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Caz Spinners

Spinning wheel got to go 'round

Local guild celebrates annual special day for spinners

By Willie Kiernan

The Cherry Valley Country Spinners Guild is a group of people that share the love of old fashioned spinning wheels and the revived art of making thread and yarn by hand. They got together last week for their yearly celebration called Roc Day or St. Distaff's Day. Racquel and John Huckins of Cazenovia hosted the event which traditionally takes place after the twelve days of Christmas.

Though spinning wheels were probably first invented in China or India, the guild is steeped with European traditions. Maidens would typically celebrate during the holiday season then return to their daily chores after the twelfth day. The distaff was sort of a pole on a stand, much like a wooden stand-alone coat rack, that held the wool for easy access for the spinners. Roc came from the German word rocken, which means both distaff and woman's.

The guild began in September of 1974 in Doloria Chapin's living room in Pompey.

"We had about seven that were students of mine, then we grew to sometimes more than 50," said Chapin.

Chapin didn't become interested until she was in her 40s. She said she had had a spinning wheel for 25 years without doing anything with it. Then she had one lesson and started teaching others. She owns the patents on two of her own spinning wheel designs.

"People would have different problems with different machines," Chapin said. "My husband and I would design new machines to alleviate the problems."

The guild has been meeting once per month for 32 years now, collecting many ribbons in sheep to shawl competitions. Many of the guild members even raise their own animals for their raw supplies.

"It needs no electricity, only your feet and hands," Racquel Huckins said. "And you can turn it into wonderful things."

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