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Month: February 2020
Tarot Card or Gift Bag Tutorial
If you’ve been wanting a nice bag to hold your Tarot cards, or a pretty gift bag to hold a crystal for your BFF, why not make one yourself? If you have access to a sewing machine, you can make one like this in less than two hours using just one fat quarter of good fabric.
Fat Quarters are pre-cut 18″x 22″ inch rectangles of fabric, flat folded for an easy-grab by customers at the fabric store. There are usually a hundred or more to choose from, arranged by color. They are inexpensive, compared to having your fabric cut from a bolt, and a good way to build a quick stash of fabric. If you see two fat quarters of compatible fabric, buy them both and you’ll have enough to make two to three bags! Wash and dry the fabric before you sew with it.
A pocket Tarot deck is pictured, measuring 3 1/2″ x 2 1/2″, so I started with 2 pieces of 10″ x 7″ fabric, one for the outer bag, and one for the liner. I cut them in two, giving me four pieces of fabric, 5″ x 7″ each. You could make any size bag you want by measuring the object, then adding extra width and height.
Place liner and outer fabric wrong sides together. Press each in 1/4″ towards the wrong sides of the fabric at the top and pin. Pin each set of two together, wrong sides together, along both the long sides. Sew a 1/3″ inch seam along each side, then sew again across the top on the 1/4″ fold you just pressed.
Press each unit in 1/2″ at the top, towards the liner material. Don’t pin it or sew it down yet. You are just pressing to mark the fold for later.
Place each partially sewn set together, liner sides out. Pin and sew a 1/2″ seam down both sides and across the bottom, backstitching the top of all four seams. Either prepare to sew a French seam on edges by turning and pressing them towards the stitching, or trim to 1/4″ with pinking shears to keep fabric from raveling during use.
It is now a lined bag with straight sides. Turn it right side out, straightening, pulling or pushing corners back into points.
Now you need to decide if you want the top of the bag folded again, like mine, (4 layers of fabric once it is sewn down) or, more ruffly and taller when the drawstring is pulled.
If you want a more ruffly, tall top, sew a buttonhole or punch a rivet on the inside of the bag above the 1/2″ fold we created (but didn’t sew earlier). Just don’t fold it over again on the ironed fold to sew it down like I did. Instead, sew all the way around the top of the bag at the 1/2″ fold mark, below the buttonhole. That will give strength to your buttonhole.
Rivet Punch tools are pretty handy, especially if you are making a lot of these bags to sell, but our fabric store is out of refill rivets in the right size, so I just used a buttonhole.
Make sure the rivet size is large enough to accommodate the head of the safety pin you’ll use to push the ribbon through.
Place yarn, ribbon or cording on a safety pin, and push it through that 1/2″ tunnel you created until the pin comes out the buttonhole again. Pull and knot where you want to cut the tie. If you used offray ribbon, hold it near the bottom of a lighter flame to kind of melt the cut edges so they will never fray.
I like the way mine turned out because it is very sturdy and can stand up to being yanked open or tightly pulled a kajillion times. If your fabric is a good quilting cotton, it should stand up to heavy use either way.
There are many drawstring-bag knitting patterns on Ravelry, if you knit, and felted wool zipper bag patterns, too! Have fun, and make a magical bag!
Makers Gonna Make
The title of this post is obvious slang, but the truth behind it, speaking for myself and other makers I know, is absolute. I ran into the slogan while I was surfing social media the other day, and I am hard-pressed to find a better way to say it.
Tom and I started our maker’s journey when we bought our first fixer house. It was 1976, we had been married for just over a year. We were about 21 years old. We had a one-year-old daughter. I think we were generally pretty capable, creative people, but we were very challenged financially at that point. We were tired of paying high rent, had no credit history, and weren’t afraid of hard work. Neither of us had any family support, meaning no cosigning, no loans and no real interest in our project. We knew that if we didn’t buy a fixer then and there we might have to rent for another ten years. Comparably sized, small houses in decent neighborhoods were going for about $24K at that time. We both worked full time but couldn’t afford the payments on a better house or find anyone else to carry a contract.
The house had been a rental for many years, and we heard the last renters had been a pretty hardcore motorcycle gang. The owner of the house had just gotten out of the hospital after a heart attack and was at his wit’s end. He sold the house to us cheap because he didn’t have the wherewithal to make repairs or make it rentable.
Our house was the worst 2 bedroom house on a block in a good neighborhood, in Portland, OR. It had been built in 1913. There was zero landscaping, as the grass and shrubs had run together over the years. We purchased it for a total of $10k, with $1,000 down, which was all the savings we had. The owner carried a contract on the other nine thousand dollars. Once we realized what we’d agreed to, we were positive we were nuts, but our new neighbors absolutely loved us. They brought us a steady supply of homegrown vegetables, daffodil bulbs, homemade cookies, crocheted potholders, granny square afghans, lemonade, beer, and pizza. What more do you need when you are 21?
It took us nearly two months working evenings and weekends just to get the house fit to move into. The basement floor could be viewed from a hole in the bathroom floor where a toilet was supposed to be. The carpeting in the kitchen was curled at the edges and a disgusting dirty grey-brown color, except for the occasional stains that were clearly from dropped eggs that had fallen and been left to dry in place, pet stains, black grease, etc. It looked like the gang had worked on their motorcycle engines inside the kitchen. Our friends and extended family members made excuses as to why they just stopped by for a second and couldn’t stay or come in. They hovered timidly near the front door and were probably afraid they would catch something.
