Devin Helmen and a Clever Wrist Distaff

Ready to build your drop-spindle skills? Devin’s all-new spindle video course has launched. See the trailer and get Rita Buchanan’s distaff pattern!

Kate Larson Jan 31, 2024 - 3 min read

Devin Helmen and a Clever Wrist Distaff Primary Image

Kate demonstrates one way to wear the knitted-cuff wrist distaff. Pattern by Rita Buchanan, spun and knitted by Devin Helmen. Photo by Kate Larson

Ten years ago at a busy spinning retreat, I saw a spindle spinner across the room using a knitted wrist distaff and pushka (low-whorl spindle from Peru) to spin effortless long-draw singles. I am as impressed with Devin Helmen’s ease with spindles today as I was that afternoon a decade ago when I sat down to learn more.

Devin told me that the pattern for the distaff—a clever, rib-knit cuff with a slot to keep fiber at a safe distance from the turning spindle—was written by Rita Buchanan for the Winter 1999 issue of Spin Off. Devin loved the pattern so much that they had knitted enough handspun distaffs for everyone at the retreat. I picked one out and gave it a try, and that was the first of many spindle tips and skills I learned from Devin.

Devin demonstrating long draw. Photo from Spindle Spinning Essentials course

Devin’s new video course, Spindle Spinning Essentials, is designed for spinners who are ready to take their spindle spinning to the next level. This course builds on basic skills, which can be as helpful for those new to drop spindles as it is for experienced spinners who wish to broaden their techniques.

Devin shows multiple ways to attach a leader, short and long draws, and several plying approaches. Fiber and yarn management tips, like Devin’s use of a distaff, can help increase your spindling comfort and confidence. Here’s a short preview of all the techniques and information you’ll learn as you watch.

To celebrate the launch of Devin’s course, we pulled Rita Buchanan’s article “Simple Distaffs” from the archives and made it available to current subscribers in the Spin Off library. Rita, Devin, and the Spin Off staff hope you love learning to make and use spindle distaffs!

Click below or here to visit the library and get your copy of the “Simple Distaffs” article and tutorial.

You can find Devin’s Spindle Spinning Essentials course at

Kate Larson, editor of Spin Off, teaches handspinning around the country and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.