HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She knew how to use her hands with skill in providing clothing for her family and perhaps others. This verse describes a very ancient method of spinning used in the days before the spinning wheel even existed. The distaff was a staff used for holding the flax, tow or wool which would be spun into thread by means of the spindle. The spindle would turn and twist the fibres into threads. [See the discussion of wool and flax under verse 13.]
The spindle was a round stick with tapered ends used to form and twist the yarn in hand spinning. The spindle and the distaff are the most ancient of all instruments used in the craft of spinning. About eight to ten inches long, spindles were used to guide the thread as it was fashioned into cloth. The weaver sometimes turned the spindle by rolling it across her thigh.
The wool or flax was wound on the distaff, which was stuck upright in the ground or held under the arm. The spindle, which had a circular rim to steady it when revolving, was attached to the thread being drawn out from the distaff. By rotating the spindle, the spinner twisted the thread. An example of hand spinning is found in the ancient book of Exodus: “And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair” (Exodus 35:25-26).
If a woman’s hands are idle and if she is not engaged in worthwhile, constructive pursuits, then watch out! “Idle hands are the devil’s tools” and “If the devil can catch a man (or woman) idle, he’ll set him (or her) to work.”