I watch a lot of videos about zero waste and minimalism. Most of the time it’s like flipping through an IKEA catalog: lots of white, lots of pretty interiors, a view of a lifestyle that I can’t achieve right now. From time to time, however, I learn a bit about how to be a little more sustainable in my day to day life. This week I learned about a thing called a greens muslin bag. These are cloth bags used to store greens to keep them fresh longer.
The concept works in much the same way as storing lettuce in a container with a damp paper towel. The moisture keeps the lettuce (or spinach or other greens) from going limp before you can use them. This is something that has plagued my house over the years. We eat a lot of salad, even more the last few months as my husband has started on an anti-inflammatory diet. But sometimes we don’t graze fast enough and I end up having to toss the romaine. It’s not a complete waste as the food goes into our compost.
We drink a lot in this household. I don’t mean we are alcoholics. We are just a thirsty bunch. Tea, coffee, water, energy drinks, soda, milk, lemonade, hot chocolate, and even whiskey and wine, there is an endless parade of beverages through the house. Besides keeping us busy with cleaning mugs, cups and glasses, our constant hydration means we need lots and lots of coasters, especially since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when we’ve been housebound.
Years ago I made a couple of coasters from linen scraps. And then I put together a couple more when I was taking pictures for Sew Witchy. With four total not being near enough to protect furniture from water circles and scorch marks, I set out to make more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m excited to announce my Dress Like a Hedgewitch course I’ll be running on my Patreon in 2020. The above picture is the monthly syllabus.
The course starts off with foundation garments (petticoat and chemise), moves on to wardrobe items (like the walking skirt and tunic dress), and includes fun accessories (like the rectangular scarf shrug and the bustle).
All of the garments will include instructions on how to make them to your own size and taste. Trim and design options will be explored as well.
I’ll be including a monthly post for questions on the current project.
All of this is offered at the Shuttles tier which is $10 per month and includes access to all my Patreon content.
Spring cleaning is about clearing out stagnant energy. Fall cleaning is about carefully picking through the contents of your life to find what to keep and what to pitch. It is for opening your closet doors and laying all your clothes on the bed, for pulling out your fall and winter gear and inspecting it. Those gloves and scarves and coats you carelessly packed away six months before get an airing out. You wash those that need it. You pair up gloves, toss those what are missing partners, or, as I do with my son’s gloves, pair them up with another lonely one to make a mismatched set.
This is the process I’m going through now. I am trying to bring order to a house I never properly set up. Our move-in was hasty and chaotic, and the last year didn’t afford me much time to purposefully arrange things. This fall, however, has brought me the time and energy to tackle such housekeeping details.
I’ve started with my clothes. By virtue of my life spent mostly in my home, my daily wardrobe consists mainly of pj pants and T-shirts. Those times I have to venture into the outside world, I will exchange the pants for one of my skirts. This has been my daily uniform for the past five years, and my clothes are beginning to show it.
I began with the shirts. All the T-shirts riddled with holes went under the pinking shears. In thirty minutes I had reduced them to rags for cleaning. They replaced the previous rags that had come to the end of their useful life.
This last week I moved on to my skirts. Currently I have four every day skirts, one “fancy”, and two that haven’t made it into rotation yet. All of them are handmade. One skirt went into the bin, so torn up and run down it wasn’t even fit for rag duty. The other three are threadbare and torn at the seams. If I toss them now, I’ll be short of outside wear, though, so I’ve decided to mend them enough to get through the next month while I make new skirts.
I’ve patched these skirts before. Those times I was careful with my fabric choice and my stitching. This time, knowing that I just need to keep my underwear from showing, I set to the task by first grabbing a handful of scraps. The result is haphazard, but serviceable. And that’s all that’s warranted. Once I’ve made up new skirts, these will be retired. I’m considering remaking them into a throw, something cozy for the winter nights ahead.
This upcoming week the target of my fall cleaning will be the pj pants. Several need some light mending and I’ll probably make a couple of new pairs, as well as retire a couple that are as ratty as the skirts. Then I will move on to the winter clothes: sweaters, sweatshirts, long sleeved garments, as well as tights and leggings. By the time December rolls around I should be well sorted out to survive the winter.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.