Convention Report: Midwinter Gaming Convention 2018

I’ve been vending at Midwinter Gaming Convention since the first year they opened up a exhibit hall in 2011.  I missed two years, 2013 and 2014, when I had stopped sewing for a while.  It has been a pretty family friendly event.  My family and I have LARPed and played games there so that it was a bit of a mini-vacation while I worked.  All that said, this is my last year vending at the event.  I’ll be moving out of state in a few months, although even if that weren’t the case I doubt I’d be back.

It comes down to money, really.  The first two years I vended I made a great profit, enough to pay for the trip and then some.  My gross was never spectacular.  But it was a nice first of the year convention, and again, I treated it as a gaming retreat that I could enjoy with my family.

However, over the last three years I’ve made less and less each year.  I attribute this to falling attendance.  It’s hard to judge membership numbers from exhibit hall traffic, but this year’s lack of attendees was painfully obvious.  The trickle of people strolling through the hall was never more than twenty at a time.  There wasn’t even the usual rush of people between events.

With a lack of traffic, vendors and exhibitors had plenty of time to gossip.  Scuttlebutt was that some of the larger LARP groups hadn’t come back.  Last year a largish vampire LARP group had set up their own event the same weekend, which happened again this year.  One game developer said she shut down demos in the game room at 8:30 pm both nights because no one showed.  Wandering outside the exhibit hall it was much the same.  Lots of empty tables that were set up to host pick up games and a game room that was only half full every time I peaked my head in.

The lack of marketing didn’t help, either.  In year’s previous links to vendors have been posted on the Midwinter Gaming Convention website, as well as blurbs posted to its Facebook page in the run up to the event.  This year none of this happened.  There was a new vendor room director, although I don’t know if their job duties included online marketing or just onsite organization.  Either way, the running of the exhibit hall left a lot to be desired, too.  There was never a final call to inform people that the exhibit hall was closing each day, so people were still wandering around as vendors were trying to shut down to go eat.  Similarly, people were allowed in early on Saturday and Sunday before the official start time.*

I didn’t lose money on this weekend, but that’s just because I was there on my own, I was able to crash in a friend’s room, and people fed me all weekend long.  As it was I made a third of what I did that first weekend in 2011.  And as disappointing as that is, I’m upset with the way that the whole exhibit hall is being run.

From talking to other vendors I found out that the convention is charging $200 a booth for new vendors. I am a legacy vendor so I only pay $50, which is what a booth cost in 2011.  Seeing the drop in numbers, I don’t feel the new charge is justified.  Especially when it seems that the convention is inflating its number of attendees.  I have e-mailed the convention a couple times in the last few years asking what the end number of attendees was for that year’s event.  The answer has been a steady “thousand”.  This year I heard that the convention was telling some people that this was their best attended event to date.  The highest badge number I saw was in the 960s and was a Sunday day pass.  Yes, technically, one could round up and claim a thousand attendees, but that then leads me to question how this can be the best attended event.

Look, I get the semantic tricks one can employ to make an event look larger than it is.  But for vendors and game developers, having accurate information is essential in deciding which events to attend.  Travel, hotel and food costs all have to be taken into account along with the booth fee.  When you are told that an event gets a certain amount of attendees, you can figure how much you expect to make and decide if it is worth your time to go.  You can’t do that if conventions mislead you.

Charging $200 for a table at a general gaming convention that gets less than 1,000 members is too much.  Midwinter Gaming Convention has just announced it will be expanding the exhibitor hall for 2019.  That announcement makes me nervous because I doubt they’ll lower their booth fees, and so they’ll be making more money off the wallets of vendors.  If this expansion isn’t met with increased outreach and marketing on their part, it will hurt future vendors even more.

Honestly, I want Midwinter Gaming Convention to succeed and grow.  It would be great if they played up their family friendly atmosphere; perhaps offered some sort of family pass.  Reaching out to the Gothic Lolita and steampunk crowd would help as well.  I know that at least one year they had a Lolita fashion show.  I also hope they reconsider their booth pricing.  Otherwise, I suggest other vendors take a pass on this show.


*I’m not referring to the early hour on Friday when VIP are allowed into the exhibit hall and hour before official opening.  Instead I’m talking about coming in ten minutes before the hall is supposed to be open on Sunday and finding members browsing.

Making it Work: Myself Amplified

Well, we survived 2017, a feat that I think deserves a round of applause, or a stiff drink.  While last year was especially tough because of a few things I’ll get into in a minute, it was also a year of good things for me personally, professionally and mentally.

