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

Body of a Goddess

I’ve been quieter than usual on this blog because I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo this month.  Of course because I am me and I can’t do anything the way it is supposed to be done, I’m working on a non-fiction book rather than a novel.  It’s a sewing book, which means I’ve been working on designs and prototypes, as well as writing.  I have no expectations of actually finishing the book in November.  The plan is to have a rough draft by the end of December.

Writing, sewing, remaking a design two, three, four times, has been strangely reassuring.  Each iteration gets me closer to the finished version in my mind.  Working with my hands keeps me anchored to the world.  And the work gives me a sense of forward momentum.  I need that most days.  The medication I’m taking has helped tremendously with the depression, but I’m still struggling with it, especially with the seasonal change.

Pin reads I have the body of a goddess--the Venus of Willendorf
The pin that started it all, resting comfortably on my convention badge board.

Which brings me back to Willendorf.  Part of my focus this month and next is on myself.  Making things for me, to wear and to decorate my space.  When I made the Venus of Willendorf design I tried a variety of sizes and designs.  One was a little back stitched goddess with french knot hair.  I love how tiny and cute she is, but I didn’t have a project for her.  She’s sat in the pile of my doodles, waiting patiently for me to come back to her.  Now, with these two months of relative downtime, I was ready to do something with her.

So here is my little Venus, round and soft and cute, standing next to the text of one of my all time favorite buttons.  I wanted to keep the design focused on the message, thus the simple border.  The pink was just the first color I grabbed, and can be substituted for any other color one desires.  The design was stitched on white 14 ct. Aida cloth, with one strand of floss for the back stitch and two strands for the cross stitch.  Click here to get a copy of the design for yourself.

If you decide to make one for yourself, please share a picture in the comments. I’d love to see it.

Majestic F*cking Unicorn: A Cross Stitch Pattern

I love unicorns.  Love them.  Looooooove them.  And I love cursing almost as much as I love unicorns, so it’s no wonder that both show up in the pep talks I give friends:

Majestic Unicorn FB Status

In the comments a friend wanted to know what it would cost to turn that into a needle point.  And thus the following cross stitch design was born.

The cross stitches and french knots are done in two threads.  The back stitches are done in one thread.  The design pictured above was stitched on 14 pt white Aida cloth and the final measurement of the design is 9″ x 6″.

If you end up stitching this design let me know in the comments below.

Click here to download the PDF pattern.

 

More Embroidered Paper Art

I’ve been playing around with making paper and now have a good sized stack of sheets.  There’s something very satisfying in taking all the junk mail, school flyers, paid bills and telephone books and turning them into something else.  Plus, shredding paper is very soothing.

I really enjoyed the embroidered gift cards and holiday cards I made last year, so I’ve been playing around with other embroidery work.  Other than cross stitch, I’ve never gotten into embroidery on fabric.  I always viewed embroidery as too difficult for me to learn.  But switch the medium to paper and all of the sudden I’m spending hours on the internet researching different stitches to try.  Go figure.

Below is a gallery of the embroidered paper art I’ve done so far.  I’ve been playing around with various stitches, some beading and stickers.  I like the depth and texture of the images.  And I’ve even gotten to the point where I’m okay with the back of my work looking like a shattered bird’s nest.  When I’m not trying to make the back look as good as the front, it takes off a lot of the pressure and I can enjoy the process.

The hardest part is poking the holes.  I have to be careful not to tear the paper, not to poke myself, and not losing my needles.

I’ve got some other ideas for designs.  I want to play around with flowers and leaves in the paper.  I’ve got several specimens from the yard being pressed right now.  I’ll post more pictures as I make them.

 

Convention Report: Midwinter Gaming Convention

Last week we headed up to Milwaukee for the Midwinter Gaming Convention.  We had a booth there, and had plans to get some gaming in.  This is Midwinter’s fifteenth year, and our third, and it has grown larger and better every year we’ve been.  This was the first year both Stephan and I had wares to peddle, and the first year I had so many booth helpers.  It all added up to a lot of fun.

