Ornaments for your altar

With the children of one of our best friends at our home today, I found an excuse to become creative and make some ornaments for my altar. The children had fun, and so did I, and the ornaments we made are now in the oven, drying.

It’s so simple! You take 3 parts flour, 1 part salt, 1 part water and a bit of oil to make a salty bread dough. Don’t eat it though, it’ll taste real foul. When you have the dough, you can make it into any shape you want and dry it in the oven. It takes a long time on low heat, but it is very sturdy and you can paint it to complete it.

The girls made mainly hearts and cakes, some of which for their grandfather, others because they liked them. My creations included a curled up snake similar to the Egyptian board game I saw at the museum (but quite a bit smaller), the three faces of the moon and a candle holder. Most of my dough was stolen away by the kids, but I was able to make what I had planned. In winter time, with Yule approaching, I might make some tree ornaments.

Great fun to do with kids, and a nice way to create things for your tradition. Tomorrow I’ll post some pictures of the finished products!

Embroidery and cross stitching

Mabon altar

Mabon altar 2011: The cornucopia cross stitch pattern is in the back

Embroidery… It used to be one of the women crafts. Young ladies would sit at the window and cross stitch. Perhaps you’ve seen the big pieces of art, almost as big as tapestry, in musea. Or smaller versions, kind of embroidered paintings in your grandmother’s house. Almost half of the women in the nursery home I work at this summer have these kind of paintings. Some people also have very small pieces of embroidery, with very small stitches. It’s amazing how patient people were then.
Nowadays, I believe it is considered old-fashioned to embroider. It is way easier to print out a picture and put it in a nice frame than to use cross stitching. The same way it is easier to buy clothing than to make it the way you want it. But in my opinion it’s not as rewarding. I don’t know how to sew (yet), but my grandmother taught me to knit and my mother taught me to embroider. The basis of both is relatively simple, but you can make nice things already. For example, my mother was working on two big pieces depicting cake on a platter. Some people use cross stitching on cards, which also looks good.
What you need for embroidery is fabric, preferably tip-less needles and floss (I assume you all have scissors). There are fabrics and floss especially for embroidery, but as long as you have thick enough strands of floss and fabric where you can see the woven pattern, it’s fine.
You always start by pulling the floss through the needle, but I think you could have guessed. After you’ve put the needle through the fabric for the first time, you have several stitches you can use. The basic two I use are back stitching and whole cross stitches. This video shows exactly how to work!
There are (free) programmes on line that allow you to convert any photo or picture into a pattern, so you can basically make anything you want. About has some nice free patterns of which some are Pagan or related, such as the four elements. On my altar in the harvest season is a cornucopia, which was great fun to make!
Cross stitching is not very expensive, you can make whatever you like, and it is great to see a piece come together as you add more stitches. Though you need a little bit of patience, cross stitching can be relaxing as well or even be used as meditation. A bit like rose-beads counting. You could also consider embroidery as part of making an amulet. One way or the other, it’s a great way to slowly create an image.

If you are ready to try it, it’s easy to begin. Have fun!