Setting a Place at the Table

We’ve reached a weird point in the year. Spring is trying to hurry winter along, and winter is refusing. We’re still a month away from starting seeds. Snow still lingers in the shaded parts of yards. The ground is squelchy and the temperature vacillates between warm and frigid. There’s this constant tug of war going on between the desire to rest ad the urge to get moving.

I’ve dealt with that tumult by diving into my fabric stash. I have so much of it. Some is neatly stored on cardboard bolts. Most, though, is stuffed in file boxes and plastic bags, in bins and piled on tables. It’s an overwhelming mess that I simultaneously want to shovel into the trash heap and lord over it like a dragon who has settled in the back of a defunct hobby store.

Last week I decided to make use of some of the scraps and sew up a set of placemats. I’ve wanted to have some for a while now, due to my nine-year-old’s table manners. Placemats are one of those pieces of household linens that makes it look like you have your life together.

I pulled out two bags of fabric scraps. They were all floral prints in shades of red, orange and yellow. Those colors are always associated with cooking and eating for me. There wasn’t enough to make the placemats from each print, so I ended up quilting them together for the tops and using a length of floral linen for the backs. To add a bit more protection from hot plates, I dug out a remnant of yellow flannel to use as a batting.

Placemat Fabrics
Each place mat is made up of the quilted top, a flannel interior and a fabric back.

I’m not a great quilter. It’s not really an aspect of sewing I’ve ever gotten into. For these placemats I just cut the fabric into rectangles and squares. I pieced them together in rows and then sewed those rows together. My only goal was to make four pieces large enough (17″ x 13″) and I wasn’t too concerned with the patterning.

Othala rune stitching
I chose to mark the flannel with the Othala rune as it has associations with the home and prosperity, energies I would like to bring to the dinner table.

I decided I wanted to add a bit of sew craft to the placemats. To that end, I stitched the rune Othala onto the flannel pieces. Othala is a rune of home, prosperity, and family, all energies I wanted to reinforce. I basted the flannel to the wrong side of the quilted top pieces. And for good measure I top stitched inside the seams of each rectangle and square.

Placemat Topside
Topside of the placemat. I wanted to stitch it to the flannel to keep the flannel from bunching during use, but also to reinforce the quilting seams.
Placemat backside
The backside of the placemat, showing the quilting lines where I sewed the top fabric to the flannel.

The project spanned three days, with the bulk of the time spent on cutting and piecing the fabric together. I plan on making one more set, so that I won’t ever run out (one set can be on the table when the other is in the wash). And it’s not like I don’t have plenty of fabric to use.

Placemat Detail
Making the placemats from fabric that I love and which invoke feelings of plenty and prosperity and richness, makes the table a little more inviting come dinner time.
Finished placemats
I had enough fabric to make four placemats. Each one is different.

By Glove and Cowl: Using Sewing Magick to Boost Our Words

My article “By Glove and Cowl: Using Sewing Magick to Boost Our Words” is up over on Llewellyn’s website.

Learn how to make a pair of fingerless gloves and a cowl from soft and cozy fleece. Not only will they keep you warm, they can be enchanted to give powers to your words.

Click on the link above to find step-by-step instructions.

Friday Craft Day: Glycerin Leaves

It’s Friday and you know what that means: time for a weekend craft.

Now that fall has hit the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time to go for nature walks and collect leaves, nuts and berries and generally act like the hedgewitch we want to see in the world.

To that end, here’s a handy activity that will help you preserve colorful fall leaves for future crafts.

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.

Book Review: How to Show and Sell Your Crafts by Torie Jaye

As part of my continuing efforts to kick my marketing and selling skills up several notches, I picked up Torie Jaye’s How to Show & Sell Your Crafts from the library.  I will get books from the library first most of the time, and if I find the information in them to be valuable, I’ll buy a copy for my own shelves.  I won’t be picking Jaye’s book up, though.

The book’s focus is on branding: creating your own brand and making sure it saturates every  level of your business.  A good chunk of the book is dedicated to things like picking your  brand’s colors, creating great banner images, choosing an avatar.  This is a book written by a crafter who sees “strong brand focus” as “pivotal to her online success” (as stated in her biography), so the emphasis on branding is understandable.

There’s another section on how to photograph crafts that I found very helpful.  And there are several profiles of other crafters who have made a business of their designs.  The book itself is very pretty.  The layout and design is pleasing, and the pictures are beautifully photographed and presented.  This is the kind of book you want to flip through for inspiration.

However, I came away from the book  feeling that it is a blog’s worth of information stretched over a books’ worth of pages.  While the crafter profiles are nice, the focus was mainly on their bios.  Words of advice or guidance is would be more inspirational than reading about their passion for vintage items.

Included in the book are several crafts.   Ostensibly they were tied into the sections they were found in (paper covered cans as pencil holders in the section on organizing your work space) but they felt like filler meant to pad the page count.

Those sections that I was more interested in—the business of doing business—were sparse.  The page on business plans doesn’t really tell how to write one, or what one looks like.  It doesn’t even tell readers to research more information.  There’s no mention of dealing with taxes, or what it goes into setting up a business.

The book reads like a wish fulfillment manual: emphasis on packaging your crafts and setting up your booth space, talk of when you might need to hire help, blogging and social media.  While these are important things to consider, they’re really ancillary concerns (and in the case of hiring help, concerns that won’t crop up for 99% of the crafters out there) compared to things like finding venues, bookkeeping, taxes and other boring, but necessary details.

If you are looking at trying to make money from your design skills and passions, I’d recommend skipping this book and looking for something more in depth.  If I find one that fits the bill I will definitely mention it here.