Plarn: It’s Crafting and Magical Uses

In my book, Sew Witchy, I write about the magickal correspondences of fabric.  My focus there is on natural fibers (cotton, linen, wool and silk).  Not all crafters and sewists limit themselves to natural materials, though.  In fact I’d hazard to guess that very few do.  One could, I suppose, use only silk or cotton thread, eschew plastic buttons for only metal, wood, bone or horn, leave out zippers or plastic snaps, as well as iron on interfacing, etc.

There is an emphasis on only using natural materials in ritual and magick crafts.  While I can understand the reasoning behind it, I find the insistence to border on classism and elitism.  Not everyone can afford or has access only natural materials.  And, when we get down to it, everything comes from the earth in one form or another.  Everything is ultimately natural when it’s roots are traced back to its beginnings.  Even plastic.

Magick in the Plastic

Our witch ancestors didn’t use colored candles, or have access to the array of crystals and herbs available online.  And some might have turned their noses up at colored ribbons, grocery store herbs and store bought besoms as not “traditional” tools.  I think it behooves modern witches to see how the practice of witchcraft and magick have changed over the centuries, adapting as new technologies and products have come available, and be open to using materials that might strike us at first as non-magickal.

I’d go even farther to argue that plastic is decidedly magical.  It is alchemy at its most refined.  Taking the remains of dinosaurs and creating a material which is named after its defining characteristic: its shapeshifting ability.

Yes, plastic does have its drawbacks, its production and longevity make it a serious hazard for the environment.  This doesn’t exclude it from being considered a natural material, though.  The elements have their destructive aspects.  Sheep rearing, silk making, cotton farming and linen production all have their affects on the environment as well.

So, how do we approach plastic as a magical tool?  One way is through making and using plarn: yarn made from plastic bags.  Many crafters have found clever and practical uses for plarn, from making lightweight and rugged bedrolls for the homeless to arts and crafts to sell to support their families.  Plarn has the added benefit of removing plastic bags—one of the hardest items to recycle–from the system.

Plarn Correspondences

Let’s start with a few correspondences.  These are associations I have made on my own through study and meditation.  They are not meant to be set in stone, and if they don’t ring true to you, feel free to form your own correspondences.

  • Deities: Cerridwen, Janus, Kali, Oya (deities of change and transformation)
  • Element: Air
  • Color: White
  • Themes/uses: transformation, durability, flexibility, change

Making plarn is a straightforward process that lends itself to a meditative practice.  Use it just as you would yarn to crochet or finger weave a variety of items, or spin it into thread.  You can make tote bags, mats, jewelry, and baskets.


A version of this article was first posted on Idiorhythmic Designs on September 25, 2017.

Sew Witchy: Research Reading List

I have spent the last year on research for Sew Witchy.  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.

  1. The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook by Karen Harrison
  2. By Spellbook & Candle by Mélusine Draco
  3. The Point of the Needle by Dorothy Bromiley Phelan
  4. The Dress Detective by Ingrid Mida & Alexandra Kim
  5. Old World Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
  6. The Book of English Magic by Phillip Carr-Gromm & Richard Heygate
  7. The Tradition of Household Spirits by Claude LeCouteaux
  8. Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch by Lora O’Brien
  9. The devil’s Cloth by Michel Pastoureau
  10. Trolldom by Johannes Björn Gardbäck
  11. Made from Scratch: Reclaiming the Pleasures of the American Hearth by Jean Zimmerman
  12. Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand
  13. Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert
  14. The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker
  15. A Grimoire for Modern Cunningfolk by Peter Paddon
  16. Nomadic Felts by Stephanie Bunn
  17. Printed Textiles by Linda Eaton
  18. The Good Witch’s Guide by Shawn Robbins & Charity Bedell
  19. A History of Witchcraft by Jeffrey B. Russell & Brooks Alexander
  20. The Hearth Witch’s Compendium by Anna Franklin
  21. Farmhouse Witchcraft by Penny Parker
  22. The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff
  23. A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk by Edain McCoy
  24. Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch by Rachel Patterson
  25. A Witch’s World of Magick by Melanie Marquis
  26. Hedgewitch by Silver Ravenwolf
  27. The Flame and the Cauldron by Orion Foxwood
  28. A Witch’s Halloween by Gerina Dunwich
  29. Earth Power by Scott Cunningham
  30. Cunning-folk: Popular Magic in English History by Owen davies
  31. Cunningfolk & Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby
  32. The Cunningman’s Handbook by Jim Baker
  33. Green Witchcraft by Ann Moura
  34. Muslin by Sonia Ashmore
  35. Textiles: The Whole Story by Beverly Gordon
  36. Forgotten Ways for Modern Days by Rachelle Blondel
  37. Natural Color by Sasha Duerr
  38. Women’s Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
  39. Practical Sigil Magic by Frater U.D.
  40. A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard
  41. Homemade Magic by Lon Milo DuQuette
  42. The Book of Forgotten Crafts by Paul Felix, Siân Ellis & Tom Quinn
  43. Witchy Crafts: 60 Enchanted Projects for the Creative Witch by Lexa Olick

A version of this post first appeared on September 28, 2017.

