Tag Archives: crafting

A Stitch in Time

You know that saying, “A stitch in time saves nine”?
For decades, I had no idea what it meant. I thought the stitch in question was a bit like the “wrinkle” in the Madeleine l’Engle novel. In reality, it’s way more practical than that.
It refers to saving yourself a heap of work if you fix something quickly, while it’s still a minor problem.
Case in point: Darning socks.

On the left-hand side, a sock in the process of being darned.  It is stretched over a "mushroom" (a wooden thing - shaped like a shiitake, or maybe a portobello, mushroom - in order to make the process easier.  On the right-hand side, the same sock (and its mate) once the darning is done.  This took about 3.5-4 hours, most of which was spent on the first (upper) sock which had much, much bigger holes in it.

On the left-hand side, a sock in the process of being darned. It’s stretched over a “mushroom” (a wooden thing – shaped like a shiitake, or maybe a portobello, mushroom – in order to make the process easier. On the right-hand side, the same sock (and its mate) once the darning is done. This took about 3.5-4 hours, most of which was spent on the first (upper) sock which had much, much bigger holes in it.

Yes, I really did just blog my day’s mending. And it involved sweatsocks.
Why am I darning a pair of socks that cost me $6 for a package of two pairs?
Well… Partly, because I feel a little embarrassed to wear socks with big holes in the toes. Partly because there’s still a lot of really good sock left, if I’d just fix the holes. Partly because, right at the moment, I don’t actually have $6 with-which to buy a new package of mostly-cotton socks. And partly because I want to feel productive (I seem to have inherited my mother’s guilt around Being Idle), don’t want to throw out a pair of otherwise-perfectly-good socks, and would kind of prefer to create things (even if what I’m creating is Repairs) rather than just consuming them (although, honestly, I’m game for consuming things, too – Discount, formerly-Valentines-Day-related chocolates; new urban fantasy novels, DVDs of “RENT”, poetry performances, matinee showings of opera-at-the-movies…).
But there you go. I waited and waited to fix those socks, and finally did, and it tood For Ever. (The rip in my burgundy corduroy skirt, which I also fixed today, took maybe six minutes at a generous estimate).
Darning for the win!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Shawl Project Plans

My altars are lit – finally, after too long (a couple of weeks, easy) having gone without – and I’m relaxing at home while my lovely wife is out on a date with one of her other sweeties.
I may have to send her a note suggesting that she grab a bottle of white wine on the way home, so that we can enjoy a glass of reisling (one can hope) with the chicken and sweet potatoes I’m (eventually) doing in the oven.
Right now, though, I’m messing about with the blogs. I finally got caught up on my Pagan Blog Project posts (see previous entry) and will, shortly, be caught up on my GGBP posts over on Syrens as well.
Right now, though, I want to talk about knitting. I’ve decided that I’m going to knit myself a heavy, striped shawl via the simple means of knitting nine (or so) long, skinny scarves and then sewing them together. The idea is that I’ll have black stripes (odd number, so that both “bookend” stripes are black) alternating with stripes of Various Colours and the plan is that each of the Various Colours will be a hand-spun yarn, ideally one with some verigation or colour blending going on. The shawl should end up being about 2.5′ deep by 5′ or 6′ long. At least that’s the hope.
Right now, that means one stripe done in the deep blue (with hints of purple and white) silk-merino that I got fairly early on in my spinning endevors, and one stripe (eventually, once I’ve spun some more) in the same deep ruby that I turned into arm warmers back in December. I do have a small heap of other roving that I can work with – most of which I got for felting soap and making felted jewelry (haven’t done much of either, though so might as well turn it into yarn) – and I’m thinking I’ll do a combination of turquoise and lavender with, maybe, a bit of darker purple thrown in here and there, and another skein done in the dark purple (though I’m not sure what I’ll mix it with… maybe white? I’d have to see how that went).
I’d like to spin something like a peacock blue, or a teal that I’ve heavily mixed with royal blue and just a few hints of emerald, but we’ll see… I’d have to get new roving for that. Likewise, I’d like to do a deep, bloody red – and I have some crimson roving lying around for just that purpose – but… Again, I’m not sure what I’d mix it with. Based on what I’ve got… carefully mixed feather-fine touches of ruby and dark purple, probably. And I’d love to do a variety of pinks… a rich fuschia couple with touches of the ruby plus something very pale but still in the pink spectrum.
Each colourful stripe could be a different width, too – possibly getting narrower as the colours get lighter? – for extra visual interest.
Who knows.
Anyway. That’s where I’m at. I won’t be hand-spinning the black yarn although I may be buying it. I’ve got three skeins of black merino already BUT it’s a really fine gage – like sock yarn, or close to it – and, while it’s turning out beautifully using a twisted-stitch and 2.25mm needles… it’s taking for freakin’ ever, and that’s not the idea here. the idea here is to be able to put the black stripes together on 7mm (or 5mm) needles, using a twisted stitch, and get each one done on a given lazy afternoon while watching Lord of the Rings or something.
Anyway. That – along with my erstwhile pair of socks – is my current Project for the moment.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Knitting with Handspun Yarn – Opera Length Arm-Warmers (in the round)

