When I decided to try to find a publisher for my book, Sew Witchy (née Sew Craft) I had a vague idea of what I was doing. A few year prior I had done a round of submissions on a fantasy novel. I knew writing a nonfiction proposal would be a different process, so I did what I always do: turned to Google. There is a wealth of information out there on what should go into a nonfiction proposal. Most of it talks about what information to include and how to organize it. Not many have actual samples of actual proposals. I spent several caffeine-fueled days researching comparable titles, market demographics and making notes of those points I thought were the most important take-aways from the book. What I ended up with was this: Continue reading Sew Witchy: Pitching the Book
Life, being life, has kept me dancing, jumping, skipping, crawling and occasionally crying the last few months. There is the house situation which may or may not be resolved in the next few months. There is the custody battle that has sprung up like a stop animation monster from the house situation. There is the book, which has a new title and release date (which I’ll write about later). There is an upcoming move several states away that is also a result of the house situation. There is C2E2 coming up in a couple of weeks. And there are the daily ups and downs of depression, anxiety, parenting my children, being with my husband, writing, sewing, remembering to eat, responding to the demands of two cats who have come to be much loved members of our family.
It’s been busy, you all.
Unexpectedly, I’ve found my daily practices becoming more necessary and more relevant to me. Lighting a candle to call on Hestia, or sitting at the family altar for a few minutes just to breath have provide signposts along the way. Part of this can be explained by my work on the book. I have been going through edits and working on projects for pictures. This last week I’ve been putting together a box of projects to send to my publisher for the cover photo shoot. Working this much on the theory and practice of magic and paganism is bound to reinforce a more mindful practice.
Today’s job was to put together a witch ladder to go into the photo shoot box. I had in mind what I was going to make: a ladder in shades of green and silver and gold, something rich with ornate ribbons and sparkling buttons to hold wealth and prosperity magic. After all, this would possible go on the cover of my first book, so I want to put as much energy as I can into ensuring its success.
I went through the workshop, pilfering bins of all the odds and ends that I’ve squirreled away over the years. All the bits of ribbon and lace, all the buttons that have never been put to use in a vest or skirt. I dug out beads and charms that have lain, undisturbed, like a fairy tale princess waiting to be awakened to their destiny. I piled them up on the sewing table, after I had shoved everything else out of the way to make space. I pulled out a piece of fabric twine and thread and needle and got to work.
I had several false starts. Ben kept interrupting for snacks and drinks and to make him a bandolier for his NERF darts. Every time I had to stop and start again I found my original intentions scattered and had to pull them together. And every time that happened the renewed intention was changed slightly. I clipped out black and white edge lace that I had used on a set of corsets, isolating the designs. I found a set of silver butterfly charms I had picked up on clearance, or perhaps from a thrift shop who knows how long ago. Felt charms–a heart and a skull–I had created almost a decade before ended up pinned to the twine. By the time I added the silver heart-shaped button at the bottom, I knew that what I was creating had nothing to do with prosperity.
I was praying for the strength to come out of the near catastrophic events I’m going through. I prayed for change, for transformation, for finding a life after the end to this latest chapter of my life. I was making that prayer real in ribbon and buttons, thread and lace. By the time I had tied the last bits of embroidery thread in red, white and black, I felt a profound sense of release.
This witch ladder will go into the photo shoot box, and I hope that it makes it onto the cover. I have plenty of magical and practical energy already going into helping the success of this book. What I need now is to give a bit of effort to keeping upright and moving forward while things around me are torn down. That way, when the destruction ends, I will be able to pick up the pieces and create a new life.
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.
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.
- The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook by Karen Harrison
- By Spellbook & Candle by Mélusine Draco
- The Point of the Needle by Dorothy Bromiley Phelan
- The Dress Detective by Ingrid Mida & Alexandra Kim
- Old World Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
- The Book of English Magic by Phillip Carr-Gromm & Richard Heygate
- The Tradition of Household Spirits by Claude LeCouteaux
- Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch by Lora O’Brien
- The devil’s Cloth by Michel Pastoureau
- Trolldom by Johannes Björn Gardbäck
- Made from Scratch: Reclaiming the Pleasures of the American Hearth by Jean Zimmerman
- Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand
- Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert
- The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker
- A Grimoire for Modern Cunningfolk by Peter Paddon
- Nomadic Felts by Stephanie Bunn
- Printed Textiles by Linda Eaton
- The Good Witch’s Guide by Shawn Robbins & Charity Bedell
- A History of Witchcraft by Jeffrey B. Russell & Brooks Alexander
- The Hearth Witch’s Compendium by Anna Franklin
- Farmhouse Witchcraft by Penny Parker
- The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff
- A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk by Edain McCoy
- Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch by Rachel Patterson
- A Witch’s World of Magick by Melanie Marquis
- Hedgewitch by Silver Ravenwolf
- The Flame and the Cauldron by Orion Foxwood
- A Witch’s Halloween by Gerina Dunwich
- Earth Power by Scott Cunningham
- Cunning-folk: Popular Magic in English History by Owen davies
- Cunningfolk & Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby
- The Cunningman’s Handbook by Jim Baker
- Green Witchcraft by Ann Moura
- Muslin by Sonia Ashmore
- Textiles: The Whole Story by Beverly Gordon
- Forgotten Ways for Modern Days by Rachelle Blondel
- Natural Color by Sasha Duerr
- Women’s Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
- Practical Sigil Magic by Frater U.D.
- A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard
- Homemade Magic by Lon Milo DuQuette
- The Book of Forgotten Crafts by Paul Felix, Siân Ellis & Tom Quinn
- Witchy Crafts: 60 Enchanted Projects for the Creative Witch by Lexa Olick
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 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 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 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 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
Outdated, patriarchal claptrap aside I’ve always loved the above advice from the 1949 Singer Sewing Manual, not only because it is solid, but because it points out that sewing is serious business. It also works, in many ways, as advice for ritual work.
When you are working a ritual, casting a spell, praying, collecting herbs, or what have you, there is a process of preparation, steps we follow to align their will with their goal. We mentally prepare ourselves. We gather our materials. We cleanse ourselves and consecrate our work space. We make sure we won’t be interrupted. Readying ourselves for magic and readying ourselves for sewing follow the same steps.
I mention this because I’m currently working on a book. The subject matter is paganism and sewing. I’ve got a good portion of it already written, and the goal is to finish it before the year is out. The timing for November is just coincidence, this isn’t a NaNoWriMo project.
I’ll be posting bits and bobs of research over the next few weeks, along with more on sewing, cross stitch and whatever else strikes my fancy. I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I do.