Sewing Birds & Thimble Cats

It started with a pair of scissors.

While browsing Pinterest late at night (as one does) I stumbled upon a pair of scissors in the shape of a witch. They checked all the boxes of my relevant interests: a sewing tool that incorporated magick. The fact that the scissors were made to commemorate the Salem Witch trials just underscored the appeal.

I’ve seen at least one pair of these on Etsy and I have a mighty need.

I have a lot of scissors: Several pairs for fabric, pairs for paper, one pair solely for duct tape, not to mention the rotary cutters, pinking shears and embroidery snips. They are all practical, mass produced pieces that have served me for years. The fanciest (i.e. most expensive) pairs I have are the Ginghers with their colorful handles. They’re pretty, but they’re no stork handled clippers.

Imagine using these scissors in fertility magickal sewing.

The witch scissors kicked off a Pinterest spiral. I spent more time than I care to admit looking at scissors in a variety of shapes. I kept thinking about the ways they could be used to imbue sewing with magick. There is a running joke / rule among crafters that there are “special” scissors non-crafters are banned from using. It doesn’t take a great leap to come to the conclusion that the witchy sewist could use a pair just for magick.

I cannot stress this enough.

And as is usual with Pinterest sprees, I got caught up in topic drift, finding other unusual sewing tools. There were pin cushions and thimbles, sewing caddies and tape measures. Several of these items aren’t really used any more. Button hole cutting knives are specialized tools that look really handy, but with the decline of hand sewing, they’ve become a specialty tool. I had never heard of them before now, and when I went searching to see if they were still sold today, what I found was something that is a chisel set. It’s utilitarian, to be sure, but it just doesn’t have the same romance as the original cutters.

Which looks more impressive? “Granny’s Little Shank” on the left, or the chisel on the right?

On the more whimsical side of things sit the thimble holders. Cats stand at attention offering a thimble for when you need it. Acorns hang from chatelaines. Birds perch next to eggs that open to reveal not a hatchling but a thimble. At a time when everyone sewed by hand, it makes sense that every sewist would want to keep their thimbles safe and at hand.

These tools weren’t all about providing some charm to what could otherwise be a monotonous task. The sewing bird was a useful tool that acted like a “third hand” for sewing. It is a tool that has gone “extinct” thanks to the advent of sewing machines. I have to wonder what other sewing implements were necessities in years gone by that would be mysterious curios to today’s sewists.

All these little items, useful and necessary and common, were made with not only their function in mind, but with an eye towards making work a little less dreary. It’s a hard concept to wrap one’s head around when sewing now is a hobby to most people. I think, though, that there’s a place for just this kind of fantasy even today. I look at the thimble holders and I want one, even though I don’t have a thimble. I’ve already forged a working relationship with my Fiskars and I have no need for a sewing bird, and yet I like the idea of having one perched on my sewing table. I long for a tape measure shaped like a turtle.

Should you also have a desire to indulge your inner Clotho, Lachesis or Atropos, head on over to my Pinterest Board to check out the plethora of items I’ve pinned there.

Header image by Thomas Hendele from Pixabay

Dreaming of a Craftsman Economy

“I like your computer,” she said. “It looks like it was made by Indians or something.”

Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. “Coral,” she said. “These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable.”

“The rest is silver?”

“Aluminum,” Chia said. “They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That’s linen with this resin in it.”

One of the things I loved most about the novel Idoru by William Gibson was the idea of handmade computers.  Going beyond the limited customization offered by tower cases and laptop decals, he presented a vision of one of a kind units.  In a world of cheap T-shirts, fast food and Walmart, the idea of something so unique, so intentional, has instant appeal.

One of my greatest disappointments of the future is that we haven’t embraced a hand-crafted model like the one described in Idoru.  There are hints of handmade technology—phone cases here, apps, widgets and live wallpapers there—most notably in the Steampunk genre where a DIY aesthetic is applied to everything from fashion to machinery to vehicles.  The glimpses, though, serve more to highlight the predominance of mass produced items.

I think about that a lot, about how we have reached a point where we shouldn’t be relying so much on mass produced clothes and furniture and houses.  I wonder what it would look like, to live in a world where there were more crafters, making more beautiful things for people.

It’d require a higher standard of living than we have right now, that’s for sure.   Obamacare has been helpful in easing one of the main reasons people don’t strike out on their own.  But when you can’t be certain if you’ll make enough to survive, all the health care in the world isn’t going to convince you to leave your day job.

A guaranteed income would probably be necessary.  Or at least creating a living wage.  If we could ensure that people wouldn’t starve, that they would have a place to sleep, that they could have their basic needs met, what would they accomplish?  If someone could be certain that working forty hours at a fast food place paid enough to meet their needs, what could they do with all the extra time they didn’t have to spend at a second or third job?  How many cottage industries would crop up, providing beauty to replace the beige and plastic molded bits and bobs of our lives?