What made the biggest difference, I think, is that I had two booth helpers throughout the convention.  Our friends Denis and Chrissy came along, and with them on hand, we had four adults to cover the booth the entire weekend.  That meant Stephan wasn’t stuck on Ben patrol the entire time.  It meant we both got to go to lunch together one day.  It meant I got to spend time with my son outside of the vendor’s hall for the first time ever.  I can’t thank the two of them enough for their help the entire weekend.

SCA costuming at Midwinter.
SCA costuming at Midwinter.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed gaming cons.  Midwinter’s focus is on LARP, but it has programming dedicated to board and video games, as well as a strong reenactment presence thanks to the SCA.  So while there is a costuming contingent, it isn’t a costume heavy convention.  And the convention has a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere.  I found myself joking and laughing, things I hadn’t done in a long time.  I managed to deal with the little anxiety that cropped up throughout the weekend, which means that medication and therapy is working for my mental health issues.

The Milwaukee Hilton is a beautiful hotel, with lots of ornate staircases and decor, as well as hallways and seating areas for hangouts.  I spent most of my time in the vendor hall, which was placed in a baroque fantasy of a ballroom with chandeliers and gold molding on the ceiling.  The hotel staff was super friendly and helpful, a big plus when you are attending a convention where there can be tension between fans and non-fans.

That same weekend there was a girl’s volleyball conference in the hotel.  This led to lots of interactions with non-gaming people.  I witnessed an abundance of stares and whispered comments, but I was never the target of them.  In fact I had several women approach me to ask about what was going on.  I think the pink hair establishes me as part of the “weird people” but that my size and gender makes me non-threatening enough to be approachable.  This isn’t the first time I’ve played ambassador for the geek community.  Back in 2002 at ConJose in San Jose, I fielded questions from people on the street who saw me wearing a badge, but not a costume (no pink hair back in those days).   And the fan side of things gave as good as they got on the passive aggressive front.  I overheard one LARPer bragging about having invented “Trolling: the LARP” where he and his friends paraded past groups of volleyball players and parents in their costumes and played their characters to an exaggerated degree.

Creeper
This was Ben’s favorite costume, by far. “Next year I want to be a creeper, too. And then we can creep together!”

I only ran into one instance of bad customer behavior: a woman incredulously demanding to know if “that ruffle thing” truly was $75.  When I confirmed that, yes, I do charge $75 for my bustles, she huffed off.  I know that prior to her asking she had snapped a shot of the bustle (the flash is a dead giveaway) and suspect she’ll show the picture to a sewing friend and ask if said friend will make one for her.  I wish her good luck with that.

I did overhear another customer ask the vendor next to me if they would get a discount on a $20 item if they carried it around the convention and told people where they would get it from.  There seems to be this belief among a certain set of attendees that vendors are starving for marketing and will give away their wares for word of mouth advertising.  I have never once met a vendor who has done such.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one or two who have, I just have never encountered them.

The only other annoyance was the number of times people congregated in front of my booth and blocked access to it.  That is easily dealt with.  I whip out my phone and ask the people if they could move because I want to get a shot of my set up.  Nine times out of ten the people realize they were blocking the way and move on apologetically.  The tenth time, the people move, but with resentment at having been asked to move.  Either way, it’s not skin off my nose, I got them to clear the way.

The final attendance count was just shy of 1100 members.  Not a bad showing.  I made just over 50 cents per attendee (which is about what I plan on making at any convention).  It was less than I had hoped, but I didn’t have any big items with me this time around.  There’s time before the next convention to get plenty of coats made up for off the rack purchases.

roach and the orc
I found an orc!

According to those we talked to, Midwinter has seen an average of 10 percent growth in attendance each year.  It’s clear that they do a lot of work not only in planning great programming, but also in advertising their presence.  They do a lot of social media work, have a strong Facebook page, and got the convention covered by local TV press.  It is a lot of work, but it is paying off for them.