On the professional front, 2017 saw my best income ever.  I grossed $10,000 from sales at conventions, commissions, work on e-book and book layout projects and the sale of my first book.  And while my net was a little less than half that, it still is better than I have ever done.  I really wasn’t doing anything different from what I’ve done in the past, so I think this is more a result of the other gains I made over the year.

Creatively, this was the most full-filling year I’ve ever had as well.  I took on lots of commissions that required me to learn new skills and level up in my sewing technique.  I felt confident in my abilities and really enjoyed the work and the challenges it presented.  And getting back into writing with Sew Craft was like coming home.  I have wanted to see my work published since I was a child.  So fulfilling that goal has given me a boost that no amount of money can match.

It hasn’t all been awesome commissions and writing about magickal properties of fabric, though.  Emotionally, this year was rough.  My depression and anxiety are being controlled, but are still present and not being helped by the monthly uncertainty of whether or not I’ll have health insurance.  Also not helping is the situation with the house, and the custody battle with my ex-husband it has triggered.  I have spent a ridiculous amount of time pulling together documentation, talking to lawyers, and sitting in courtrooms when I could be working.

With all of those external stressors, it would be easy to write 2017 off as a bad mental health year.  I have had one success, though.  I have, for the most part, killed off my Jerk Brain.  It hasn’t bothered me for months, and the couple of times it has reared its malicious head, I have vanquished it easily.  This bugaboo has plagued me my entire life (my first memory of it comes from kindergarten) and I had resigned myself to living with it my entire life.  So to say that getting ride of my Jerk Brain has helped my overall happiness is an understatement.

It’s been mostly the happenings in the larger world that have been awful and taxing.  I’ve tried to not let things like the recent passing of the tax plan, or the repeal of net neutrality get me down.  I keep thinking about places like Puerto Rico and Flint and the people there who are living with far more imminent dangers.  The events of 2017 have pushed me further left, to the point where I am no longer coy about my more “radical”* beliefs: Universal Basic Income, universal healthcare, federal legalization of marijuana, federally mandated equal pay and family leave.  I used to keep these beliefs to myself, and I understand now that doing so has contributed to where the country is now.**

Overall, what 2017 taught me was that I needed to embrace what makes me happy and act on it apologetically.  The world as it is will put pressure on me to give up on my happiness.  It will be unmovingly cruel, it will try to break me financially and emotionally.  But I owe it to my past self to stick to my happiness.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago.  I am myself amplified.  That is what I take with me into this new year.


*”Radical” to the conservative members of my friends and family who still believe in prosperity gospel and bootstraps and the like.

**Not that I am blaming myself, individually, for the current state of affairs, but there seems to be a large, silent majority willing to let bigoted family members go unchallenged, for example, just to avoid confrontation.

Book Review: Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand

Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand
Root work + shamanism = a useful book.

The first time I was aware of how an environment affected me was in 1994-1996. I had moved to Laramie, Wyoming to go to school. The years I was there I felt unsettled, unraveling. I eventually moved away, heading for Chicago (which presented its own environmental issues) and didn’t really connect my unease with the town. Over the next few years, whenever I would travel home to visit, stopping in Laramie to see friends, the general sense of bad energy would hit me. I eventually came to recognize that the town, for whatever reason, just doesn’t jibe with me.

I think that is one of the reasons I related so strongly with Khi Armand’s Clearing Spaces.  It is a book full of advice in recognizing and diagnosing problems in one’s environment.  Armand then offers practical advice on how to address those problems.  He acknowledges, also, that some problems might not be fixed, and that, especially when dealing with genus loci, compromise might be necessary.

What I enjoyed about the book is that Armand discusses ways to treat the environment that don’t involve feng shui.  In fact, he introduces several concepts and practices that I had never heard of before.  For example, he talks about Ho’oponopono, a Hawaiian healing technique of reconciliation.  The idea of coming to terms with your environment, rather than trying to impose your will on it, was particularly interesting to me.

The book is grounded in root work, shamanism and paganism, with an understanding of and reference to the cultures that contributed to those paths or “modalities”. This blend of various paths feels organic rather than forced in his prose.  Armand also uses the term “technology” in references to practices like smudging, feng shui and the like.  It’s a call back to past times when spells and charms were worked as practical matters alongside other, mundane activities.