So. Quite a while back, I learned how to hand-spin using the drop spindle that my wife made me out of a cupboard-door-pull, a bent nail, and a bit of skinny doweling. It works quite well, fyi. There’s a reason you can make these things out of tinker toy. 😉
Anyway. One of the fibres I’ve been spinning is corriedale. I went with this partially because it’s the least expensive fibre available at my local fibre-geeks shop, but also because it came in (among many other things) a lovely dark wine/berry colour that happens to be something I can wear.
So I spun a heap of that, all the while wondering what I would make from the stuff once I’d spun all the roving I’d bought. (For reference, I’ve used about 2/3 of the stuff as of now). I mean, yes, I know there are a zillion suggestions up on Ravelry for what to do with a small amount of slightly lumpy single-ply probably-worsted-weight yarn.
I’ve even used some of them.
But, this being me, I’m more likely to just futz around with something until I turn it into something useable (see: my method of cooking, for reference).
So where is this going?
It’s going to my attendance at a clothing swap, just shy of two months ago, where-at I was able to pick up a totally adorable 3/4-sleeve (on me…) funfur coat in, oh hey a lovely dark wine/berry colour. That just happens to match the yarn I’ve been hand-spinning for ages.
See, I live in a climate where winter is, for the most part, Serious Business. But we do get occasional weird-ass thaws, like the one that’s happening as we speak. The temperature is hovering around freezing (a week ago it was -28C not counting the wind chill, so…) and it’s safe for me to wear my totally adorable funfur coat out and about. BUT! It’s still not bare arms weather, which means: arm-warmers!
Yeah, I know. Who’s never made arm-warmers?
But I only just got the hang of making them using circular needles, so I’m feeling rather chuffed about the whole thing. I made myself a pair of elbow-length arm warmers to go with a specific piece of clothing. And they look good! 😀

Elbow-length arm-warmers made with berry/wine single-ply handspun corriedale yarn.  :-D Go me! :-D

Elbow-length arm-warmers made with berry/wine single-ply handspun corriedale yarn. 😀
Go me! 😀

