Making It Work: You Can Still Lose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: 1949 Singer Sewing Manual

Advice from a 1949 Singer Sewing Manual
Text: Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Thing about what you are going to do. . .never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates. Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing. . .When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals. Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on . . .[If] you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing as you should.
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.

 

2015: The Year of Slightly Less Poverty

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?

Commissions $1,185.00
Etsy Sales $759.21
Direct Sales* $1,475.50
Other** $407.46

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.

Good Things

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.

  1. 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.
  2. As silly as it sounds, the new IKEA catalog is out and that makes me happy.
  3. 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.
  4. Stephan loves his work and his work loves him.
  5. 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.
  6. One of my dice bags was featured in a treasury on Etsy.
  7. Speaking of bags, I got my first order of Spoonflower fabric last week and made bags from it.
  8. I am going to the gym again.
  9. This .gif:

WTF Baby Jesus .gif

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.

Making it Work: Adjustments

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:

Etsy Sales $33.12
E-book Royalties $2.00
Commissions $98.00
eBay $100.00
Total $233.12

Royalties & Etsy are self-explanatory.

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.

Making it Work: January Earnings

I promised I would make it a regular thing to blog about how much, or more accurately, how little we’re making from our creative endeavors.  To that end, I present the report on our January earnings.

Etsy Sales $26.42
E-book Royalties $1.73
Midwinter Convention $284.47
Total $312.62

The numbers reflect our net earnings.  In the case of Etsy sales that means less shipping and various selling fees.  With regards to Midwinter, the net takes into account expenses for the booth, for getting to the convention, hotel costs, etc.  On the plus side, we made almost three times what we did in December.  On the down side, no one is getting rich off of this.  I’d say we shouldn’t quit our day jobs, but …

We are closer to our goal of getting a new fan for the Jeep, though, almost halfway there.  And we have a convention coming up in March that promises to be more lucrative.  We’re only a month into this whole grand scheme, so I can’t really say if sticking to one or two large conventions a year is feasible.  We may have to add in more events, or I might have to open up to commissions again.  Or, we might have to put in a better effort to market our books, and finish the one that is in the works.

I did add a page to this site for e-book design services.

As always, we continue on.  February is the shortest month and we’re making the most of it that we can.  I’ll keep updating our monetary progress as the year unwinds.

 

Setting Fire to the Past

I’ve made so many moves over the years it’s hard to keep track of them all.  Besides the physical moves I’ve made—from Wyoming to Chicago and various suburbs thereof—I’ve made personal, emotional and relationship changes.  It is surprising how much distance one can cover without ever having to take a step.

Through all these moves I’ve carried a trunk with me.  It was a high school graduation present from my grandparents.  The trunk has been a bench, a footstool, and a table, as well as being the holder of those things I couldn’t bear to toss, but had no need to be out in the open.  Journals, letters, cards, old ids, and other ephemera.  For the past couple of years it has sat under my desk, home to the garbage can and a laptop that I don’t use any more.  I haven’t opened it, partly because I haven’t had anything to squirrel away (e-mail, Facebook and WordPress has digitized much of my correspondence and thoughts); but also because it is full.

In mid-December I dragged the trunk out.  I was looking for a notebook, and was certain it had to be there.  This happens on occasion. I’ll be seized by a need to find something and I tear apart the house in search of it.  Usually, I fail to find whatever Lost Ark I’m chasing; if it were still around I would have found it easily.  I’m then stuck with a mess and a heavy weight of frustration that my quarry managed to escape the nets of my organization zeal.

This time was no different.  The notebook, and the information therein, was nowhere to be seen.  In my digging through the trunk, I flipped through the dozen-plus journals there.  They were varied: cloth covered ones bought in a three pack from Sam’s Club in the early 90s, spiral bound ones from Borders, “leather” covered ones, five subject Mead notebooks, even a manila envelope stuffed full of loose-leaf paper.  This represented more than a decade of my life: from about 1995 to 2005.   There were some random pages from earlier and later, but the bulk of my regular journaling ended shortly after Charlotte was born.

As I flipped through the pages all I read was misery.  Every randomly picked page was a chronicle of how desperately unhappy I was.  Did I write only when I was upset? Or did I only write of my unhappiness because that’s all there was? I think a little more of the former than the latter, but there was no denying that what I had committed to the pages was unpleasant.  I wanted to reach out to my past self and tell her that it was going to get better … in a way.  I can’t reach her, though.  She is in the past and trying to cast back would only slow down the momentum I have gained.

But I didn’t have to keep carrying the millstone of unhappiness.  What did I gain by keeping these journals around? Evidence of my unhappiness during that time?  Did I really need it?  I had my memories, if ever I wanted to revisit them.  Which, again, wasn’t going to help me move forward.  I had learned all I could from that time.  There was nothing more these journals could tell me about myself.

I grabbed two cardboard boxes and filled them.  The letters, cards, notes, pictures and miscellaneous bits and bobs stayed.  The journals went.  For the first time in years there was room in the trunk.  Room for more pleasant keepsakes: love notes from Stephan, birthday cards from my children, perhaps even a letter to my future self, telling her that I am okay.  She can let me go and move on.

The first of January I took the journals out to the fire pit and burned them.  The day was sunny, if cold, and windy.  Despite the helpful nature of the weather, burning a decade’s worth of misery isn’t easy, even when it is bound in paper.  You can’t just set fire to your past and walk away.  You have to tend to it, or else it won’t be fully destroyed.  Blackened bits of paper constantly tried to escape, flying high and forcing me to run around the yard to catch them.  Some were still burning and had to be stomped out.  I had to open up the journals with a poker to make sure all the pages burned.  I got a surprising, and disturbing, insight into just what goes into a book burning.

The whole process took three or four hours.  As I worked I kept thinking, “This is who I was, but it is not who I am now.”  As the paper turned to ash, I felt the truth of it more and more. I returned to the house cold, smelling of smoke, my hair peppered with ashes.  I can’t say if I have completely divorced myself from the misery of those past years.  However, I won’t have those words sitting at my feet, their ambient unpleasantness influencing me.  And if that isn’t a solution, it’s at least a start.