The greatest benefit I got from the book, however, was the introduction to the term “helping spirits.”  For years I have worked with Turtle, but eschewed the term “spirit animal” so as to not participate in cultural appropriation.  No other terms ever encompassed what Turtle means to me, though.  But when I read “helping spirits” it was like a light clicked on in my head!  It’s not an exaggeration to say that learning this term has helped my relationship to Turtle grow and deepen over the last few months.

Finally, on a completely aesthetic note, this is one of the most attractively laid out books I’ve read in a long time.  Flipping through it felt good.  I spent some of my time reading, just looking over the pages, admiring the design.  That sort of attention to the page space is completely in keeping with the rest of the book.

 

Event Report: Geek Craft Expo

Last weekend I headed over to Madison, WI for the Geek Craft Expo‘s Midwest market.  I had heard of the show from crafters I met at the Made in Nerdwaukee event, and it hit all of my buttons, vending wise.  Geek Craft Expo is a series of craft fairs around North America which focus on handmade geekery.  It’s the sort of craft fair where you find crocheted Yoda ears, dice boxes, fandom inspired bath bombs, and jewelry made out of circuit boards.

This was one of the best planned and run events I’ve ever attended.  There was a score of volunteers who helped vendors unload.  The background music that ran the whole gamut of fandom musical tastes: from “Real Folk Blues” to the Quantum Leap theme music.  The room was decorated with standard Halloween fare, there was a scavenger hunt for the kids who came by, as well as trick-or-treating, a make and take, and costume parade.  More importantly, for me, was the well-stocked vendor lounge with snacks and bottled water.

The last bit was important because I managed to lose my voice for the entire weekend.  I had been sick for the week leading up to Geek Craft, yet still managed to drag myself out to vend.  I spent most of the weekend behind my table, communicating with customers through notes and pantomime.

As well-run as the event was, traffic and sales were disappointing.  I don’t blame the event runners at all; their March expo was a huge success.  This time around, however, they ran afoul of football season.  I estimate that the total crowd over the weekend was a little under 1,000. By contrast, the crowd at their March event was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000.  On the one hand that meant I didn’t have to interact with as many people while sick and speechless, but that also meant lower sales than I had expected.  As my booth neighbor, Moira, pointed out: “The conversion from browser to buyer is right where I expected it, but there just aren’t enough bodies coming through.”

And to their credit, the people in charge acknowledged the low attendance.  When the show closed and people started packing up they made the announcement that future shows would be scheduled well outside of football season.  I appreciated their candor.

I barely made booth, which means I lost money once I took gas and expenses into account.  I am honestly not as upset as I otherwise would be about the low sales.  Everything else was so nice about the event, that it sort of washes out in the end.  If I end up being in the area when the next expo is planned, I will definitely be signing up to vend.

 

Client Spotlight: Sarah G.

If I were to have a patron, Sarah would be it.  Over the last year she has commissioned several skirts from me, choosing the most whimsical, geeky, STEMy fabric imaginable.  As a client, she is a joy to work with.  So, when she approached me about creating a Miss Frizzle cosplay, I said yes without hesitation.

What Sarah wanted was simple in it’s vision: a matching skirt and shirt that would look like a dress, with the wide elastic of the skirt acting as a belt.  Being a busty woman, Sarah wanted to avoid the problems she’s had in the past with fitting dresses to her figure.  We talked at length about what kind of shirt would work best for the costume.  Though she was hesitant when I brought up a button down, she said she trusted me to make it work.

I understand her trepidation.  Button down shirts can be difficult for women with large breasts.  Not only is there the button gap issue, but in order to fit a shirt to your bust you often end up with a garment that looks like a tent.  In this case I had the advantage because I would be sewing the shirt from scratch.

Simplicity 9818 Pattern
For an all purpose button down shirt, this pattern is about as easy as they come.

I chose a pattern I already had on hand: Simplicity 9818.  I’d used the pattern before to make a shirt for myself, so I was familiar with the instructions.  The pattern itself stopped two sizes short of Sarah’s measurements.  This is where having multiple copies of a pattern on hand helps.  Using pattern paper I first traced the largest size, then I slid the pattern paper over, matching the markings with the smaller, inner size, and traced the larger size again.  From that pattern I made a muslin to make sure the sizing was correct.

If I were making the shirt for every day wear, I would have added bust darts up from the waist to make it a bit more tailored.  Since it was going to be tucked into the skirt and needed to look like part of the dress, I didn’t.  When she got the costume, she told me she was over the moon with the fit.  For once she had a button down shirt that fit her measurements.  Her trust in me had been well founded.  And it’s responses like that, the feeling of pulling on a piece of clothing that just fits like it is supposed to, that make this job so satisfying.  As someone who got into sewing because I hated going clothes shopping, I love that I can help others in that regard.

