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

Pinterest Image for Body of a Goddess Cross Stitch Design
Use this image to pin the design to Pinterest.

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.

Fabric Magic: 9 Designs from Spoonflower for Love Spells

Love spells have been a staple of magick since the beginning of time. Research any witchcraft or magical tradition in any culture and you’ll find a plethora of spells for gaining love, retaining love, recovering from a broken heart, and wreaking havoc on those who would spurn love.

In most of today’s magical practices it is accepted that working spells against the will of another is verboten.  Some even go so far as to state that such spells won’t work.  Some reference the three-fold rule.  Personally, as someone who has been victim to controlling partners, I’m not a fan of anything that tries to impose the will of one person on another.

That said, there’s a lot of other kinds of love spells one might want to work, and I have highlighted nine different Spoonflower designs below as suitable for your love spell crafty witchery.  You can click on the image to go directly to the page for the design.

I’ve mentioned before that Spoonflower is awesome for sewing witchcraft because they offer 8″ x 8″ test swatches for $5, which is a good size for a small pouch.  (As an aside, I don’t get anything from Spoonflower for these posts.  I just like the company and love the variety of designs I can find there.)

Aphrodite In Love Fabric
Aphrodite in Love by Sophie Norcott

This is a lovely design featuring an Aphrodite profile that we don’t usually see.

Cupid's Flower
Cupids Flower by ShelleyMade

You can keep your spell work secret, but still tap into the power of Eros with this pansy print.

Stupid Cupid Fabric
Stupid Cupid by Mira Garressus

Make a spell bag from this fabric if you are recovering from a bad breakup.

Cupid Fabric
Cupid* (Tomato Soup) by Amy Peppler Adams

This is a sweet, traditional design for a love pouch.

Arrows Fabric
Arrows and Watercolor Hearts Love Valentine Pink by Caja Wong-Chung

And if you want the heart and arrow motif in a larger, less orderly design.

Love Birds Fabric
Love Birds by Adena Jooste

Tap into word and avian magick for your love spell by using this design featuring paired birds.

ASL I Love You Fabric
ASL I Love You Signs in Bluebell by Christina Borrowman

Add another layer to your spell by including a nonverbal profession of love.

I Love You in Binary Fabric
I Love You – Binary B&W by Laura D

Once again, if you want to keep your spell work on the down low, why not use this design which features “I love you” in binary.

True Love Fabric
True Love by Studio Fibonacci

As a lifelong book and fantasy nerd, I couldn’t not include this The Princess Bride themed fabric.

For me, I imbue all the things I make for friends and family with loving energy.  I imagine my love encircling them when they wear something I’ve made for them.  I will also add cinnamon essential oil to the wool dryer balls to give my family’s clothes a protective love layer.  And I have a small box filled with fabric scraps.  The scraps are the bits and pieces that have come off of my children’s blankets or well-loved clothes.  Should I ever need to make a poppet for either of them, I can use the scraps therein.

There’s a lot one can do with fabric and sewing when it comes to love spells, is what I’m getting at.  Witch wisely.

Fabric Magic: 9 Designs from Spoonflower for Money Spells

There is a special magic in introducing favorites to each other. I got to do that a couple of months ago when I took one of my favorite people, Moira, to one of my favorite places in Chicago, the Textile Discount Outlet. It’s three stores of fabric, trim and notions stuffed into a poorly ventilated, crowded and meandering warehouse. You can find boxes of zippers, bra fasteners, lace scraps, rolls of church brocade, velvet ribbons, toggles, brads, bells and beads. It is a sewist’s fever dream and I love it so very much. Something I found there prompted thoughts of a different kind of magic.

While poking around the upper floor I came across a bolt of fabric that is typical of TDO’s offerings. The words “Bling Baby” were printed on a brown corduroy, along with images of diamonds, dollar signs and sparkles. On top of that was printed “Bling” in a cursive font. The whole thing is in-your-face and over the top and I realized it was perfect for money spell pouches. Alas, at the time I was on a strict budget and shopping list, so I could only take a photo of the fabric and leave it behind.

Bling! Fabric
The brown and white call in the influences of earth, while the gold and images call upon money and prosperity energies.

Now, with 2018 finally speeding past and into the distance, and with a new year upon us, I find myself thinking again of that fabric. The new year is a perfect time to set intentions and resolutions. It’s also a great time to perform spells to bring into being what you want for the coming year. With that in mind, I headed over to Spoonflower to find fabric suitable for prosperity and money spell bags.

