Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I've just returned home from our godson's Wiccaning ceremony. It was the culmination of thirteen months of study on his part, and thirteen months of planning and worrying on my and his mother's part. I have practiced the religion of Wicca since I was sixteen, and though I clearly perceive its many shortcomings, I have a strong belief in its potential to evolve into a deep and beneficial religious framework for exploring the human condition.

But how does that evolution happen? At midlife, I have come to think that the evolution happens in the transmission of the toolkit from one mind to another. By necessity, when I think about the Craft, theorize about it, tease apart the syncretic underpinnings, I am doing so within the closed system of my own life experience. When I transmit it to another mind, though, something truly mysterious happens. It changes somewhere between my mouth and the learner's ear. In that leap, the Gods can reach down and give the sound a spin to reveal some further nuance of their reality before it lands in the next cochlea.

The Craft has almost no permanent structures. That means that each time we want to perform a ritual or ceremony, we must create a temple in which to do so. This has had an enormous impact on the evolution of our religion in that we have become really good at creating sacred space. That's the first thing that our young man was to learn, and learn it he did.

I assembled a council of five advanced practitioners of the Craft to observe him creating sacred space.  They were all people dear to me, whom I respect and admire as fellow Witches. They each also brought a unique perspective and role to the Council:

She From Afar: My husband-to-be's sister-in-spirit, so I suppose she is my sister-in-spirit-to-be-in-law drove down from Vancouver, bringing the both the Dianic and explorative mystic perspective. I find that having someone who traveled far to an event lends an sense of importance that nothing else does.

He Of My Own: My best friend, business partner, and someone that I myself introduced to the Craft. Having him there meant that as the ritual progressed, there was a member of the Council who knew all the chants and joined in quickly showing our godson that he was becoming a part of something that is bigger than just us two.

She On Her Own: My voice teacher, who is what in my tradition is called a natural Witch. She has come to her practice through her own explorations, but in a way that is very much in line with more formal Craft. She is evidence that our religious framework is a human reaction to our spiritual reality and not an invention of ego. Being a practitioner without external training, she also responded purely to what she saw and heard without preconceived ideas about the right way to do things.

She Of Great Renown: The priestess who created a new form of Goddess worship right here in Seattle. Our godson has seen her stand up in front of very large crowds and lead them in the veneration of the Divine Feminine, and she was there tonight just for him.

She Of Deep Tradition: One of the founders of the Windblown tradition of Witchcraft. A close colleague of some of the most influential Witches of this and the previous generation, and someone to whom I, his teacher, bow as an Elder. Perhaps most importantly, though, someone unknown to our godson; introducing mystery and the unpredictable to the ritual.

After performing the various parts of the ritual to create sacred space, he faced questioning by the Council. Their questions were thoughtful and probing, but also kind and took his age into consideration. After a period of quiet meditation, each also offered advice for him going forward and gave their assent to his affirmation as a practitioner of the Craft of the Wise.

Snacks, cake, presents, and coffee followed. It was lovely.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Project 40: Acolyte Robes

The completed look
A week from tonight, when the moon is new, our godson will stand in front of a group of elder Witches that I have assembled and perform the ritual to create sacred space as defined in my tradition of The Craft. Since he turned nine, we have met on each new Moon to learn another part of the ceremony. He has worked diligently, and I have every confidence that he will do well and that the council of Witches will assent to his elevation.

All that, however, leaves the question of appropriate attire entirely unanswered. Every occasion in life, I have found, is an excellent reason to create new clothes. Finishing the first year of your religious education is no exception.

This young man's love for the colour green shows no sign of fading, so I knew that green had to be prominent. More than a year ago, on a trip to New York City's fabulous Mood Fabrics, I happened upon some Kelly green microfibre velvet and seized upon it. Luxe and washable - what's not to love?

