The Idiorhythmic River

Over the last couple of years I’ve tried to work with my depression instead of against it.  To me this means going with the flow: working on those tasks that I feel up to, and not forcing myself to slog through tasks.  Do this goes against my upbringing.  It goes against some of the underlying belief in hard work that is so prevalent in American society.

We “tough it out” and “work through the pain.”  We never take sick days.  We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on.  We put in 110% and go big or go home.  We fake it till we make it.  What we never, ever do is stop to question who is the taskmaster that set this schedule, let alone why we should follow it.

Hard work, after all, is it’s own reward.

This last week I’ve been plagued with insomnia … again.  I can’t fall asleep until four or five or six in the morning.  And then, when I do, I sleep away half the day.  If it weren’t for the fact that Stephan is at home and responsible for the kids in the morning, the house would be miserable.

Part of this is a physical cycle: sleep away the day and of course I won’t be able to sleep at night.  Part of it is my depression: meds help, but the American Horror Show: White House that is playing out is making it worse.

I’ve tried to work with this: breaking down work into simple tasks and tackling them as I feel able.  I spent Monday baking and prepping meals.  Tuesday was running errands.  Yesterday I started seeds for the garden, and registered for some events later this year.  Very little time was spent in the workshop.  And it’s that which Jerk Brain latches onto.  I have deadlines!  I am not depressed, I’m lazy!  Going with the flow is just an excuse for not having dedication and follow through!

And, despite having years of practice dealing with Jerk Brain, it can still be hard to ignore.  Especially when one or two bad days drags out into four or five.  I begin to second-guess this plan of giving myself permission to do work that isn’t tied to a paycheck.  I start to look at my output, at my hours worked, and scattered as they are across the days and week it is hard not to see them as inferior to a solid forty hour work week.  When I have to budget and scrimp and save, when I look at my dwindling bank account, it is hard not to believe Jerk Brain when it insists that I am a failure.

One of my weapons against all this is Stephan.  I tell him that I feel like I am being a bad partner and mom.  That I worry I am not contributing enough to our family’s stability.  I tell him that I’m worried my insomnia is responsible for his own sleeplessness.

He responds that I am doing fine.  He says Jerk Brain is an asshole liar.  He promises that if he had an issue with anything he would say so.  And he cracks jokes to make me smile and laugh.  He gives me permission to keep going with the flow, not because he thinks I need it, but because he knows I want it as a shield against my doubts.  I’m hoping that one day I won’t have to rely on him so much.  I am also okay with the knowledge that that day may never come.

More than that I will try to take it a day at a time.  Despite the insomnia and sleeping in today I managed to tidy up the house, help Benjamin with his homework, and take some measurements for projects.  And I wrote this post.  Little tasks.  Little check marks on the to do list.  And one by one I will get things done.

Client Spotlight: Matt & Shirley

Tattoos and costuming have a lot in common.  You get your first one and you think you’re done.  Next thing you know the itch for yet another coat, or hat, or patch, or whatever creeps in.  Add LARP into the mix, where you are always on the lookout for a new costume piece for an existing character, or for a brand new character, and every day is a new opportunity for another costume piece.

roach's first larp costume
My first ever LARP costume. I made a T-tunic out of an old linen and lace tablecloth. Not shown, the final product splattered with paint to look like blood.

And like tattoos, if you are lucky you find someone who you can trust to add to your collection.  It can make for a beautiful, and creative, relationship.  As a costumer/seamstress, I love those relationships.  Not only because it means regular income, but because the collaboration can take me to interesting and inventive places.

Matt and Shirley are two such clients.  I met them through LARP, and have been lucky to call them friends over the years.  When the approached me for costumes for a Byzantium based vampire LARP I did a little victory dance.  The last time I worked anywhere near the BCE was back when I first started LARP in a Constantinople by Night game.  There was a lot of room for inventive costuming just waiting to be investigated.

Matt and Shirley are great examples of costuming clients.  They had a good idea of what they wanted and were open to suggestions.  Matt’s costume request was simple: a sarong with a Poseidon themed border print and a cape.  He provided me with pictures of sample garments and knew what colors he wanted.  My only input was to offer up a few designs for him to pick from for the border.

The design was accomplished with fabric paint and a stencil.  I used a linen-look fabric for the sarong and cape for a period-esque look without the drawbacks (wrinkles and a high price point).  For the cloak I added a black and white key trim ribbon and chain clasp.