Below are nine fabric designs that would work great in money spells. You could use them in spell pouches to be sure. But you could also make dream pillows to use them for dream work for prosperity. Other projects include wallets and purses of course. If you want to go a more subtle route you could carry a small square of the fabric that has been anointed with a prosperity oil with you as a talisman. If you are going to ask for a raise at work, add a bit of anointed fabric to your clothes, as a patch, button or beads to aid you in the request.

The nice thing about Spoonflower is that they offer 8″ x 8″ test swatches for $5. That’s just the right size for a small circle pouch, meaning you don’t end up with extra fabric you don’t need. You can also get it in various materials. You can buy one of the patterns below in a velvet which adds an extra layer of lush intention to your prosperity spell.

I’m going to make this a regular thing on the blog, focusing on fabric to use in spell pouches. That is one of the themes in my book Sew Witchy that comes out in August. As I’m impatient as all get out for the release date to arrive, I figure this is a good way to distract me. I’ll be collecting patterns for love and health bags. I might do a collection of goddess prints and nature. If you have a particular theme you’d like to see, drop a note in the comments an I’ll poke around.

No matter what 2019 brings for you I hope it is magical.

Book Review: The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff

This is pretty much the kind of book I hope Sew Witchy turns out to be.

Ever come across a book where you make satisfied “mmm” noises as you read?  Ever read a book that feels like a conversation between like-minded friends?  How about one that makes you feel a sense of comfort? That’s how I felt when I read The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff.  When I got to the acknowledgements and saw my editor, Elysia Gallo, mentioned I was over the moon.  I immediately sent her an e-mail telling her how much I enjoyed the book and how it was just the sort of book that I wanted to write.

The Witch’s Cauldron is part of The Witch’s Tools Series from Llewellyn, which covers various tools used by witches throughout history, and deals with, as the title suggests, cauldrons.  What immediately resonated with me was Zakroff’s pragmatic approach to the subject.  Early on in the book she writes, “In dangerous times, it was safer to have a commonplace item that could double for a person’s spiritual needs while not outing them to those who might wish to cause them harm.”  This is the magick I’m here for, the mundane made magickal because “special” tools could be used as evidence against the witch.  This isn’t candle color or crystal magick that—while it might have a place in modern magick—didn’t have a place in historical witchcraft.

That pragmatism continues as Zakroff explores non-traditional cauldrons like crock pots, encourages supporting local businesses, and even cautions the reader to be aware of local laws with regard to collecting feathers and animals/animal parts.  That last bit is a particular pet peeve of mine, as so many pagan books will offer up correspondences for feathers, shells, and other fauna with no such caution.  Laws about this are meant to protect animals from harm and ignoring them is not being a good steward of the earth.

What really impressed me, however, was Zakroff’s recognition of non-binary practitioners and her address of cisgendered heteronormativity of the Great Rite.  Having worked with non-binary clients and having a several trans friends, it was gratifying to see witchcraft being addressed in such an inclusive manner.  I’ve been seeing more of this over the last year or so, but only online.  To see the topic come up in a book from a pagan publisher is encouraging.

I will be checking out the other books in the series, with the hope that they are as intelligently and thoughtfully written as The Witch’s Cauldron.

Book Review: Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand

Root work + shamanism = a useful book.

The first time I was aware of how an environment affected me was in 1994-1996. I had moved to Laramie, Wyoming to go to school. The years I was there I felt unsettled, unraveling. I eventually moved away, heading for Chicago (which presented its own environmental issues) and didn’t really connect my unease with the town. Over the next few years, whenever I would travel home to visit, stopping in Laramie to see friends, the general sense of bad energy would hit me. I eventually came to recognize that the town, for whatever reason, just doesn’t jibe with me.

I think that is one of the reasons I related so strongly with Khi Armand’s Clearing Spaces.  It is a book full of advice in recognizing and diagnosing problems in one’s environment.  Armand then offers practical advice on how to address those problems.  He acknowledges, also, that some problems might not be fixed, and that, especially when dealing with genus loci, compromise might be necessary.

What I enjoyed about the book is that Armand discusses ways to treat the environment that don’t involve feng shui.  In fact, he introduces several concepts and practices that I had never heard of before.  For example, he talks about Ho’oponopono, a Hawaiian healing technique of reconciliation.  The idea of coming to terms with your environment, rather than trying to impose your will on it, was particularly interesting to me.