Neckline and closure
You may recall that this time last year, when I was making him a set of Apprentice Robes, I learned far too late that I didn't own the correct size of pattern for the garment I was making and had to draft my own smaller-sized pattern. I went OK, but I needed this execution to be better than OK, so I purchased the child-sized version of the pattern from McCalls.

I have learned quite a lot in the last year about the exacting science of pattern making, so I felt confident that based on his measurements I would be able to select the correct size on the paper pattern pieces when tracing my plastic sheeting pattern pieces.

Inner robe with rope belt
This pattern calls for just one part to be double-layered: the yoke. I selected some lining fabric for the inner part which was labeled "deep moss" but actually turned out to be more like a medium brown! Och!

Construction was smooth in general for outer robe. Surprisingly I ran into some geometry problems fitting the yoke lining to the shell. I don't honestly know how I went wrong there, but by hook or by crook I managed to fit the pieces together.

I added a hook and eye closure that matches my own recently finished ritual robe.

Next I needed to draft a pattern for an inner robe. It's essentially a floor-length t-shirt, and I had used the recent Stat Trek birthday present to make sure I had all the geometry correct. That went fine, though I think I need to improve my understanding of neck bands. This one stood up when I expected it to lie down. Hmmm. I added a green rayon rope belt too. If the inner robe is too long, hitching it up will be no problem now.
Inner robe neckline

Anyway, the two garments together make a beautiful combination and I'm very much looking forward to seeing him in them. The crowning jewel, of course, will be when I present him with one of the five remaining silver pentagrams made by the artists who made the one that I wear. To whom the remaining four will go I have yet to learn, but this one? This one is for him. He has earned it.

Vents for mobility

The actual point of all this

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Project 39: Tenth Birthday Star Trek Tunic

Today is our godson's tenth birthday, and he picked the theme of Star Trek for his party which will be happening this coming weekend. I'm already in the middle of several big sewing projects, but the guy's only going to be ten once, so I decided to make him a Star Trek original series uniform tunic. You know I'm big on honesty, right? They're the simplest design.

The first challenge was getting the fabric. All the command staff in the original series wore gold coloured tunics and that's not actually a very trendy hue just now. Lucky for me, my Google-Fu is strong. I found some ponte on that was the right colour, but 100% polyester. Ugh. Well, it's only really a costume and I couldn't find anything at all in a natural fibre.

Some weird colour thing happened.
The bedspread is the same one as in the photo above.
Next up the logo patch. I actually had one of those patches when I was his age. My sister Anne took me to a Star Trek event at the Seattle Center which was really great of her to do. Mom found a store-bought pull-over that was sort of like the original series tunics and sewed the patch on for me. I loved it. So, I knew that they existed and could be purchased. Again, Google led me exactly where I needed to go. You can get props, costume accessories, and even sewing patterns over at Not actually too spendy, either.

On to pattern drafting. I studied quite a few photos from the original series, and the tunics basically look like there's only one seam on one shoulder, but I wasn't up for that radical a piece of architecture, so I drafted a raglan sleeve tunic with a very high V neck. I have never made a raglan sleeve so I purchased a couple yards of some blue cotton jersey at Pacific Fabrics for a practice run. It turned out so well that I ordered the Lt. Spock version of the logo patch to complete it. My guy will have a spare tunic to lend to a friend for their away-team adventures. The little pucker that I got at the point of the V neck on the practice tunic was because I didn't clip all the way to the stay stitching at the apex of the V. Lesson learned!

The gold ponte is actually a really attractive colour and the polyester is at least easy to work with. Doesn't feel great against the skin, but he's ten. I don't think he'll care. I didn't spring for the replica gold braid for the rank markings on the sleeve. I think the rick-rack looks convincing enough as it is.

Last but not least, I thought he could use a prop of some kind. Gun-shaped toys aren't allowed in his world, so I wasn't sure if a replica phaser would be a problem. I erred on the side of caution and got him a communicator instead. It's pretty cool! It lights up, makes authentic sounds and even has some voice clips from the show. He was happily ordering landing parties to beam up and down when I left.

