I’ve been away from posting the last few weeks due to all the things happening at once. Life is starting to settle back down, and I have a backlog of posts to release. I’m not quite ready for that bit of work, though.
One thing I’ve been doing is embracing my witchcraft as a means of dealing with all those changes. Centering myself around my spirituality, my work with Hecate, Hestia and Turtle, and engaging in spellwork aimed at making life run more smoothly has given me a small measure of peace.
And just today I came across this video by Headology and the Witch which goes into how one can make a practice to deal with life changes. I especially like the Tarot spread included towards the end.
For me, small acts, like lighting a candle on my altar to Hestia, give me a moment of peace. I am able to connect with my spiritual, witchy core. It’s a reminder that I am stronger than what is going on around me.
The first months of 2018 have been the busiest that I can remember. January was taken up by finishing the Sew Witchy book manuscript for a February 1 deadline. And then February and March saw me:
Sewing up a box of projects from the book to get out to my publisher for a cover photo shoot (deadline April 1)
Editing the manuscript per editorial input (deadline April 2)
Prepping to vend at C2E2 (deadline April 6)
Taking photos for the book (deadline April 16)
At one point I was awake and working for 48 hours to meet the photo deadline. And in between my professional obligations I had to fit in being present for my family, dealing with the loss of my house, and defending myself in court (along with the custody issue, my ex is petitioning the court to punish me for losing the house, including asking for me to be incarcerated). Fun times.
Now, after meeting my last deadline, I have found myself suffering from temporal whiplash. As soon as I uploaded the photos we climbed into the Jeep and headed to a camper owned by friends for a weekend of campfires and whiskey. I spent a lot of time Saturday and Sunday just sleeping.
Come Monday morning, after I had gotten Charlotte off to school, I found myself at sort of a loss of what to do. I cleaned the kitchen and family room. I did the dishes and made dinner. I spent a lot of time thinking about all the stuff I had to do and realizing that I had plenty of time to do it in. The rest of the week has been the same. I have stuff to do. But there is no urgency.
It’s a strange position to be in. In fact it weirds me out not to have a deadline constantly pushing at me. I don’t have to rush my kids through bedtime so that I can get back to work. I’m not staying up until three in the morning sewing. Right now my To Do list is full of items like “make dinner” and “pack up one shelf of books”.
A friend posted a link to the article “This is the Reason So Many Unbound Women Fear They’re Lazy” on Facebook the other day. Reading through it, I found myself nodding in agreement. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to fill my every waking hour to justify my existence, especially once I stopped working outside of the house. Shifting to a focus more on what I and my family need done to serve our lives is a big, scary step. Many times throughout these first few days I have found myself sitting down with nothing that needs my immediate attention. My busy brain would kick into gear those times, trying to kickstart anxiety over the fact that I was just sitting there.
I am working to reconcile my busyness with this lack of deadlines. I am trying to actively enjoy, rather than making a show of tolerating, this less frantic pace. I still have a move thousands of miles away to arrange. I still have legal wrangling to deal with. I still have a book and family that needs my attention. That is more than enough right now.
I can’t believe it is April already. January seemed to drag on forever, and now it is Spring (well, in theory, it’s still occasionally snowing and cold here). I spent much of the last three months waiting on one thing or another, working towards deadline after deadline. Now, with the last deadline almost here, I have a moment to catch my breath.
My house is still working through foreclosure. I’ve made plans to move in June, presuming I can get things settled on the custody of my daughter. By the time of my hearing later this month I’ll have spent nearly $4000 on legal fees to sort things out. It might end up costing me even more and drag on past June. I’ve contingency plans for housing in case that happens.
The housing and custody issues have only occupied 3/4 of my time. The rest has been spent on my book. The publisher, Llewellyn, has given it a new name: Sew Witchy. I spent most of February and March making edits. I added a whole new section on sewing basics, including descriptions of various stitches use throughout the book. My editor also requested that I add a few more projects so I spent several weeks buried in mountains of muslin to make a robe and hooded cape pattern.
It’s eye-opening to write about basic sewing stuff when I’ve been sewing for so long. Stopping and having to describe things that I do automatically now required a lot of effort on my part. Fortunately, my editor is a self-proclaimed sewing newbie, so she pointed out all the spots that needed expansion. Even so, I spent a lot of time second-guessing my writing, wondering if I was explaining things adequately.
This week I’m busy taking the last of the photos for the book. I understand now why so many sewing books rely on illustrations rather than photos for step-by-step instructions. You don’t have to deal with lighting or fabric that won’t lie flat or wrinkles that won’t release no matter how much you press them. I have an even greater respect for people who can work a camera now.
I’ll be posting over the next couple of weeks about the book. I figured people might be interested in reading the proposal I sent out when I was looking for a publisher, and how I got my agent. There will also be more customer profiles and book reviews and sewing weirdness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So 2015 was supposed to be the year I returned to sewing and started living a more creative life.
How did that work out?