The book is grounded in root work, shamanism and paganism, with an understanding of and reference to the cultures that contributed to those paths or “modalities”. This blend of various paths feels organic rather than forced in his prose.  Armand also uses the term “technology” in references to practices like smudging, feng shui and the like.  It’s a call back to past times when spells and charms were worked as practical matters alongside other, mundane activities.

The greatest benefit I got from the book, however, was the introduction to the term “helping spirits.”  For years I have worked with Turtle, but eschewed the term “spirit animal” so as to not participate in cultural appropriation.  No other terms ever encompassed what Turtle means to me, though.  But when I read “helping spirits” it was like a light clicked on in my head!  It’s not an exaggeration to say that learning this term has helped my relationship to Turtle grow and deepen over the last few months.

Finally, on a completely aesthetic note, this is one of the most attractively laid out books I’ve read in a long time.  Flipping through it felt good.  I spent some of my time reading, just looking over the pages, admiring the design.  That sort of attention to the page space is completely in keeping with the rest of the book.

Book Review: A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard

She had me at the witch as gentle anarchist and lost me at “gypsy”.

In my wandering and varied research for my book, I kept coming across the witch’s runes.  You can find a plethora of them on Etsy.  I was really curious as to what they were, where they came from, their provenance really.  A little digging produced the book A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard.  The subtitle How to Make and Use Your Own Magick Stones was right up my research alley.  I put in my request for a copy via Inter Library Loan along with the half a bajillion other books and waited.

I want to point out from the offset that I admire what Sheppard set out to do with the book.  With certain modern pagan paths’ penchants for making up traditions out of whole cloth there a real risk to viewing anything not steeped in hundreds of years of history as somehow lesser or illegitimate when it comes to the pagan faith.  I’ve read a lot of pagan books over the last year, and there is a trend of constantly looking back.  What Sheppard does in this book is create a new divination system, somewhere between runes and Tarot cards.  It’s an ambitious objective and it has certainly paid off: her book was first published in 1998 and the idea of witch’s runes has spread.

But (and you knew there was a but coming, right?) reading through the book was an uncomfortable stroll through cultural appropriation, slurs and handfuls of generalizations thrown in for good measure.  Sheppard’s approach is summed up on page 22: “But the witch honors all of the spiritual traditions that have preceded her.  She takes what works for her and makes use of its meanings.”  This set the tone for the book.

The thing is, it didn’t have to be this way.  Late in the book, on page 96, Sheppard mentions that her “…area of discipline is astrology.”  She talks about using the runes she has created “in the place of signs and planets and it works out fine.”  Knowing this, and seeing the table at the back of the book with planet, sign and element correspondences, I could see the potential for a divination tool made incorporating the zodiac and astrology.  I don’t understand why this isn’t what she did.

The only reasoning I can come up with is that urge I pointed out earlier, to try and tie any new Pagan ideas to the past.  For each rune, Sheppard tries to tie the symbolism to various older cultures: Egyptian, Pict, Anglo-Saxon, Akkadians, Mesopotamians, and of course the ubiquitous “gypsies”.  Occasionally she touches back on her astrological background, tying the Scythe to Scorpio and the planet Pluto.  But for the most part all the runes are presented as an amalgamation of symbols drawn from mostly western cultures.

I am writing Sew Craft with an eye to avoid appropriation, generalization, and giving Western traditions more importance than the rest of the world.  It is a fine line to travel, as I am aware that I can’t see all the pitfalls I might fall in while meaning well. As I work, reading books like A Witch’s Runes keeps me mindful of respecting the history of my sources.

Book Announcement: Sew Craft

I’m excited to announce that Llewellyn Worldwide will be publishing my book Sew Craft: A Sewist’s Book of Shadows.  There will be projects and rituals, as well as much of the lore and information I’ve picked up in the last year of research into magick and sewing.

From as long as I can remember I have written.  Before I could form letters or words I would scribble stories.  To finally realize my goal of getting my work published is amazing.  This project is going to consume most of my waking hours over the next few months.  Fortunately, now that summer break is over, I have more time to devote to it.

I’m not going anywhere, though.  I will still be posting here about commissions and events and whatever else pops into my head.  And I’ll be posting about the book, because eventually I’m sure that Stephan and my kids are going to get tired of me goobing over it.

A very happy Solar Eclipse to you all.  I hope it sees the start of something good for each and every one of you.