Birthday mission accomplished, I think. Now back to sewing for his Wiccaning ceremony later this month.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ding! Level 48

Well, 47, you were a kick in the pants. Several kicks in the pants, actually, and a few in the gut for good measure. In the words of my favorite internet meme of the last few months, "Dear Things That Won't Kill Me: I'm strong enough already, thanks."

Getting diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in December got this year off to a rollicking start. Thankfully, I've been able to lose weight and modify my eating to the point that I don't have to take any medications for that. They tried putting me on a statin drug for cholesterol, but my side effects were debilitating, so I took myself off it. Now it's just keeping my carbohydrate intake under 50 grams per day and taking a blood pressure pill. There an upside to it, though. I sleep through the night because I'm not getting up three times to pee. It's also nice when people notice the weight loss.

My close friend K was in hospital for several months with complications from a surgery to remove a tumor wrapped around her femoral artery, so that was another major negative aspect of how this year went.

Stressful at the time, but ultimately successful was my godson's mother, my close friend C having a benign growth removed from her brain.

Then Doug's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in her life. Not a recurrence, though, which would have been much worse. She came through with flying colors but it was yet another near-and-dear one in the hospital.

I learned later in the year that one of my two remaining aunts in England had passed away. I've got just one left, so I'm glad that Doug and I are going over to the UK next month. The Victoria Gaelic choir is going over to compete in the Royal Scottish National Mòd, and they invited us to go and sing with them to increase their number of male voices and fluent speakers. We're making a big three-week trip out of it. I can't wait.

I also got this awesome gig in November to teach and perform at the Washington Folk Harp Society's weekend getaway in Gettysburg, PA. I had hoped to use it as an anchor gig to build an East Coast tour, but the diabetes and other issues kept me from working on it back when I would have had to have been in order to succeed. It hurts like hell to feel like I missed such a golden opportunity.

I've made some progress on closing Mom's estate, though. Inching forward on that one.

I didn't make very many of my goals this year and I mostly feel like I've been run over by a truck. I sure hope that 48 is much better all-in-all.

Project 38: Ritual Robes - Part 1

This year, our godson is turning 10, and he has just finished his first year of religious study with me. We have taken a full twelve turns of the Moon to learn how to create sacred space as is done in my tradition of the Craft.

Being a learned Witch, I anticipated that time would continue to flow at the previously observed rate, and so had some idea that this day was coming. I knew that I would be confening an grand Counsil of elder Witches to obserfe him performing the charmes and spelles so-far learned and to render their auguft judgmentes.

Oops. Sorry. Got all Cotton Mathers on you for a moment there.

The biggest question, of course, was what in the names of gods was I going to wear? I had already produced a set of clerical robes for my dearest friend Lance, so decided to base a set for myself on those ideas. Plain black wool suiting was a little too staid for me, so I bought a bold of black cotton flocked velvet! Gayer than Halloween and Pride put together!

As the months rolled by and the now impending month approached, my thoughts turned to the subtle details of the outer robe. Pockets? Side-seam definitely, but how about an inner welt pocket for. my. WAND. Yes!

Flared sleeves, of course, but since the velvet was a tad sturdier than I thought how about elbow darts to ease motion? And facing, and pretty sleeve lining. Lining.

Lining. I hate lining. I have made too many perfect garment shells only to have them distorted horribly by bad lining geometry. I wanted to find a lining fabric that would be strong, but forgiving so that any lining design errors on my part would only be visible to a trained eye with a magnifying glass and a copy of a pattern-making text book at hand. Done! Radiance is a blend of silk and cotton, but with an interesting twist. It has one cotton face, and one silk face. You can work with the cooperative, sturdy cotton face, then turn and BOOM: Red carpet slink!

I added contour seams to the front, and some lovely brass-coloured hook and eye closures that I got at  Botani in New York. The inner robe will complete the look, but I'm already quite happy with the aesthetic of the outer robe.