Stencil This
The most time consuming part of all this was cutting out the stencils. If I were to do this more often I would invest in on of those home laser cutter machines. I feel particularly proud of remembering to put down a garbage bag liner before I started painting.

I had never done stencil work before, so this gave me a valuable opportunity to pick up a new skill, and then think about other ways I could accomplish the same task.  If I had had the time and budget I would have gone with a 100% linen and used a bleach or batik technique for the design.  That said, no matter where you stand on the whole “LARP requires costuming“, (and equivalencies to tattoos aside), I advocate going with what your budget allows.  Getting the look for your character doesn’t have to cost a ton.

Shirley had a vague idea of what she wanted and with some back and forth we settled on a linen chiton with a fur capelet. This led to my favorite moment in the idea process where I mentioned I had a sheepskin in the workshop much to Matt’s disbelief*.

The chiton was, again, made from a linen-look material.  Much like Matt’s sarong and cloak I was just dealing with two long rectangles of cloth.  That was actually the most difficult part of putting the costuming together.  Dealing with yards and yards of cloth can be hard.  I ended up spending a lot of time standing in front of Kenny with fabric draped over my shoulder as I hemmed it.

The capelet was the most difficult piece to put together, mostly due to the fact that I was dealing not with a cut of cloth, but an entire piece that had ragged and awkward edges.  I spent a lot of time with it hung on Mildred, adjusting it this way and that to find the best drape.  The fastenings came from thrifted belts and metal hardware procured from Textile Discount Outlet.

Since neither of these costumes included pockets, and I am a proponent of hands-free gaming, I made up simple drawstring pouches for both out of left over fabric.  At the very least they would be able to store their character sheets out of the way when they weren’t throwing chops.

My other philosophy when it comes to LARP costuming, is that you have a better RP experience when your costuming is comfortable and fits.  I think these two pieces hit both those marks, if I am to judge from the pictures Matt sent me of Shirley in her outfit.

A Fierce and Wise Woman
Shirley in her completed costume. I love how fierce she looks.

*Over the years various and sundry items have materialized in the workshop.  I suspect the house gnomes secret them there.  In this case, however, a friend and client had gifted me the sheepskin after a thrifting trip.

Persist, Resist: Nine Fabrics from Spoonflower for your Craftivism

Next month I’ll be vending at the TINY HANDS craft show to benefit Planned Parenthood. I’m excited to be involved in this event, not only because I support Planned Parenthood and its work, but because I get to finally participate in an act of craftivism. Ever since I read Craftivism by Betsy Greer I have wanted to find ways to use my skills to make a difference.

With thoughts of resist, persist and protest in mind I collected some designs from Spoonflower together to inspire your own crafting activism. Check out the gallery below:

And if you are in the Chicagoland area, consider coming out to the craft show and supporting Planned Parenthood.

 

Sew Craft: Dream Pillows

In my backyard I have a bower on which morning glories entwine in the spring and summer. I have always loved the cheerful face the flowers give to the day, especially as I am not a morning person. I can see the blooms from my bedroom window and so, no matter how grouchy I might be when I drag myself from the warm embrace of my bed, I smile when I catch sight of the blue and purple flowers.

Morning glory seeds added to dream pillows keep nightmares at bay. Perhaps this is because they carry in them a promise of the morning to come, when the sunrise banishes the monsters of the night.

Make dream pillows to help with prophetic dreams, or to ease your mind to sleep. Make one for the child who wakes up from nightmares. She can reach for her sleep pillow, inhale the scent of lavender and lemon balm and fall back asleep, knowing her dreams will be sweetened by the scents.  To refine your spell craft, use linen—dreams and linen both share an association with water.  If you want inspiring dreams, use silk thread for the embroidery for its association with the air element.  If you need deep sleep, make use of cotton’s grounding earth vibrations.

Materials

Dream Pillow Materials
I used the lavender linen spray shown here when I pressed the fabric before starting. It’s not necessary, but it gives the fabric a nice fragrance.

Dream Pillow Design ( pdf | jpg )
Blue fabric about 12″ x 12″
Lightweight fusible interfacing
Embroidery thread in blue, purple and silver
Embroidery hoop and needle
9 morning glory seeds
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers

Process

1) Print out the Dream Pillow Design by clicking on the links here: pdf | jpg. Use the pdf link to print the image as is. The jpg link is provided for you to manipulate (enlarge, reduce, rotate, etc.).