Something I’ve learned, though, is that when knitting with hand-spun (or at least with yarn that I’ve handspun…) there may need to be an extra row here or there to make up for the variations in yarn thickness. My second one is just a tiny bit (maybe 5mm?) shorter than my first one.
Still! They do what they’re supposed to do and look like they’re supposed to look, and I managed not to drop any stitches, so I’m happy! 😀
If I were to do this pattern again with a similarly weighted (or “gaged”, I suppose) yarn, I would probably make some changes.
But let’s take a look.
Original Pattern for Opera-Length Arm-Warmers (for a very tall woman)
1) Cast 40 stitches onto a set of 4mm (or so) circular needles sized for making socks and baby-hats and similar.
2) Knit back-and-forth two rows
3) Knit in-the-round five rows (pattern continues in-the-round unless otherwise specified)
4) Knit two, Pearl two, for seven rows
5) Reduce (one row of stitches only) using the following stitche pattern: [Knit two, pearl-two-together, pearl one] –> You should now have thirty stitches on your needles
6) Knit two, Pearl two, for 14 rows
7) Knit (everything) for 50 rows
8) Knit back-and-forth (to make the hole for the thumb) for 24 rows
9) Knit in-the-round 10 rows
10) Cast off, keeping stitches fairly loose
If I were to do this pattern again, I would change steps 3, 4, and 5 as follows:
3) Knit in-the-round 16-20 rows, depending on how far over your elbow you want the arm-warmers to extend (NOTE: must be an even number of rows or the rest of the pattern won’t look right)
5) Reduce (one row of stitches only) using the following stitche pattern: [Knit one, knit-two-together, pearl two] –> You should now have thirty stitches on your needles
So there you have it. 🙂 The original pattern makes a very fitted pair of 16″ arm-warmers that can be worn with or without thin gloves underneath. With the above changes, the arm-warmers will be 17″-18″ in length. If you’re a tall or long-limbed individual, these should run from right around where your palm meets your fingers to just above your elbows. There’s lots of space (in those fifty rows of knited stiches) to modify these for either length (remove – or add! – extra rows) and pattern, for example if you find the knitting-for-ever stuff to be insufficiently challenging, you could add a really spiffy cable pattern along one side to fancy it up a bit. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

Y is for Yarn – Pagan Blog Project 2013

Gosh, I might even get this done this year. O.O
If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you’ll know that I do a lot of fibre arts. I spin, I knit, and (more recently) I’ve begun to weave. I’m currently halfway through a knitting project that uses yarn that I spun on the drop-spindle my wife made for me. I’m only halfway done, though, because I’ve had to spin more yarn (and will need to spin yet more before I can get on with the knitting) due to running out part-way through.
The project is a pair of opera-length gauntlets (fingerless mitts) that are meant to be worn over my leather gloves. I’ll be reinforcing the thumb hole with some black leather lacing once I’ve got both guantlets done, but this is what the first one looks like.

Yarn was spun by me.  Gauntlet was knitted by me.  I did not make the needles or dye the roving or raise the sheep, though.  None the less, still proud of them. :-)

Yarn was spun by me. Gauntlet was knitted by me. I did not make the needles or dye the roving or raise the sheep, though. None the less, still proud of them. 🙂

That’s all well and good, of course. And if I’m really quick (and get all my other projects done in time), I’ll be able to wear them out for Fancy Anniversary Dinner on the 20th (one day early – our friends are taking us out).
But why “yarn” for a Pagan blog post?
Well, spinning, weaving, and various other fibre arts have long (long, long, long) been associated with the Fates, and – for similar reasons – also with Witchcraft. Leaving aside the whole business of spinning someone’s life-thread out and then cutting it off, yarn (and other threads) are good for binding spells – whether we’re talking about keeping someone in a particular position (stay-away bindings where the twists and knots are meant to throw confusion at your stalker) or more symbolic bindings like, say, handfasting cords, where the ritual binding is symbolic of a bond that already exists. Likewise, repetitive tasks lend themselves well to trance work and, not to put too fine a point on it, give you a handy rope to tie yourself to your own body with. You can always follow it back if you get lost, right? (Just be careful who else is following it).
Beyond that, like anything you make yourself (yes, we’re into hand-spinning and handy-crafts now), you can add whatever ingredients you need. My opera gauntlets are just a fashion/warmth item – nothing particularly Special other than that my handspun yarn happened to match a new-to-me three-quarter-sleeve coat perfectly – but you can choose specific plant-based dyes for their magical properties (e.g.: a skein of yarn dyed deep blue using black turtle beans would be a particularly apropriate “year king” winter-themed yarn; a scarf made from yarn dyed a deep roan brown using red onion skins would be a wonderful gift to impart courage and good luck as well as warmth) or else simply opt for specific colours in order to achieve a particular end (E.G.: knit green and gold mittens – whether you spun the yarn yourself or not – to call abundance and wealth into your hands).
My goal is to weave my own family tartan, partly because I just seriously want to, and partly because it’s a way of honouring my ancestors in a really concrete way.
So there you have it.
Use spinning, knitting (go for a simple pattern or NO pattern at all), weaving, and other repetitive acts of fibre creation to help induce trances for pathwalking and similar!
Dye your (handspun or not) yarn, or unspun roving using specific plant-based dyes to add extra magical oomph to your items!
Alternatively, sellect yarn in appropriate colours to accomplish your magical ends when creating binding spells, handfasting cords, mojo bags (you could knit one!), or in other magical workings!
Use fibre-based handicrafts to connect to your ancestors either by learning the traditional arts of your culture and/or by creating the kind of stuff they would have worn or wanted (in my case: tartan. But knitting slippers for everyone using Grandma’s Favourite Pattern; or using Hungarian (or, in my case, Belgian/Northern-French) casting-on techniques because that’s where your ancestors come from; are also appropriate)!
Lots of ways to incorportate it into your practice. Give it a shot and enjoy! 😀

Earrings for Pancreatic Cancer Canada

Hey, folks.
So, for those of you (most of you, I suspect) who don’t know: My dad is one of the many folks who’s died of pancreatic cancer. He got diagnosed in August of 1999, and died the following February. Which is about a month later than we were expecting, once the diagnosis happened. The disease works pretty damn fast, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, it was almost 14 years ago, so I’m not deep in the grieving process at this point and, honestly, I know he turns up in spirit-form every so often (if not more frequently) to check up on me, so I know he’s not really “gone-gone”. It’s just that his body isn’t a physical one anymore.
One of my aunt’s brothers-in-law (I never knew him) also died from pancreatic cancer, about five or six years later. I wound up doing a CD for the funeral (three pieces: “Angel” and “I will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlin, plus an accapella rendition of “Amazing Grace”) so that I could sing at it long-distance.
What I’m saying is that my family is linked to pancreatic cancer in a fairly personal way.
And so now my mom works for Pancreatic Cancer Canada. A pretty decent place, by all accounts.
Anyway. Part of what PanCan Canada does is they raise money for (specifically pancreatic) cancer research. They do this in a bunch of ways, but one of them is through their “shop purple” store, which is part online shop[1] and part pop-up store (they bring their stuff to events, that sort of thing). The idea is that you buy the Purple Stuff (thus getting something concrete in exchange for your cancer research donation) and then, when people go “Where did you get that awesome ________________?” you can use it as a jumping off point to do some educational outreach and general awareness-raising about pancreatic cancer[2].
So, to get to the rather me-me-me point of this post: As you all know, I make jewelry.
I recently made a bunch of jewelry for Pancreatic Cancer Canada to sell in their shop. I do get paid for the pieces, but I’m donating my labour on these. According to Mom, each piece will go up on the site at a different time. Right now, the one they have up is this one:

Key to the Cure Piece A Seven pairs available, but that's it. 8mm amethyst beads + surgical steel hooks and silver-tone key-charms and findings. 1.75" long, not including hooks. $20/pair.

Key to the Cure
Piece A
Seven pairs available, but that’s it.
8mm amethyst beads + surgical steel hooks and silver-tone findings.
1.75″ long, not including hooks. $20/pair.
Click on the picture to go to their shop.

As it says in the caption:
8mm amethyst beads + surgical steel hooks and silver-tone key-charms and findings.
1.75″ long, not including hooks. $20/pair.
Available from Pancreatic Cancer Canada.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] It’s not exactly an online shop. You can see what they have on the webpage, and then you have phone in what you’d like to order. I’m pretty sure it’s a project of theirs to update the “store” section so that you can just click and do an automatic check-out or similar. I hope that this happens, soon. 😉
[2] That’s one of the many, many things that I loathe about the whole “pink washing” thing. Stuff gets done or sold or bought ostensibly because it’s “raising awareness” about breast cancer but… It’s really not. There’s no coversation-starter built into, say, the pre-sliced mushrooms at the grocery store that come in the pink plastic tray rather than the blue one. At least my mom’s org does stuff to go along with what they’re selling. (Like their Purple Lights awareness campaign, that involved getting various municipal landmarks across Canada to light up in purple, complete with press-conferences, in conjuntion with selling purple LED outdoor fairy lights to people in their shop). Anyway. It’s a bit of a thing. Don’t mind me.

Every Day Stuff and… My Bread “Recipe”. :-D

I’m listing to an old Modern Witch podcast, with a couple of candles burning (all parafin – I’m trying to use up my parafin candles… again. Even though I’m rather loving the option of candle light any-old-time that I want it. I’ve used up the wicks in a huge candle center-piece… thing (it was a house-warming gift back in 2004, at Mabon) which involved glitter and candles shaped like apples, and… it’s just this huge lump of wax now, still with the glitter, and with, like, fake flowers stuck in it… And I want to melt it down and make new candles – possibly by using espresso mugs to make container-candles – and gift them to my mom (most likely) when Secular Xmas[1] rolls around.
There’s snow on the ground now, and it’s dark by 5pm. Winter has arrived.
Continue reading

W is for Women’s Work – Pagan Blog Project 2013

Two Witches Live Here
One Has a Kind Heart
The Other Can See Your Memories

The above is a sign that does not hang on our door… but could.
Right. So, moving right along. Not all that long ago, I wrote a post wherein I wondered aloud if all the Traditional Women’s Work stuff that my wife and I do is feeding my Lady Of The Hearth in some way.
We do a LOT of Things at our place.
Continue reading

More on the MasterWeaver Loom – Things I’ve Learned So Far…

So I have woven my very first (tiny) piece of fabric.
I actually made cloth you guys[1]! O.O 😀
It’s this tiny little 6×8 (or so) bit of weaving, which is about what you can get on this width of a loom (apparently), but it will be turned into a clutch-purse, possibly for my sister-in-law. (A few years ago, I used the same yarn to knit her husband (my wife’s brother) a neck-warmer for when he goes skiing, so I thought it might work to do something with matching yarn for her).
The loom, itself, is still full of warping – I’ve just run out of weft yarn. But I’ve got a few different half-used skeins of purple wool, so I think I’ll just start up a new piece on the same warping (leaving a good four inches or so between the first and the second peice to make the binding-off a LOT easier).

This picture was taken last night, when I'd only done a couple of inches of weaving.  You can see that I'm usin a large, metal ruler for a shuttle (the real shutting being In Use at the moment), but it's working okay. Yes, that Boroslava, the wood-burning (not presently useable) parlour stove that you can see in the background.

This picture was taken last night, when I’d only done a couple of inches of weaving. You can see that I’m usin a large, metal ruler for a shuttle (the real shutting being In Use at the moment), but it’s working okay.
Yes, that Boroslava, the wood-burning (not presently useable) parlour stove that you can see in the background.

Things I’ve Learned:
1) You see the WEFT thread a lot more than the WARP thread, so if you’re weaving in order to use up odds and ends of yarn? Use the not-so-matched stuff or the less-pretty stuff (by your own definition) for the warping. I does show up. Keep that in mind. Just not as much and the weft.
2) The MasterWeaver loom is the kind where you rest the Breast Bar (the bar that’s closest to you) on your knees. At first, I totally thought I was supposed to weave with the loom hanging virtically from its stand (woops) which is really, REALLY difficult and uncomfortable. this works a billion times better, and I’m quite happy with it.
3) When warping the loom: Start AND finish the warping at the bottom (breast bar) of the loom. This way your tie-off points (see #4 as well) will be as FAR AWAY from where you start your weaving (and, therefore, from the heddles[2]), which means you won’t have to navigate knots part-way through your weave. Woops. Learn from my mistakes, folks. 😉
4) I’m still not sure what to do about tying off the beginning and end of my continuous warp thread. Right now, I’m making due by tying them to the adjacent warp-threads and hoping I can sort out how to get them through the heddles and into the weave without all that much trouble. Wish me luck! O.O
Anyway, that’s where things are at with the loom. Wish me luck with my continued efforts! 😀
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] My lovely wife was watching me weaving this morning and commented. “Plus you can make your own string!… You’re this close to owning your own goat, aren’t you?”
Yeah. Pygora Goats are looking better and better every day. (Wonder if I could re-cross them with Icelandics for added milk, eventual meat, and some interesting fibre characteristics. Hm…).
[2] That’s that plastic, accordion-looking part in the pictures.