Microbes - Lime & Teal by Erin Hayward
I love the retro future design of these microbes.

The fabric Sarah chose, Microbes by Erin Hayward, is what really made this outfit work.  The design is recognizable for what it is, and it has just the right cartoony look to it.  With her wig and plush lizard, Sarah said that people at DragonCon immediately knew who she was.

This is an aspect of cosplay that I really love: going out in a character that other people relate to on a personal level.  To see a beloved character in the flesh, so to speak, to be able to interact with them, get a picture with them, connect with them, even if only for a moment of pretend, is one of those small moments of joy that help offset the horribleness of our current reality.  There are shootings and poverty and people without health care or power and natural disasters and suffering the world over.  Those things need our attention and help.  But we also need to have moments where we can retreat and recharge.  And this one small action, dressing up as Miss Frizzle, had ripple effects.  While I made the costume I felt happiness.  When Sarah dressed up, she felt happiness.  Those who saw her, not only in person, but in pictures posted on the Internet, felt happiness.  That is no small thing.

I’m already working on more skirts for Sarah.  I’ve sewn enough for her that they almost warrant their own post.  For now, I leave you with pictures of Miss Frizzle, out and about at DragonCon.  I hope seeing them brings you a moment or two of happiness.

Miss Frizzle Cosplay
Look at that wig! Look at that lizard!
Miss Frizzle Cosplay
I love the saucy pose!

Making It Work: You Can Still Lose

My house is being foreclosed on. This comes as no surprise.  I have been fighting to keep my home since I got divorced in 2008.  One of my first battles led me to run a fire sale on custom corsets.  I raised almost $1,500 for my mortgage.  For nine years it has been a struggle.  There have been bad conventions and years of expensive car repairs.  I’ve dealt with financial sabotage on the part of my ex-husband.  And I’ve made mistakes, like with the way I tried to restart my publishing company back in 2012.

On top of that all, I’ve also been dealing with depression and anxiety.  At times I know people have wondered why I worked so hard to keep hold of this house.  What I tell them is that it’s not just the house.  If I lose my home I can’t afford to stay in the area.  And if I move I will have a custody battle on my hands.

This final notice of foreclosure, though, has brought with it an acceptance that this is just how things are going to be.  I’m not going to be in this house much longer.  Which puts me in a holding pattern.  Foreclosures can take years to be resolved.  I could be moving in six months or six years.  That kind of uncertainty makes planning for the future tricky.  I have the chance to vend at C2E2, but can I commit to an event in April when I might be states away?  Should I look at events in the area I plan to move to when I don’t know my move date?  I already anticipate losing money in 2018 because of this.

It’s harder with the house.  Is there a point in planning next year’s garden?  And just what should we fix around the place?  I feel like I can’t even properly mourn the home I will lose because everything is so uncertain now.  Making peace with what is going on is difficult when I don’t know what the future holds.

It’s funny, this happening now.  I haven’t posted a financial update in a while due to being so busy, but that doesn’t mean the news is bad.  This year is on course to being my best one yet.  Every month but one has been in the black and I’ve made my sales goals at the majority of my events.  Even better, I’ve seen an uptick in commissions and Etsy sales.

Professionally, I’m feeling very good about my work.  I have a book contract.  I’m even getting jobs doing e-book layout and design (my latest project was for author Richard C. White on his book Harbinger of Darkness).  It’s work that I really enjoy.

In my personal life things are wonderful.  I’ve got two lovely, smart and creative kids.  Stephan is the best husband and partner I could ever hope for.  I am slowly learning about living with cats.  My depression and anxiety are pretty much under control.  I even have a bit of a social life.

All of this is in stasis, too, now.  I can’t plan longer than a month out.  I can’t commit to long term plans, or make connections in the area I’ll be moving to.  I have to just accept that this is the way things are right now.  I have to be prepared for change, but not spend all my time waiting for it.

It’s a balancing act to be sure.  I try to keep grounded in the present as much as possible.  I tackle my October to do list, clearing the old growth from the yard, paying the bills, checking to see what linens need replacing before winter arrives.  I go into the workshop and concentrate on the handful of commissions I have to finish up.  And I tell myself a dozen times a day that things are going to be okay, it’s a transition and it sucks, but I will survive it.

