Spinners celebrate Roc Day as part of history

Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson

Crafters from Brookings and Sioux Falls will display their projects and create new ones at a historical event in the South Dakota Art Museum.

The SDAM will host Roc Day on Jan. 16.

“The day is several hundred years old and originated in England,” said Dianne Hawks, marketing specialist at SDAM. “It is historically the day after Epiphany and can also be known as St. Distaff’s Day.”

English women would return to their usual household work after the 12 days of Christmas. Spinning and weaving were some of the main chores they focused on.

A distaff – or roc – would be used for spinning and became a symbol of women’s work. The word spinster was used to describe a maid. She was not fit to be a wife until she spun her own linens. Later, she could become a wife, or one who has been a spinner. The Anglo-Saxon word for to weavewyfan – eventually changed to wife.

“Fiber guilds from both Brookings and Sioux Falls come to the museum to knit, spin and show off their creations,” said Lynn Verschoor, director of the SDAM.

The members of the fiber guilds bring their current knitting or weaving projects and it is similar to show and tell, said Hawks.

“It’s a very nice day for people to come in and get the opportunity to see handmade yarns,” said Verschoor. “Parents and grandparents bring kids in to see the art.”

This year will be the third annual Roc Day at SDAM and is open for people at any level who want to participate or ask questions. The fiber guild members also exchange tips on projects.

“People who come are fascinated how things are made,” said Verschoor. “The more and more we are on computers all day long, we forget where things come from.”

Roc Day is celebrated by spinners and weavers all over the world and is a celebration of the New Year, with a specific focus on their art.

People bring in smaller looms to make scarves and the knitters make socks or sweaters, said Verschoor.

“Kids are just amazed that you can take this lump of fur and turn it into yarn,” said Verschoor. “They (fiber guild members) are all very interesting individuals.”