2) Transfer the embroidery design onto the fabric.  You can use transfer paper, or trace the pattern right on the fabric.  I pinned the design to the fabric and taped it to the window to trace it.  I use the Pilot Frixion Clicker pens because the ink disappears from fabric when ironed.

Dream Pillow Transfer
This part will take a little patience.

3) Stitch the design with three strands of embroidery thread (1 blue, 1 purple, 1 silver). Use a stem, chain or split stitch. Use an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut.

Dream Pillows: Almost Finished
Halfway to the land of Nod.

4) When finished, apply fusible interfacing to the back of the design.

5) With the design centered, cut the fabric out in a 6” square. Cut a back piece of fabric also in a 6” square.

6) With right sides together, stitch a ½” seam along all sides of the square, leaving a 3” gap for turning. Back stitch at the start and finish of the seam.

7) Trim the corners and seam allowances.

8) Turn the pillow right side out. Press.

9) Stuff the pillow with the morning glory seeds and lavender. Do not over stuff.

Dream Pillows: Stuffing Time
You can also add mugwort to your dream pillow to help promote prophetic dreams.

10) Edge stitch ¼” around all sides of the pillow. Work slowly, shifting the lavender and morning glory seeds to the center to avoid catching them in the needle.

11) When you are finished, hold the pillow in both hands and charge it with restful sleep intentions. Say:

“Lavender sweet and glory of day
Please keep any nightmares at bay,
Should haunted thoughts disturb this guarded rest
Please help usher in a sleep that’s blessed.”¹

You can call upon one of the gods of sleep or dreams to bless the pillow as well.

Place the dream pillow under your own. Should negative thoughts rouse you to wakefulness, grip your dream pillow, inhale the lavender scent and allow it to lull you back to sleep.

Finished Dream Pillow
And your dream pillow is done. Sweet dreams.

¹ Many thanks to my partner, Stephan, for putting together a chant to replace my clumsy attempts at ritual rhyming.

Customer Review: Square Holder

I got a request from my friend and accountant Michael from PRM, Limited to make a holder for his Square reader.  I was already familiar with the device.  I use it myself at conventions.  It didn’t take long to put together and I delivered a prototype for him to test out.

And then I completely forgot about it, until a couple of weeks ago when Michael reminded me about it.  He sent me pictures of the holder and even wrote up a little review.  With the way things have been going lately, I appreciate reading that a little thing I put together has not only served it’s purpose and lasted, but that it has been helpful.

Michael writes:

“About 4 years ago my company started using Square to take credit cards and I asked Raechel at Idiorhythmic Design if she had a key chain type item that held the reader. I knew I was going to be on the go all the time and I wanted something to keep the reader easily accessible and safe. She didn’t but she designed a prototype for me and sent it over. After 4 years of heavy abuse in my pocket, car, and just general life the holder has held up fairly well. Obviously any fabric item is going to break down under that kind of life eventually and as the pictures show the edges have eventually frayed and shown the interior material used to give it strength. The button clasp is still in excellent condition and clasps firmly with no issues. The blue loop for attaching it to my key ring is still super solid and in great shape. The reader has a jack that allows it to plug into the phone and even after 4 years for rubbing against the interior seams they are still in pretty good shape and are only now beginning to show strain from the wear and tear.

“Overall this was a fantastic prototype with 4 years of testing put into it and I can say that if she decides to make them a more permanent item on her store I will be the first to buy a new one. I hope later generations come with fun fabric designs on the outside, but the plain brown used was a also a good choice in a professional setting.”

Thank you, Michael, for putting that thing through the gauntlet and letting me know how it held up.

Down in the Hole

Almost three years ago I started to realize that I wasn’t okay.  Stephan was the first to notice it and suggest that I needed help.  That kicked off a period of introspection on my part where I started to recognize what I was going through and drawing parallels to a period in my life, almost twenty years earlier, where I had dealt with the same issues.  At that time I ended up trying to kill myself, dropped out of college and moved 2,000 miles from my home state of Wyoming to start over in Chicago.

Even though I recognized the signs and had a supportive husband, I still could have ended up in a very bad place.  We didn’t have health insurance at that point so I couldn’t get professional help.  In fact it would take about eight months after deciding I needed help before I could see someone.  And when everyday you alternate between feeling like you are being buried alive or that your head is going to explode from all the anxiety, it’s hard to function, let alone jump through all the hoops of finding the help you need.