I am sure that one day, in the future, I will look up from the present and see that I did, indeed, survive.

Book Review: A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard

A Witch's Runes by Susan Sheppard Cover
She had me at the witch as gentle anarchist and lost me at “gypsy”.

In my wandering and varied research for my book, I kept coming across the witch’s runes.  You can find a plethora of them on Etsy.  I was really curious as to what they were, where they came from, their provenance really.  A little digging produced the book A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard.  The subtitle How to Make and Use Your Own Magick Stones was right up my research alley.  I put in my request for a copy via Inter Library Loan along with the half a bajillion other books and waited.

I want to point out from the offset that I admire what Sheppard set out to do with the book.  With certain modern pagan paths’ penchants for making up traditions out of whole cloth there a real risk to viewing anything not steeped in hundreds of years of history as somehow lesser or illegitimate when it comes to the pagan faith.  I’ve read a lot of pagan books over the last year, and there is a trend of constantly looking back.  What Sheppard does in this book is create a new divination system, somewhere between runes and Tarot cards.  It’s an ambitious objective and it has certainly paid off: her book was first published in 1998 and the idea of witch’s runes has spread.

But (and you knew there was a but coming, right?) reading through the book was an uncomfortable stroll through cultural appropriation, slurs and handfuls of generalizations thrown in for good measure.  Sheppard’s approach is summed up on page 22: “But the witch honors all of the spiritual traditions that have preceded her.  She takes what works for her and makes use of its meanings.”  This set the tone for the book.

The thing is, it didn’t have to be this way.  Late in the book, on page 96, Sheppard mentions that her “…area of discipline is astrology.”  She talks about using the runes she has created “in the place of signs and planets and it works out fine.”  Knowing this, and seeing the table at the back of the book with planet, sign and element correspondences, I could see the potential for a divination tool made incorporating the zodiac and astrology.  I don’t understand why this isn’t what she did.

The only reasoning I can come up with is that urge I pointed out earlier, to try and tie any new Pagan ideas to the past.  For each rune, Sheppard tries to tie the symbolism to various older cultures: Egyptian, Pict, Anglo-Saxon, Akkadians, Mesopotamians, and of course the ubiquitous “gypsies”.  Occasionally she touches back on her astrological background, tying the Scythe to Scorpio and the planet Pluto.  But for the most part all the runes are presented as an amalgamation of symbols drawn from mostly western cultures.

I am writing Sew Craft with an eye to avoid appropriation, generalization, and giving Western traditions more importance than the rest of the world.  It is a fine line to travel, as I am aware that I can’t see all the pitfalls I might fall in while meaning well. As I work, reading books like A Witch’s Runes keeps me mindful of respecting the history of my sources.

 

Cross Stitch: SF Swear Words

I’m a word nerd and a science fiction geek.  I also love to swear.  Like, really fucking love to curse. My swearing is sometimes a problem (like when my children started dropping f-bombs as toddlers).  But mostly swearing offers me a release for frustration.  (Also, swearing has its benefits.)

Which is why I love science fictional swearing.  You get to express your anger in a way that won’t lead to judgmental looks from those around you.

This cross stitch sampler is my love letter to the swears used throughout fandom.  The pictured sampler was stitched on white 14 count Aida cloth using two strands of floss.  Download the free chart by clicking on the download button below, or clicking here.

Download Icon

If you get your stitch and bitch on, please post a picture in the comments.  I’d love to see how it turns out for you.

Sew Craft: Research Reading List

I have spent the last year on research for Sew Craft.  I’ve made liberal use of the interlibrary loan department of my local library to get a hold of various books on two main topics: sewing and magic.  As much as I love research, though, there comes a time when you need to put butt in chair and write (or sew).

Below is an incomplete list of the books I’ve read over the last year.  I left off the books on gardening, fashion and pattern-making that weren’t being used for research. They’re presented in no particular order, and mostly just as a demonstration of what is involved in writing a book.

