bed linen.. Hence the maiden was termed a spinner or spinster, and the married woman a wife or ``one who has been a spinner.'' (Anglo-Saxon, wif, from the verb wyfan or wefan, to weave.) The armorial bearings of women are not painted on a shield, like those of men, but on a spindle (called a ``lozenge''). Among the Romans the bride carried a distaff, and Homer tells us that Kryseis was to spin and share the king's bed.

Here are some more links about Roc Day
Chamber's Book of Days

Roc Day celebrations in Texas for 2011.
North Central Texas

Heritage Arts is once again hosting Roc Day! Here is what Lorelei says:
Come Join us for Roc Day 2011
January 8th
10:30am - 5pm

Roc Day, also called St. Distaff’s Day, is the traditional day women returned to their spinning chores after the 12 days of Christmas
Reconnect with your Fiber Community. This will be our 9th annual Roc Day celebration at the Ranch.
Come join us to celebrate this day of spinning and all things fiber after the hectic Christmas season.
Bring your spinning wheel or spindle or fiber project as we “spin” some yarns both fiber and verbal.
There will be games, snacks, fiber, laughs, more fiber, jokes and the premier of our annual Fiber Challenge 2011 along with prizes for last years best finished Fiber Challenge projects.
Bring your lunch or it will be available for purchase at the brand new Branding Room Café.
PS, the new website- is coming along

Heritage Arts
PO Box 250 (mailing)
10740 CR 102 (shipping)
Grandview, Texas 76050
(817) 866-2772
Home of the Fiberholic's Fiberfrolic

North Texas Roc Day Celebration hosted by The Over The Wheel Gang
Saturday Jan. 8 10-4
Fellowship Hall
First United Methodist Church
Lancaster, Texas
Demonstrations, door prizes, tables for the handmade items you
have for sale. Do you have a spinning wheel, equipment, roving in
your stash you want to part with? Bring it to swap, sell or give
away. Be sure to see the Rick Reeves wheel that needs a new home.
A chili lunch will be offered to the group. So far I have one team
for the sheep to shawl contest. We may modify for a sheep to scarf
contest because there are new teams that would like to participate
and some of our seasoned pros may be a little rusty.

Teams consist of one weaver/ 3 spinners and one alternate. All
looms must be warped before they arrive at the church. The
exception to this is the triangle loom.
Contest will start at 10:30 and garments must be off the loom by 3
in order to be judged. The name of the judge will remain a secret
because I have seen how competitive you folks can be.

A chili lunch will be offered by the Over The Wheel Gang.
If you can't join us then make sure you celebrate the only non
holiday holiday we have.
The Sassy Spinster
Phone 972-218-5335 or

Central Texas
South Texas

Sky Loom Weavers will be hosting our annual Roc Day event on January 9th, 2011.
Please join us at: Sky Loom Weavers Studio,4144 New Ulm Road, Cat Spring, TX 78933.
We'll be sitting and spinning from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Bring your wheels, spindles, fiber and a snack to share. Hope to see you there.
For the uninitiated, Cat Spring is approximately 75 miles west of Houston between Sealy and Columbus.

West Texas

In the mean time join up on the Texas Fiber Guild yahoo group and get all the latest fiber goings on in Texas and surrounding states.

Updated December 16,2010