Much like with my move to Chicago in 1996, I started cataloging my struggles with depression and anxiety out of desperation.  I made posts to my Facebook page about what I was dealing with, what it felt like, what I was going through to find help.  I needed to express what was going on in a place that was safe for me.  And even though I have a tightly locked down Facebook page, with a highly curated friends’ list, I still spent a lot of time agonizing over whether or not to post.

What helped was another friend posting first about going to therapy and then later about taking medication.  It was just two little posts, snuggled in between stuff about politics and books and life.  But it made a huge difference.  Here was someone I looked up to, someone who, to my eyes, had their shit together.  And they were seeing a therapist for anxiety.  They were taking medication for their mental health.  Holy shit!  Maybe I wasn’t the only one!

I come from Wyoming, a state that has a high suicide rate for its population size, and where the most distinct cause of death in the state is the flu.  It is a place where you suck it up and work through the pain, no matter what.  It’s no wonder that we don’t talk about things as uncomfortable as mental health.  My own mother, when I had brought up depression and therapy in the past, cautioned that I had to be careful because therapists would “just want to blame all your problems on your parents.”  The concern with image trumps any pain or suffering you are feeling.  Add to that the belief that mental illness is more about personal failings and irresponsibility than an actual medical condition and you can see why it’s hard to talk openly about depression and anxiety, let alone other mental health issues.

Posting, first only about the arduous process of finding doctors that took my health insurance, but later on my medications and my reactions, had an effect that I had expected.  I started getting private messages from people who I had always seen as, again, having their shit together: people who were working, paying their bills, engaging in life.  These people told me about the medications they were on.  They told me what worked or didn’t work for them.  They wrote to me with support and encouragement.  It was so damned important for me, because I got to see that it wasn’t abnormal to take medication, that there was still life beyond depression.

As I kept writing, people started commenting openly.  Again, all these friends who I thought of as awesome, put together adults, were sharing their own struggles and stories.

And something else happened.  Friends started telling me about how my posts helped them with their own mental health issues.  They recognized their symptoms in my writings.  They went and sought help because they read about me taking medication.  They were feeling better, more hopeful about their own lives because they saw someone else going through the same things.

That realization suddenly made it so much easier to write the posts about what I was feeling.  To mention when I felt I was backsliding, or my worries that my medication isn’t helping.  I was doing the same thing I have been doing when I post about whether or not I am making money in this whole living a creative life endeavor: I am standing in the dark, holding up a light for those who might be otherwise lost.  And that’s a kind of healing as well.

 

 

Sew Craft: Fabric Magical Properties

One of the challenges in researching this book has been the lack of information on very basic topics.   While magical correspondences of everything from animals to minerals, colors to plants have been studied and recorded, textiles have slipped through the cracks.  When it comes to magical crafts, fabric has been given little if any consideration of its magical properties.  Yes, fiber content isn’t as exciting as, say, feathers or shells, but I feel that taking time to consider the type of fabric you’ll use in projects can give added meaning and energy to your work.

There are some people who have given some thought to the magical properties of textiles.  One such, Deborah Snavely, has two in depth articles on the subject.  I have come to use different correspondences than hers below.  Also, I don’t use the standard system of assigning male or female genders—I find the whole idea not particularly useful, and potentially harmful to my practice.  However, I include the link to her articles as I found them helpful in my own research and as a place for others to look to for their own investigations.

Without a venerable Cunningham to guide my studies, I have had to cast my net outside the metaphysical seas into those concerning the practical aspects of textiles.  The correspondences outlined below are based on my research into the origins of the fiber (where the raw material comes from) and the processes used to make the fabric.  My focus is on the most basic of correspondences: the elements.  I’ve also limited myself to the four most common natural fabrics.  Man-made and blends fall outside the scope of this entry.  Other natural fabrics: nettle, hemp, the new faux leathers made from pineapple leaves and mushrooms are best considered in another article as well.  Leather, fur and feathers have been left off as their associations are intrinsically tied to the animals they come from.

With that preamble out of the way, please check out the correspondences below.  Again, these are all based on my own research.  So, if anything doesn’t resonate with you, ignore it.  In the end, magic is a personal matter, and it is your own intuition, symbols and reasoning that fuels your spells.

