At Pennsic 45, I bought an Oseberg hand distaff. I'll add a picture later, but you can Google it and see lots. Lois Swales shows the use of one in her Spin Like a Viking video.
Trouble is, "hand distaff" doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you're doing grasped spinning. Part of the point of a distaff is that it serves as a third hand, holding the fibers while the off-hand drafts and the primary hand spins the spindle. Since I'm trying something different from the South American-style drop spinning (which could benefit from a hand distaff, at least as a way to carry and organize fibers?), I'm left looking at my hand distaff and wondering what I'll use it for now.
Sven the Merchant in Lochac may have my answer! He sells Oseberg hand distaffs - but he sells them as nostepinnes, or ball-winders. Now, this isn't entirely a sure identification either, I think - the surviving items look like they have narrowed ends and a swollen belly, which might make getting a wound ball off the stick difficult. (One end could be narrower than the belly.) On the other hand, YouTube instructional videos on nostepinne use are telling me not to wind on the yarn too tightly, lest it be stored in tension and then relax and shrink upon first washing. The belly on the distaffs/nostepinnes is rather small, and if the yarn was wound on with some give, it might not be hard to slide off at all.
I still have the spun Romney wool that Lady Sabine gave me in September on my niddy-noddy. Maybe today I'll soak it and stretch it to (finally) set the twist, and once it's dried, try winding it onto the Oseberg thingie to see how it goes.
Update: The hand distaff/nostepinne has gone into hiding, along with the clay whorls and chopsticks I got at BOTB. They all last came out to play for the September SENEA meeting, so I suspect they are all hiding together. Somewhere. I have checked the usual places and a few unusual ones. Nothing so far.
But I didn't want to leave the skein hanging around. Never mind that it's been sitting happily on a niddy-noddy since late September. I did take it off yesterday (after doing 4 figure 8 ties), soaked it in warm water (10 min), snapped it (hands inside the skein, pull out sharply), and hung it (weighted with two wrenches) to dry. It was dry today and it just had to be balled. Recalling my last adventure in yarn balling, I looped the skein over two chair backs and moved them apart until it was held up by tension. I used a 1/4" dowel as a nostepinne.
- Worked pretty well! It's supposed to be a center pull ball, but I lost the center string. (That's where having a real nostepinne with a knobby bit to wrap the free end around would have been helpful.) No big, I can pull it from the outside.
- I see now why yarn swifts are a thing. Unlooping the yarn from the chair backs was a little tedious.
I have a ball of yarn! It looks really good, like real yarn! Now... what to do with it?