The woodwork was probably worse than your imagination can conjure. It had chunks missing, peeling paint, indelible dirt, streaks of black grease, you name it. My best descriptives still fall short. The house in the movie, The Money Pit, was completely gracious by comparison. We tore off the damaged woodwork, and Tom made new, nice moldings using a bargain table-saw and hand tools.
We installed a new toilet, fixed the bathroom plumbing and installed a tub we found at a builder’s supply sale that would at least hold water. You read that correctly. The old cast-iron tub in the house was split down the middle as though someone had hit it with a sledgehammer, over and over. We ripped out all the carpets and the dirty subfloors, then discovered that the fir floors underneath needed some boards replaced as they had suffered water damage and mysterious blunt force chunks were missing. The old fashioned range/oven was dirty beyond belief. The first time I lit the burner to boil water for drip coffee a mouse jumped up from beneath one of the burners!
We installed a linoleum floor in the kitchen and bathroom ourselves by following the instructions in a Reader’s Digest Do-It-Yourself book. It wasn’t a super pretty floor, it was just a leftover roll from another project that the flooring company wanted to move quickly. But it worked, and it was clean and new. The upstairs wasn’t quite as bad as the lower part of the house. We were able to paint everything and it didn’t look so bad once we laid new wall to wall carpeting. We learned quickly because flooring stores didn’t install bargain flooring for free. We rented a kicker, and though Tom’s knees were pretty sore, he got it done. Within 2 months of moving in, the house looked a lot friendlier. The next summer we planted Rhodies, painted the house exterior and did some minimal landscaping. We made progress every month, and within about 2 years, it was a pretty little house.
During that first two years, we had to learn to economize every way possible. My grandmother gave me her old Singer Slant-o-Matic sewing machine, and I learned to sew and quilt so I could make sundresses and play pants for our daughter, and birthday or Christmas gifts for friends and family. Tom built some very cool birdhouses and planters for other optional gifts. I made cornstarch dough ornaments for gifts or baked goods. I learned how to do home canning. We got by, in fact, we thrived! We realized that we both loved the creativity of making anything we could make. We lived there for eleven years and sold the house for many times what we paid for it. As scary as it was sometimes, and as little as we knew, it turned out that in the end, we had made a good decision to buy that place.
Four fixer houses and forty-some years later, we still love restoring old houses and making cool stuff. Our finances are decent now, but all things being equal, we would still rather make something than buy it. Tom designs and builds wonderful furniture, from scratch. I have learned to make herbal concoctions, full-size quilts, handmade soap, and I love knitting. The best part is, now that we’re retired, we have more time to do the things we love to do. It’s still a wonderful life!
Imbolc has graced us with two sunny days in a row. We have had mostly rain, snow or overcast days for the past two months, despite our reputation of 320 days a year of sunshine. The warmth of the sun is as welcome to me today as to those few green friends who toughed it out all winter. Because Imbolc falls exactly between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, every day the sun rises just a little earlier than the one before it.
I saw many tiny green plants just starting to push their way up through the thick forest carpet of needles, twigs, seed pods, and dead plants from last year. Truly, spring will arrive soon.
Winter foraging for Black Cottonwood buds along the local Wenatchee River has become a personal Imbolc tradition for me. The buds are coated with an aromatic resin that makes a wonderful oil infusion for use in salves or soap. The Black Cottonwood tree is a native to the Pacific Northwest, though I hear there are similar trees in other areas.
If you have access to Black Cottonwood trees, gather buds in a ziplock baggie, then place them in a jar and cover them with olive oil. Keep them on a sunny windowsill. You can cover the jar with cheesecloth, but don’t put a lid on it. The buds contain moisture that needs to evaporate. Stir the oil daily. It takes 4-6 months for all the resin to melt into the oil.
If you are not averse to a little alcohol in the oil, sprinkle the buds with about a capful or two of 100 proof vodka, stir and let them sit overnight. Add the olive oil the next morning. The alcohol will help dissolve the resin a bit faster.
Your third option is to heat the buds and the olive oil together on low heat repeatedly, over a few days, in a crockpot. That makes the process go a little faster. I prefer the solar method on the windowsill, myself.
This year, three friends joined me for foraging, and it was a very happy gathering with enough Cottonwood buds for all. It only rained a little bit. We were bundled up against the cold with long johns and wool fingerless gloves. Between the thick gloves and the fact that my fingers were super sticky with resin, some of my i-phone photos were a bit blurry. But there are enough.
The new buds need time to develop before they are picked, but if you wait till late February, the resin is super sticky! If you look closely you can see the drops of resin on the bud cluster in the photo. The very end of January is the best time to forage for buds in our area. There is still a little snow on the ground, here and there, but it is finally evaporating to make room for spring!
It feels almost sacred to consider that ancient people felt the same stirrings for early spring and enjoyment of the simple things like candles and fire celebrations that I feel. It gives a sense of belonging and time-travel that can’t be found on video.
The Christian tradition of lighting candles for the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary was appropriately called Candlemas. Long ago priests blessed any household candles that parish members brought to the Christian church every February 2nd. It was time to clean their homes and air them. I do find myself inspired to start spring cleaning, open the windows, and breathe that fresh air after being cooped up inside all winter.
To the Celts, the arrival of Imbolc meant the harsh winter was behind them, the ewes were in their milk, and all would soon be right with their world. They honored the goddess Brighid by preparing a symbolic bed for her. Candles were placed around the bed to invite her annual return and ensure healthy crops for all. Brighid’s Cross, a woven, four-armed equal cross or a corn husk doll from the previous harvest was often placed in the bed or hung over the door, opened to welcome her.
Happy almost spring!
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