More or less okay. I overestimated how well I was, thinking that my mental health was fine now that I was on medication. That wasn’t really the case, though. I spent most of 2015 battling my anxiety, at times unable to leave the house. Since I was working from home, that wasn’t a deal breaker. But it made getting supplies, sending off packages and the like more difficult. Not impossible, but requiring a greater amount of scheduling and having things go right.
The depression was a bigger problem to contend with. It would sap me of motivation and energy. Coupled with the insomnia, I had to fight for every productive moment for the first half of the year. It has only been in the last two months that I have found myself more often stable than not.
On the financial front, things fared about the same. My grand plans for a limited number of large conventions hit speed bumps. Two of them costing me money. Those pretty much knocked the wind out of me economically speaking. It’s only been in the last month that I have caught up on my bills.
But you aren’t here for value updates on how the year went. You want the nitty gritty. Just how much money did I make on this quest to earn a living by my creative endeavors?
When it is all said and done I made a gross income of $3,858.86. My expenses equaled $3,976.53. So my year ended in the red by about $120. Up until I paid for my Anime Midwest booth I was in the black for six months of the year, though. Not great, but not catastrophic.
How did I make my money?
With that $120 in the hole sitting there, the question some might ask is: Why are you going to keep this up in 2016? I’m asking a different question: Having made almost $1,500 in convention and direct sales with two awful events as part of the mix, how much more could I earn vending at two larger, more established events this year.
* The include sales at conventions as well as sales to people who contacted me directly rather than through Etsy.
** Stuff sold on E-bay, E-book formatting work, etc.
Over the last week or so I’ve been struggling to find the positive in life. News of people being killed, lions being poached, politicians being politicians and my country’s insistence on not addressing any of its problems has worn me down. Today I found out I’m not the only one. A friend on Facebook mentioned he was having a hard time finding positive things to share. He asked others to post something positive and the first few comments were of people searching and failing to find good things.*
I am making an effort here to list the good that has happened recently. This is mostly an exercise for myself. Perhaps it will give someone else a well-needed smile or boost.
Since Enya passed, Trixie hasn’t been eating regularly. Before she would have to eat everything in her bowl on a schedule because a) Enya insisted on staying on schedule and b) Enya would finish her food and then go after Trixie’s if there was any still in the bowl. Now that she is an only dog, she seems to have taken to eating only when she feels like it. I can’t leave her bowl out with food because that is, indeed, how you get ants. The last couple of days I’ve taken to putting a bit of peanut butter in with her dog food and joint supplement, and that’s just the motivation she needs to eat as soon as the bowl hits the floor and finish everything.
As silly as it sounds, the new IKEA catalog is out and that makes me happy.
While our gardening exploits haven’t been as fully realized as we had planned we have still managed to harvest a modest amount of greens and herbs.
Stephan loves his work and his work loves him.
I went to the library on Sunday and spent almost three hours writing with minimal anxiety. This Sunday I am going to try it again.
Speaking of bags, I got my first order of Spoonflower fabric last week and madebags from it.
I am going to the gym again.
In the grand scheme of things a catalog or workout or dog isn’t much. They won’t make the world a better place overnight. What they will do, is shore up my ability to deal with the anger and sadness and frustration I experience every time I read the news. They’re what keeps me from flipping the world the bird and hiding in a bottle of Scotch until the rising sea levels drown us all. It is an element of self-care and it is important.
Tonight I am having a glass of wine and flipping through the catalog. Tomorrow I will wake up to more atrocities and fights and causes, some of which I will be able to feel like I can do something about.
I hope those of you reading this can find more good to offset the bad. It’s a rough world out there. Take care of yourselves and each other.
*Eventually his post was overflowing with good things, including a link to this Tumblr.
It’s once again time to play “Just how poor are we?” Since satisfaction, happiness, health and stress levels aren’t easily reduced to numbers, I’ll break down how much money we’re actually making off of this attempt to live by our creative efforts. Our net earnings in February are below:
Commissions were all Stephan in February. He started making chainmail in earnest last month and had several people request customized pieces.
I added eBay just because it’s income. We had a book that we got for free and that neither of us wanted. Rather than let it gather dust, we sold it. I’d rather have books go to people who want them and will read/use them, than sitting unread on a bookshelf.*
It’s clear, after the disaster that was Fan Fest, that we need to make some tweaks to our plan. We do believe that we can make the convention plan work. But we need to actually make it to the conventions, which requires an influx of money. To that end Stephan has taken a part-time job.
I was worried that taking a job would invalidate all our plans and hard work. It’s not even three months into the grand scheme and we’re already failing our goals. I’m afraid that we’ll give up on the idea of living off of our creative efforts before we even got a chance.
Stephan, as is his way, is more optimistic. The job is only part-time, with a manageable commute. This means he won’t be out of the house ten plus hours a day. He’ll still be here for the kids (his hours are 10-4). He’ll still have time for chainmail. He’ll still be able to go to conventions.
So, this is just a course correction. Our end destination—living on our own, in our own way—remains the same, our route has just taken a diversion.
Image: Success by Demetri Martin.
*This reminds me that I need to update my Bookmooch account. I have several books I picked up at library sales specifically to trade and I know the list has fallen to disuse.