  1. The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook by Karen Harrison
  2. By Spellbook & Candle by Mélusine Draco
  3. The Point of the Needle by Dorothy Bromiley Phelan
  4. The Dress Detective by Ingrid Mida & Alexandra Kim
  5. Old World Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
  6. The Book of English Magic by Phillip Carr-Gromm & Richard Heygate
  7. The Tradition of Household Spirits by Claude LeCouteaux
  8. Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch by Lora O’Brien
  9. The devil’s Cloth by Michel Pastoureau
  10. Trolldom by Johannes Björn Gardbäck
  11. Made from Scratch: Reclaiming the Pleasures of the American Hearth by Jean Zimmerman
  12. Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand
  13. Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert
  14. The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker
  15. A Grimoire for Modern Cunningfolk by Peter Paddon
  16. Nomadic Felts by Stephanie Bunn
  17. Printed Textiles by Linda Eaton
  18. The Good Witch’s Guide by Shawn Robbins & Charity Bedell
  19. A History of Witchcraft by Jeffrey B. Russell & Brooks Alexander
  20. The Hearth Witch’s Compendium by Anna Franklin
  21. Farmhouse Witchcraft by Penny Parker
  22. The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff
  23. A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk by Edain McCoy
  24. Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch by Rachel Patterson
  25. A Witch’s World of Magick by Melanie Marquis
  26. Hedgewitch by Silver Ravenwolf
  27. The Flame and the Cauldron by Orion Foxwood
  28. A Witch’s Halloween by Gerina Dunwich
  29. Earth Power by Scott Cunningham
  30. Cunning-folk: Popular Magic in English History by Owen davies
  31. Cunningfolk & Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby
  32. The Cunningman’s Handbook by Jim Baker
  33. Green Witchcraft by Ann Moura
  34. Muslin by Sonia Ashmore
  35. Textiles: The Whole Story by Beverly Gordon
  36. Forgotten Ways for Modern Days by Rachelle Blondel
  37. Natural Color by Sasha Duerr
  38. Women’s Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
  39. Practical Sigil Magic by Frater U.D.
  40. A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard
  41. Homemade Magic by Lon Milo DuQuette
  42. The Book of Forgotten Crafts by Paul Felix, Siân Ellis & Tom Quinn
  43. Witchy Crafts: 60 Enchanted Projects for the Creative Witch by Lexa Olick

 

Plarn: It’s Crafting and Magical Uses

I’ve written before on the magical correspondences of various fabrics.  My focus there was on natural fibers (cotton, linen, wool and silk).  Not all crafters and sewists limit themselves to natural materials, though.  In fact I’d hazard to guess that very few do.  One could, I suppose, use only silk or cotton thread, eschew plastic buttons for only metal, wood, bone or horn, leave out zippers or plastic snaps, as well as iron on interfacing, etc.

There is an emphasis on only using natural materials in ritual and magic crafts.  While I can understand the reasoning behind it, I find the insistence to border on classism and elitism.  Not everyone can afford or has access only natural materials.  And, when we get down to it, everything comes from the earth in one form or another.  Everything is ultimately natural when it’s roots are traced back to its beginnings.  Even plastic.

Magick in the Plastic

Our witch ancestors didn’t use colored candles, or have access to the array of crystals and herbs available online.  And some might have turned their noses up at colored ribbons, grocery store herbs and store bought besoms as not “traditional” tools.  I think it behooves modern witches to see how the practice of witchcraft and magick have changed over the centuries, adapting as new technologies and products have come available, and be open to using materials that might strike us at first as non-magickal.

I’d go even farther to argue that plastic is decidedly magical.  It is alchemy at its most refined.  Taking the remains of dinosaurs and creating a material which is named after its defining characteristic: its shapeshifting ability.

Yes, plastic does have its drawbacks, its production and longevity make it a serious hazard for the environment.  This doesn’t exclude it from being considered a natural material, though.  The elements have their destructive aspects.  Sheep rearing, silk making, cotton farming and linen production all have their affects on the environment as well.

So, how do we approach plastic as a magical tool?  One way is through making and using plarn: yarn made from plastic bags.  Many crafters have found clever and practical uses for plarn, from making lightweight and rugged bedrolls for the homeless to arts and crafts to sell to support their families.  Plarn has the added benefit of removing plastic bags—one of the hardest items to recycle–from the system.

Plarn Correspondences

Let’s start with a few correspondences.  These are associations I have made on my own through study and meditation.  They are not meant to be set in stone, and if they don’t ring true to you, feel free to form your own correspondences.

  • Deities: Cerridwen, Janus, Kali, Oya (deities of change and transformation)
  • Element: Air
  • Color: White
  • Themes/uses: transformation, durability, flexibility, change

Making plarn is a straightforward process that lends itself to a meditative practice.  Use it just as you would yarn to crochet or finger weave a variety of items, or spin it into thread.  You can make tote bags, mats, jewelry, and baskets.