I mention this because over the course of the weekend I was approached by two different conventions about vending.  Both are brand new, both are asking for $200 for booth space.  One mentioned on its website that they expect anywhere between 350 to 2,400 attendees at their first con.  Think about that for a moment.  Presuming that they reach their minimum number, and that I make 50 cents per attendee, I will lose money attending that convention.  The other is one  could see slightly better numbers, but it is still the first year, still untested, and still not worth paying that much for a space.  When conventions charge that much for a space, with such low numbers, it is clear they are looking to cover their costs on the backs of their vendors rather than through ticket sales.

We’ll be back to Midwinter next year for sure.

 

Book Review: How to Show and Sell Your Crafts by Torie Jaye

As part of my continuing efforts to kick my marketing and selling skills up several notches, I picked up Torie Jaye’s How to Show & Sell Your Crafts from the library.  I will get books from the library first most of the time, and if I find the information in them to be valuable, I’ll buy a copy for my own shelves.  I won’t be picking Jaye’s book up, though.

The book’s focus is on branding: creating your own brand and making sure it saturates every  level of your business.  A good chunk of the book is dedicated to things like picking your  brand’s colors, creating great banner images, choosing an avatar.  This is a book written by a crafter who sees “strong brand focus” as “pivotal to her online success” (as stated in her biography), so the emphasis on branding is understandable.

There’s another section on how to photograph crafts that I found very helpful.  And there are several profiles of other crafters who have made a business of their designs.  The book itself is very pretty.  The layout and design is pleasing, and the pictures are beautifully photographed and presented.  This is the kind of book you want to flip through for inspiration.

However, I came away from the book  feeling that it is a blog’s worth of information stretched over a books’ worth of pages.  While the crafter profiles are nice, the focus was mainly on their bios.  Words of advice or guidance is would be more inspirational than reading about their passion for vintage items.

Included in the book are several crafts.   Ostensibly they were tied into the sections they were found in (paper covered cans as pencil holders in the section on organizing your work space) but they felt like filler meant to pad the page count.

Those sections that I was more interested in—the business of doing business—were sparse.  The page on business plans doesn’t really tell how to write one, or what one looks like.  It doesn’t even tell readers to research more information.  There’s no mention of dealing with taxes, or what it goes into setting up a business.

The book reads like a wish fulfillment manual: emphasis on packaging your crafts and setting up your booth space, talk of when you might need to hire help, blogging and social media.  While these are important things to consider, they’re really ancillary concerns (and in the case of hiring help, concerns that won’t crop up for 99% of the crafters out there) compared to things like finding venues, bookkeeping, taxes and other boring, but necessary details.

If you are looking at trying to make money from your design skills and passions, I’d recommend skipping this book and looking for something more in depth.  If I find one that fits the bill I will definitely mention it here.

Embroidered Gift Tags

The thing with being crafty is that you are always looking for new things to try.  You find yourself with a bunch of chipboard from various projects and you found a couple of bin full of embroidery thread you stashed away years ago and you wonder “What the heck am I going to do with all this?”  These days, you can just head to the Internet and find someone, somewhere, who has done something cool with those materials.*  Which led me to the embroidered card tutorial over at Design Sponge.  After I had made a couple, I found myself with lots of leftover chipboard.  Too small for cards, but too large to just chuck.  With the holiday season coming up, I decided to try my hand at making embroidered gift tags.

Continue reading Embroidered Gift Tags

Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods

The thing about yard clean up, the kind that involves cutting branches and hauling stones and pulling down fences, is that you end up with a lot of stuff. Most of it gets sorted into the compost heap, or rubbish bin, or stacked up for use later on. Some of it you look at and think, “I bet I could do something with that.” You might not know what, exactly, you could do. But you decide to set it aside just in case. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods