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Posts Tagged ‘sewing’

Back before I had Bee, I researched crane bags and then made what I called a “motherhood crane bag” to keep with me through labor.  Since then, I have been meaning to make a general Druidic crane bag to have with me when conducting rituals.  My friend and grovie, Tara Loughborough, inspired me to make a large one that can not only hold sacred objects I want to keep near, but also contain my offerings and divinatory tools for the rites.  

So, over the course of several weeks, I drafted an original pattern for a bag, selected colors, and put it together.  It was important to me that I use earthy tones.  Green is my favorite color and reminds me of the forest.  The oak leaf, while representing the wisdom and strength of the Druidic path, is orange to represent the flame of Brighid – my patron Goddess.  As has become a custom in Northern Rivers Protogrove, it’s already decorated with some pins – our Folk of the Protogrove pins, my ADF Dedicant pin, and others that I or others made or bought to commemorated different spiritual events.

 I’m very proud of how it turned out and it’s already accompanied me to a ritual!  

Autumn Oak Crane Bag. Made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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Spring Equinox gnomes!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Spring Equinox gnomes! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

With spring right right around the corner, I thought it was time to make Bee another gnome! I decided to make a tutorial so you could make your own gnomes for the little ones in your life.  Follow along or get creative and follow your own whimsy!

Materials for the gnomes.    I use wool roving to stuff my baby toys.  You can also find wool felt.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Materials for the gnomes. I use wool roving to stuff my baby toys. You can also find wool felt. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Materials:

gnomepattern

  • Grey Catsidhe’s gnome pattern
  • felt in the desired color
  • batting
  • thread or embroidery floss
  • scissors
  • a sewing needle

The pattern may be enlarged, and should be for a baby.  I make mine so that they are small but not a choking hazard. Using the pattern, cut out the shapes in your felt.  You’ll want to cut out one face and two bodies.  At this point, I find it best to stitch on the face and add any desired details to one side of the body.  You can be as simple or complex as you wish.  I decided to make this gnome very girlish and even gave her some hair.

Stitching on the face to one side first. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Stitching on the face to one side first. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Starting at the base, stitch from bottom, to the top, and back to the bottom using the blanket stitch.  Leave the bottom opened so that you can stuff the batting in before completing the blanket stitch all the way around.

As a finishing touch, I added a little leaf to the top of the gnome’s hat.  I think it makes the Spring gnome look like a little seedling. Make sure you stitch that leaf very secure!  As with all baby toys, inspect your gnomes frequently to make sure nothing is coming apart.  My baby loves to gums her gnomes so they can get a bit worn looking.  They are very easy to clean with some soap and water.  Air dry, preferably in the sun.

Have fun making gnomes for wee ones or your own altars!  Please share any that you make!  I’d love to see.

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What is a crane bag?

The answer: not hard.

The lovely Aoife was turned into a crane and lived about the seas of Manannan Mac Lir for many hard years.  When she died, the great Sea Lord took her skin and made a magical bag that could hold his most beloved treasures.  It’s said to be bottomless.

Many Druids and Celtic Reconstructionists, especially those who are called by Manannan and the symbolism of the crane, make crane bags to wear on their person.  An individual may place his or her most sacred charms and amulets inside; objects of personal power and significance.

Although my Druidic studies have slowed lately, I’ve noted a growing connection to Manannan.  The more I work with trance and magic, the more I study, he seems to nod approvingly at me.  And of course, Brighid remains an incredibly significant part of my life.  For the last few months, I’ve felt compelled by my relationships with these deities to create a devotional object to have at my labor.  Had I the ability to attempt a home birth, rest assured I would have created an altar to motherhood, my labor, Brighid, the baby, and our spirit guides.  (For some lovely examples, look here and here!)  Although some people have made some beautiful travel-friendly birth altars, making a crane bag – something relevant to my path and my Gods that I could create with a favorite hobby – seemed like the right thing for me to do.  Everything will be secure inside the bag.  I can take one item out to hold, rub, and focus on, or I can hold the entire bag.  It’s made of very soft pink velvet and feels very comforting.  Much of my reading has suggested that women hoping for a natural birth should have some sort of focal point to assist in managing pain.  A crane bag holding many special objects to focus on is just my style!  Not only that –  it’s very discreet.

My finished motherhood crane bag. I reused fabric from an old, velvet blazer and some swirling pink for the lining (not photographed).  The pink is supposed to represent my uterus.  The drawstring method seemed best since the uterus can stretch and contract. On the front, I attached three antique buttons I purchased years ago. I knew I was saving them for something special! They fit the bag perfectly. Not only do they work with the color scheme, but symbolically an open flower is supposed to magically encourage the cervix to open.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Detail of the button I used as the clasp when the bag is tightened. A Celtic knot seemed most appropriate as it connects me to my hearth culture and gives me strength.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Although my crane bag is not bottomless, I’ve been able to fit quite a bit in there! I included the Goddess stone from my friend RavynStar, a yonic dandelion charm (the yoni is demurely facing away from the camera), the mother blessing beads from everyone at my baby shower, a sterling silver ring (now broken but still precious to me) that belonged to my mother when she was younger, a tooth from a doe, a bracelet from my late aunt, an collage of Brighid made by a fellow ADF Druid artisan, and my baby’s first photo! Everything is very significant to me symbolically. They are to remind me of the strong women in my life, my Goddess, the Earth Mother, the creative powers within me, my own strength, my spirit guide, and the ultimate goal – a healthy, happy baby. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I also included these lovely talismans made by fellow flame keeper and Druid, Grey Wren. She completely surprised me with these beauties! The bloodstone with coral is to give me strength during and after labor. The rose quartz is to help with bonding, peace, and love. A friend taught her to associate it with motherhood. The white chalcedony with the pearl is supposed to help with lactation and sleep.  It will also be very appropriate for baby since she is supposed to be born in the sign of Cancer – a water sign! I am thinking about attaching the last to the baby’s mobile since sleep and nutrition are going to be hugely important to her, and we’ll need all the help we can get!  It could also go with some water symbolism. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

A birth and motherhood crane bag is very easy to make.  All you need are some special objects that bring you comfort and courage, and a bag to put them in!  As always, I encourage you to make your own bag as you’ll put your own energy into it.  Red or pink are particularly appropriate symbolically, but choose what fits your own needs.

Have you made a birth altar or crane bag?  I would love to see it!

For More Information on crane bags:

Make Your Own Crane Bag and Discover the Purpose of the Incarnation You are Currently Living” by Elen Sentier.  A good introduction.

The Crane Bag” by Dr. John Gilbert – How one Druidic tradition utilizes this tool.

The Crane Bag” – a poem about its lore and origins from Tairis Tales.  Definitely read this for an understanding of its significance within Celtic lore.

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A fun purple bonnet to protect her from the sun. See? Along with the magical protective charms on the mobile, I’m making very practical, mundane protections too!

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I finally finished the mobile I was working on for our baby!  I decided to go with a woodland theme because I definitely want to instill a love of nature in my daughter. I included some subtle Pagan hints, mostly because they are protective.  I used a combination of natural, found materials, felt, cotton thread and twine, and brightly dyed wool.  I’m very pleased with how it turned out!  I hope our Little Bee likes it!

Included are leaves, a bumble bee, a rowan charm, a white doe, an amanita formosa, an apple blossom, and a red trillium.  Everything was selected for the symbolism and the fact that they are from her surroundings.  The rowan charm is for protection and has a connection to Brighid.  The white doe is a subtle nod to Celtic mythology, as such creatures are often considered to be fairy women in disguise. The deer is my spirit guide, so there’s a protective element to it too*.

 

*The doe looks a little like a llama…  I had a difficult time making the legs slender enough…  But a friend sent her a plush, white llama so either way the little one should be happy!

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The news is full of tragedy.  Sometimes, it’s easy to forget it exists.  We wrap ourselves in cocoons of modern comfort, alternative realities, and a seemingly never-ending lists of things to do.    It can be easy to take comfort in the forest, the river, the garden and let the rest of the world fall away.  I can see the value and truth in Buddhist thought – that attachments lead to pain.  The things we own sometimes bring us grief because they cost money and energy to maintain.  Our friendships, while often joyful, can be complicated by disagreements.  And our families – oh, our families…  Despite our love for them, despite the happiness that often comes with family, and despite the comforts –  family brings a whole list of cons.  Your fortunes are bound, you must learn to live together despite dispute or a difference in perspective, and you constantly worry. So much of that worry is concerned with the tragedies of the world and a hope that they don’t visit your little tribe.

Tragedy was a distant concept for me when I was little. With such matters, we really do seem to come into the world tabula rasa.  I don’t really know how I learned about it.  It probably started with the death of my goldfish at five, but I don’t really know.  My mother nearly died giving birth to my sister a few years before that, but I don’t recall knowing that until much later.  I was probably in bed when news of genocide across the pond aired on the news.  “Stranger danger” was probably the biggest hint that the world was not the safest place.  One thing I do remember is my parents often saying that I would understand their worry when I grew up and had children of my own.

Now here I am, in my third trimester, carrying my first child.  So much has happened in the world since this little one was conceived.  There were shootings in malls and schools.  There have been riots, civil wars, and terror in the Middle East.  There was a terrible, deadly gang rape in India.  Starving and dead seals have been washing up on the west coast.  Natural disasters.  Nuclear threats.  Explosions.  My goodness!

Yet I suppose it’s always been that way.  When our ancestors had little contact with the rest of the world, awful things still happened each day.  There were invasions, pillaging, raping, plague,  high infant death rates…  and always some mystical other in the woods.  Goblins.  Witches.  Boggies.  Fairies.  The world has always been threatening.

Despite the worry and the realities of danger, people keep having babies!  Biological impulse aside, a part of me has decided that we do this out of hope. We hope we can raise a decent human being who will not contribute to tragedy.  We hope he or she will rise above difficult situations and perhaps make the world a better, more peaceful place.

Hope.

In Greek mythology, when Pandora opened the box full of tragedy, it’s said the last “spirit” to emerge was Hope.  Like the fire from Prometheus, it is a blessing that gives humanity comfort amidst the greatest darkness.

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing for babies recently – for my child and my niece who is also on the way!  When I sit with needle and thread, I consciously put love and hope into what I make.

There will be difficulties, little ones, but I hope the tribe can give you the comfort and safety you need, and that you can meet your own challenges with grace, wisdom, and strength.

Live and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that, until the day comes when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these words: Wait and hope!

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A play blanket I made for my niece featuring heart-shaped lily pads. My applique technique is improving, but I still have a long way to go. Again, interfacing might have helped… Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

A fun cupcake baby bonnet I made for my niece. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

A froggy jacket and matching bib I made for my little one. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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Hello to all my visitors, new and old!  Today, I’m taking part in The Bewitching Home Blog Party, hosted by the lovely Witch of Howling Creek!  The theme is adding magic to domestic tasks be they cooking, cleaning, decorating, etc.   To be honest, this all snuck up on me!  I’ve been a busy gal with work, organizing events for the Druidic Study Group, and attempting to keep my home tidy!  Despite how busy and stressful life has been, I’ve been thinking a lot about Samhain and, in particular, my ancestors this month.  The ancestors are never far from my thoughts.  They are honored at each high day and I have a special altar for them where I make offerings from time to time.  My extra attention to them this month is partly because my study group is focusing on that Kindred now, and also because, I think, the veil is thinning and they are making their presence more known.  As we approach Samhain, I’m planning to put some extra effort into keeping my home tidy.  It is believed that ancestors can visit when the veil is thin.  I should make my home as welcoming and comfortable as I would for any corporeal visitors!

Now my usual readers know I’m an artsy-craftsy sort of lady.  I love to make things for regular household use as well as magical objects.  I decided to share a basic sewing tutorial with you on this special occasion.  Today we’ll be making an ancestral altar cloth so you can create a very special place of honor for your visiting dead this season.  It’s the perfect blend of magic meets seasonal decor!

For supplies you’ll need some fabric, pins (check out the adorable witch hat pin cushion made by my friend Brighde Indigo), thin yarn or embroidery floss, thread, paper scissors, fabric scissors, tracing materials, an embroidery needle, and a sewing needle or sewing machine.  Now let’s think about the fabric for a moment.  You need enough of a base fabric to cover your altar.  You may go out and buy some fabric to make a simple table cloth, or you may use one you already have on hand.  I chose to use a white table cloth I made a few years ago.  I haven’t been using it and wanted to give it new life.  Appropriate, no?You will be appliquéing four skulls onto the corners of your altar cloth.  Choose a color that works well with your base fabric.   Since my table cloth was a white faux satin, I used some scrap black satin I had laying around.  I decided to use red thread and thin yarn for the applique and blanket stitch border.  White, black and red are colors I associate with the dead.  White symbolizes the bones and new life; red the blood or life force; and black is the mystery surrounding death as well as the dark Earth we all rest in for a time.  Choose colors that suit your own ancestral beliefs!
Trace four skulls on your coordinating fabric using the Skull_pattern I’ve provided (that’s where the paper scissors come in handy!)       Cut the skulls out but be sure to leave enough room around the tracing – as photographed.  You will trim away excess after appliqueing.  Fold the skulls in half to cut the eyes and nose out.    I did not choose to cut out the mouth.  Rather, I stitched to show teeth.  You’ll see what I mean later!
Pin the skulls, right side up, in the corners of your table cloth.
Although you may applique by hand (using a blanket stitch), it’s much easier to use a machine – especially if you’re using a fabric as fray-happy as satin!    I’m still new to applique, so I apologize for the sloppiness of it.  Here’s a great tutorial from Design Sponge.  They used interfacing – something I didn’t have on hand.  After this project, I can see why it’s so important.  It stiffens the fabric and keeps it in place.  You can still make this altar cloth without it, but I’m warning you it will be a bit annoying!  Use the smallest zig-zag setting your machine has and have at it!  Notice, I used the zig-zag stitch in the mouth area.  I love how toothy it looks!  I then trimmed the fabric around the stitching.  Smaller scissors would have made it easier but, again, using what I have on hand!  As I worked, I chanted to the ancestors.  When the applique was complete, I hand-stitched around the edges using the yarn.  I chose to use the blanket stitch – it’s simple and added just enough extra color.
After the altar cloth was complete, I consecrated it in ritual.  Notice the red border!  I’m very pleased with how it turned out!
Now it sits upon my special Samhain Ancestral altar – providing a cozy spot for them to rest and feast if they visit.
Be sure to check out all the other wonderful posts in this fun blog-party!  All other participants are sharing their links in the comments of the original post.  There are other tutorials, giveaways, recipes, and lots of inspiration!

EDIT:  I just now realized that the skull pattern turned out to be HUGE.  It’s really not supposed to be that big…  You’ll need to minimize it to fit your altar cloth.  Or, I suppose, you could make some really large ones!

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