Cotton

Cotton fabric is made from the boll of the cotton plant. The fibers are plucked, mixed, beaten in cylinders, carded, drawn, roved and then spun into thread. As such, it shares some of the qualities of plant from which it comes: it is associated with the Earth element; it can be used magically in spells of healing, luck and protection. According to Cunningham, “Cotton is the best kind of cloth (next to wool) to use for making sachets, or for any time cloth is needed in magic.”¹

One type of cotton fabric, muslin, was once a fabric highly prized in its native India and throughout the rest of the world. In her book, Muslin, Sonia Ashmore writes, “Muslin is an open-textured cloth, thin and sheer, woven to varying degrees of fineness depending on the quality of yarn used and the skills of both the spinner and the weaver. The surface, particularly of hand-woven muslin, has a softness to the touch that has been described as ‘mossiness’.”² This description of “mossiness” along with its origin of the cotton plant, places the fabric into the Earth elemental realm.

Use cotton fabric for any project, from robes to altar cloths to spell bags. It is well suited for spell bags as it is breathable, allowing the magic to flow in and out of the pouch.

Linen

Linen is created from flax; a laborious process that includes “retting” or fermentation in water. Because of this and its water absorption properties, it is associated with the Water element. It is a fabric that suggests purity and wealth. As it was historically used for bedding, linen is used in many healing spells. One such use involves tying a strip of linen from a sick person’s bed to a tree. As the exposure to the elements destroy the strip, the illness will be similarly destroyed in the patient.

Linen is associated to the goddess Hulda through its flaxen origin. It is used in spells of beauty, healing, money, protection and psychic powers. Linen is especially well suited to robes and other magical attire.

While pure linen is expensive, there are several “linen like” synthetics available at a lesser price point. These can be used in place of the authentic fiber. These faux fabrics require less ironing than pure linen meaning they can be preferable for use in items worn.

Silk

Silk is made from the cocoons of moth caterpillars. The cocoons are soaked in hot water from which loose fibers are collected and then twisted into thread for weaving. As a fabric it is seen as a luxurious and sought after material for garments. Magically, silk is considered to deflect magic, and to protect the magical energies and contents inside it, making it especially useful for creating bags used to hold and carry tarot cards, runes, and crystals.

Caterpillars, moths and butterflies, as well as their cocoons represent transformation, thus making silk suited for spells and magic pertaining to change, movement, and growth. Because of its association with wealth, luxury and prestige, silk is a good fabric to use in money and prosperity spells.

Silk is associated with the element of Air due to its airy quality and its origin. Because of its great rate of shrinkage and loss of strength when wet, it may not be suited for spells or rituals involving the Water element.

Wool

Wool sheared from sheep is bathed in a chemical bath, mixed, spun, washed and pressed to felt it. It is known for being impervious to cold and is often used for clothing meant to protect from cold weather. Coming from sheep, it is associated with the astrological sign Aries and the planet Mars. All of these properties align it with the Fire element.

Wool is associated with protection and comfort. It can be used in protective, prosperity and healing spells. Wool felt is useful for crafts from poppets to altar decorations. Wool suiting is useful for ritual cloaks, which will keep you warm during rituals performed outdoors during colder weather.

Cut edges of wool don’t unravel, making it useful for quick circle pouches or for when you don’t have time for finishing edges in a project. And though expensive, wool is a durable fiber that will last a long time, making it a worthwhile investment for spell and ritual tools.

 


¹ Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, p. 84

² Sonia Ashmore, Muslin, p. 8

Book Research Quote: Web of Wyrd

Two of the most ancient human handicrafts are weaving and pottery, and in ancient scriptures, both of them are used as metaphors for the human condition.  The ancient bards perceived the multiple interwoven strands of experience symbolically to be a textile woven by the powers they called fate.  the crafts of spinning and weaving are the heart of our linguistically embedded understanding of our being, for our existence is envisaged as a part of a universal interwoven pattern, known in the northern tradition as the Web of Wyrd. — Nigel Pennick, Pagan Magic of the Northern Tradition

There will definitely be a section on weaving and weaving deities, with an emphasis on Arachne, whose descendants tend to hang out in the window by my sewing table telling me to adjust the tension on the sewing machines.

Medea’s Invocation

Oh night thou confidant and guide
Of secrets, such as darkness ought to hide;
Ye stars and moon, that, when the sun retires;
Support his empire with succeeding fires;
And thou, great Hecate, friend to my design;
Songs, mutt’ring spells, your magick forces join;
And thou, O Earth, the magazine that yields
The midnight sorcerer drugs; skies, mountains and fields;
Ye wat’ry Powers of fountain, stream and lake;
Ye sylvan Gods, and Gods of night, awake,
And gen’rously your parts in my adventures take.

—Medea’s invocation
The Metamorphoses

I’m not one for calling the quarters or even much talking during ritual or spells, but if I were, I’d take a page from Medea.