Crafty Post – MasterWeaver Loom: I Have One! :-D

So… Apparently “telling the internet” works a bit like “telling the bees” as far as wishcraft is concerned. I’ve been throwing looms and spinning wheels up on my pinterest board and, lo and behold, I now have a spinning wheel (kind of like this single-flyer wheel, but only 40 years old and rather cobbled together – I’ll talk more about it in another post) and I now have a loom. 🙂

This is not my loom. This is the loom pictured in this post from Seabreeze Spinners. But my loom is a narrower version of this.
I think that dial think is supposed to be something akin to a rigid heddle, but with options for more complicated weave patterns. I don’t actually know though. Help?

A friend was clearing out some stuff from his basement – his mom used to run a chain of fibre arts stores in Ottawa back in the 1970s, when Macrame was A Total Thing and he’s got a bunch of her left-over stuff that he’s trying to get rid of – and I was happy to help him out. 😉
So now I have this loom – a MasterWeaver MW105 – that can weave stuff up to 30cm wide[1] and which, by the looks of things, has a limit to the length of warp in can handle (damn – but we’ll do what we can to make that not the case). If this works (ahaha) I will probably be making Table Runners for Everyone this xmas. Wish me luck with that. 😉
As it stands, I am not entirely sure how to make it go and, since the MasterWeaver is no-longer being made, I’m having a devil of a time finding instructions anywhere.
I’m pretty sure (in my very guess-as-guess-can way) that the wide bar of disks (the “reed”?) is something a bit like a rigid heddle (since there are no pre-existing wire “heddle loops” and no peg to attach string heddles to link on an inkle loom…), but one where you can do a repeating pattern that’s more complicated than the kind where half the warp is “up” while the other half is “down”.
The… dial that the reed disks are on has eight positions, and each disk has… four(?) settings? (I think… I will have to check this out). There is no beater, so I think I’d have to use something else (maybe a ruler or a narrow dowel?) to make sure the weft thread is good and tight against the weave… (Sorry, I’m totally speculating and thinking-in-print right now – bear with me). I’m really hoping that I don’t need to use “pick-up sticks” or similar to make this work. :-\
I think how it works is that you set the disks to the pattern of “ups” and “downs” that you want (Maybe for something Very Simple, I would just set everything to 1-2-1-2-1-2?) and then I turn the “dial” to shift the position of the warp threads (I just don’t know if I would shift it between “one” and “five” or “one” and “two”… Any suggestions?).
I think this may be the kind of occasion where I go digging around in my cheap synthetics bag and see what I can come up with through experimentation.
Wish me luck! 😀
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] If I really take to weaving, I will eventually find/get-my-wife-to-build/scrounge (or even buy, ye gods) a 32-inch (potentially wider, but that’s unlikely) rigid heddle loom of some kind (like a Cricket or something), potentially with a stand to go with it… but for now, we’re working with what we can get for free. So this is what I’ve got. Woohoo!!! 😀

U is for Unguent – Pagan Blog Project 2013

And, while I’m playing catch-up, let’s opt for something simple. “Unguent” is another word for “Soothing Ointment”. There are lots of people (although The Witch of Forest Grove is the one who comes most immediately to mind) who make flying ointments and other salves that have physical effects beyond smoothing out the dry skin on your heals.
I don’t go quite that far.
But I do make magical salves.
I make massage balms with specific intentions built into them – like the foot balm that contains both anti-fungal properties and happens to have some “come to me boy” effects infused into it as well[1]; or the peppermint-lavender mix that calms and purifies on an energetic level as well as a physical one.
Mostly, I use a cocoa-butter base with a mix of beeswax (not vegan, sorry – though I could probably substitute coconut oil if I really felt the need) and olive or grapeseed oil to help with consistency, and then hit them with essential oils and energetics ’til they’re cooked, then serve them up in half-cup mason jars… ’cause that’s just the way I roll, apparently. 🙂
I’ve been known to use these, once or twice, as dressing oils for candles as well, since their solid-at-room-temperature state makes them easy to apply without adding too much or having a random bowl of oil left over after you’ve started your spell (anyone have suggestions for what to do with these when they do happen?). But, for the most part, I just use them on my body – or make them for other people to use in the same way.
I rather enjoy them. 😉
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] Why yes, I do know a lot of people who work in the fetish industry. Why do you ask?