I don’t know. I’d love to find out, though.


This article was originally posted on January 14, 2016.

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.

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.

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.

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


This article was first posted on November 29, 2015.

She’s Got It, Yeah, Baby, She’s Got It!

On the bullentin board behind me is a pin I bought years ago at a Worldcon.  It reads: “I have the body of a goddess—the Venus of Willendorf.”  A guy friend who was with me at the time said, “roach, you aren’t fat.”  While I appreciated his attempts to soothe what he saw as my mocking my body, he missed the point of why I wanted that pin.  I wanted it because I thought the wording was clever and I love the Venus of Willendorf.

I have several reproductions in stone and clay throughout the house.  I like how they feel in my hand when I hold them.  Of all the goddess images I’ve encountered, hers is the most pleasingly tactile to me.  When I started playing around with creating my own cross stitch designs, I knew I wanted to eventually make my own Venus to hang on the wall.

I will admit to being a little intimidated when I started out.  I don’t view myself as an artistic person.  I tell myself that I can’t draw, that my color sense is limited to a base functionality.  The rune designs I’ve done so far were easy-peasy in that they were just straight lines.  Here I was faced with curves and perspective and shading.  It felt like jumping from stick figures to Rembrandt.

The technical details weren’t the hardest part to overcome, though.  As I was creating the first design, I found myself constantly fighting the automatic inclination to slim her down.  I kept shaving down her curves, dechubbinating her thighs, giving her breast reduction surgery, one stitch at a time.  I found myself trying to figure out how to make her breasts even, how to round her face more.  A lifetime of living in a society that reduces women to cardboard cutouts was fighting to whittle this goddess image into a Bratz doll.

The process was difficult and halting.  Every time I caught myself making her less than she is, I had to go back and see if I had missed other instances.  She and I had talks about her rejecting the tyranny of symmetrical breasts.  I took to calling her “Boobs McGee” and referring to her “bodacious tatas” while I worked.  It was as much about ripping out all the ugly stitches of body shaming, as it was about creating a piece of embroidery to hang on my wall.

Venus hangs on the wall near the front door, now.  She is a constant reminder that bodies are meant to take up space, big and small.  She tells me to lead with my tits when I walk out of my house.   She informs me that I am an artist, just working on a different canvas.  And she passes on a message from Sheela na Gig, “Time to finish up my design.”

If you like the Venus of Willendorf design, you can buy a copy directly from me for $4.00 by clicking this link.  If you make it, please share pictures in the comments.


This article was originally posted May 19, 2015.

Take Off & Nuke It From Orbit

Sometime over the last forty-eight hours this site got hacked. Sometime in the last four hours I realized I have never backed up my site. Not even once.

This comes on the tail end of a six day battle to get my computer back up and running after I decided to fix how slow it had become by restoring it to factory settings. Reader, it did not fix anything. In fact it made things worse. My computer is a slight machine, a Lenovo Thinkpad 2 named Ada, purchased in 2013 to replace my previous laptop which had literally started melting.

My previous laptop, Caliban, which started leaking goo from various spots. There was also bubbling in the monitor.

After days of wrestling with failed updates, failed restores, failed refreshes and failed downloads, I was facing the grim prospect that I would be without a computer. I don’t have the funds to get a replacement.

All of this came on the heels of making the decision to focus on my writing. I have Sew Witchy coming out in December. I have an agent interested in reading my fantasy novel (which I foolishly queried before it was finished). I was just invited to submit an article for Llewellyn’s Witch Almanac. All of this put me in need of an actual computer. I was seriously facing the prospect of trying to type, write and edit on my phone. And as cool as my phone is, and as much as I depend on it for a variety of tasks, I didn’t relish the idea.

On the sixth day, however, I managed to get my Ada, to a point that would work. I have Windows 8.1 installed. The only programs it is running are paint.net, KG-Chart Pro, and an antivirus program. I’ll be using Google Docs for my word processing. I really don’t need any more than that.

Which leads me back to this site and the sudden dearth of posts. My hosting company told me that the hack to my site was one that required professional servicing. I realize that might just be a come-on to get me to shell out money to the company they suggested. I considered for a hot minute trying to dig out the malicious code myself. The prospect didn’t excite me and I found myself strangely non-bothered by this turn of events. Maybe I had been worn down by six days of fighting my computer. Whatever the reason, I looked at the whole mess and realized I was okay with saying goodbye to six years posts.

I decided that it was best to just take off and nuke the whole thing from orbit. It was the only way to be sure.

So that’s where we are now. I might try to salvage past posts. But since I can’t know if malicious coding has infected them, it won’t be a fast or easy processes. I’m just going to move forward. Start posting regularly. Work on the novel and articles. Update my Patreon. Close the door on that chapter of life.