Monday, January 12, 2015

Amulets Are All Around

So many of you asked if I would be offering my amulet workshop online that it made me wonder. The prospect of setting up an actual online course is beyond me at the moment, but I thought, "Well, I have to make a number of samples, and I will probably post them on the blog anyway, so maybe I could expand them into tutorials, and if people want to share what they've made, I can always link to them."

So, what do you think? Shall we dive right in? I'm working intuitively here, without a plan. I'm trying to listen and respond to the materials, with the intention of creating an object that will contain my positive energy, and have the potential to transmit that energy to others.
Found cloth
Sometimes inspiration appears on our doorsteps. I found the piece of cloth above on the side of the road as I walked the dogs. It was frozen, and covered with pine needles, but the bold black and white pattern caught my eye right away.
Washed, dried and trimmed
As it was meant to! Black and white stripes have been called "the devil's cloth", as the high contrast vibration dazzles the eye. There's a great little book of that title written by Michel Pastoureau.
Finish the border
I debated about whether to finish the hem or to leave it raveled. Perle cotton in my favourite red, DMC 666, seemed more appropriate though. I just did a simple blanket stitch, but you could embellish it more heavily if you like. There is a reason for protecting the edges - many cultures believe the edges, corners and seams are vulnerable places where evil spirits can sneak in, so those places are given special treatment to keep them safe.
Add a blessing
Since the cloth was found by the roadside, lost and apart from its original body, I thought it might carry a blessing to bring travelers safely home. I looked in various books for appropriate words, and liked this one best, from John O' Donohue's "To Bless the Space Between Us". It is actually a blessing for an exile, but it seemed fitting. I wrote it on a square of mat board that I had faced with a nice piece of Japanese paper - you can see it peeking out below.

I thought I would put tassels on each corner (dangling objects also offer protection), so I made four little tassels out of red yarn. But they looked too new and skimpy for my liking, so I gave them a quick felting at the kitchen sink.
Sew the corners together to make a pouch
I'm going to sew the pouch completely closed. This might seem a bit odd, since the recipient of the amulet will never see the blessing. But I'm thinking of the Japanese silk amulets that one can buy at any shrine or temple, a tiny pouch containing, we are assured, a blessing written on a piece of paper and folded around a little piece of wood that holds the shape of the tiny pouch, which is then tied shut with a cord. Does the amulet have any less power because the wearer doesn't know exactly what is contained? Maybe it has power because there is belief, or faith, or trust. Do we need to see the evidence to know that it is there? I'm not sure...
Whipstitch through the loops of blanket stitch
Black perle cotton whipstitch gives a cord-like effect - simple and effective.
See how the pattern comes back together? Unexpected and neat!
I added a Hand of Fatima charm to protect the place where the four corners come together. Again, protecting the vulnerable spots. As this particular symbol has special meaning for women, I think this should be an amulet for a female traveler or immigrant.
The final step is to sew the pompoms to the corners. I strung a blue glass bead (another device to protect against the evil eye) and a small brass bead on the thread before securing each pompom. Finally, I added a hanging cord. The finished amulet measures about 4 inches square. Quite a transformation from its humble beginnings!

Total time, apart from the washing and felting steps, about 2 hours.
Materials: Square of cloth, small scrap of cardboard, perle cotton, chenille and tapestry needles, tassels or pompoms, beads, and charm. Best if they come from the stash, are found objects, or have a personal significance.
The creative midden
You may, if you choose, prepare the space in which you create your amulet. Many prefer a clean surface, as I would if I had elves that came in the night to tidy up. But as you can see, I work in chaos, and the eleves are busy elsewhere. The amulet was created in that small square of space in the foreground. So be it.

I'm going to try to present a different amulet each week. If you are inspired to make one of your own, please share with a link to your blog in the comments section, or send me an image to the email address in the sidebar and I will post it for you.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for this step by step insight into your thoughts as you made your traveler's amulet. I'm inspired!

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  2. Thank you Heather, this is a great tutorial. The amulet reminds me of the one you sent me for my Japanese adventure!

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  3. To see so much in a humble scrap and then bring it into being ...

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  4. Hi Heather, I made an Indigo Amulet to honour the blues at the Bower Bird Blues workshop on the weekend
    here's the link-
    https://itscrowtime.wordpress.com/

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  5. love it! searching, now, for an appropriate scrap to start one of my own. thank you for sharing.

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  6. love how your amulet explores the nature of Black & White with the warming lifeline of the Red stitching and the soft roundness of the pompoms bringing a sense of tactile delight and that it grew in response to the found scrap of cloth seals the magic!

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  7. How inspiring, I am reminded of the blessing you made for me when I travelled to Japan, it remains in my passport holder and travels wherever I do in the world.

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  8. Anonymous3:24 PM

    What square of small space in the foreground! haha. So so neat, I love this idea, I'm going to modify it a bit so that my elderly ladies can do something similar. And did the pattern really match up accidentally? That is amazing. Love your work Heather, and really appreciate your creative writing skills too. <3

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  9. absolutely marvelous, thank you so much for your step-by-step online class! I'm inspired......

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  10. Thank you so much for this Heather! I shall definitely be making one - or more- though I'm a bit occupied with other things at the moment.

    I love this black and white one, the magic of finding just the right bit of cloth on the street, then how beautifully the pattern worked. Lucky traveller!

    And by the way, I love sleeping in my pyjamas! They are so comfy, and so soft on my skin.

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