Where Magic is Made One Stitch at aTime!
Blessed be your needles three
And blessed be your threading.
Blessed be your loving work
And bless the path your treading.
Cross stitching is an ancient art dating back to early Egypt and is one of the oldest forms of embroidery. It is the principle needlecraft of the folk traditions in much of the Near East, Eastern Europe and Mesopotamia. Each tradition boasts a profusion of unique motifs ripe with social and symbolic significance.
Cross stitched pictures are made of stitches composed of little x’s that are placed next to each other to create a pattern something like the mosaic of pixels on your computer using a colored thread called floss. The crossed stitches take advantage of the weave in specially designed fabrics to help regulate the size and shape of each stitch. This makes it easy to create neat and even work and is an appropriate and rewarding craft for beginners. But don’t be deceived, cross stitch can be as complex as a painted picture using hundreds of colors or as simple and elegant as a repeated motif of 2 or 3 stitches.
There are several styles of working a cross stitch design. Modern Westerners practice a method called counted cross stitch on the special cotton or linen fabrics called, among other things, Evenweave or Aida. Counted cross stitch relies on charts or diagrams to instruct you as to what stitch to put where. This method is used to create both elaborate pictures or simpler designs and motifs.
These patterns can also be used with a product called waste canvass. Waste canvas enables you to do even cross-stitches on any type fabric. You simply place the waste canvas, which looks like a stiff netting, over your readymade garment or fabric and stitch. When the project is finished the waste canvas is moistened and pulled out from under your stitches leaving the design stitched directly onto your chosen cloth.
Traditional stitchers from the Near East and Eastern Europe follow a tradition of direct stitching that incorporates motifs they have been using for generations. These motifs often have specific meaning relating to the social status of the wearer and/or the purpose of the garment. Sometimes they retell well known stories or relate the history of the village, family, clan or tribe. They do not use predrawn patterns but pass down general designs from mother to daughter. Traditional stitchers respond directly to each project altering the patterns according to whim, personal tastes, project size, or available threads and colors.
Whereas modern stitchers tend to carefully work out the mathematics of their design beforehand making sure that motifs are repeated intact and at regular intervals, traditional stitchers tend to alter the motif slightly by stretching or shrinking the number of stitches, forcing it into the space available. This approach gives a lively look to the garment and the irregularities never appear too obvious or disruptive to the overall design.
All textile arts have a long history of magical association. The repetitive nature of cross stitch in particular lends itself to creating the trance states necessary to successful spell casting. Each element of a design becomes as much a ritual tool as an atheme or a candle. Just by working the pattern intent is clarified and the spell finds its way to the subconscious effortlessly.
Most magical systems use some visual protocol in order to place objects auspiciously and tap into the subtle workings of the universal psyche. In order to treat a cross-stitch project as a magical spell it is important that one use care in choosing their design and floss colors. Each aspect of the design must be relevant to the desired outcome of your spell and be carefully placed in relation to the other parts of the design. The colors too must correspond and be relevant to your goal. There are many correspondence charts in the abundant legacy of pagan literature that can help you choose and place your symbols.
A spell can be made of a single symbol or a group of symbols, pictures or words. Design your cross-stitch spell in the same way you would design an altar or caste a circle for a traditional spell. Instead of using objects like candles, incense and blades use pictures, symbols or words. You don’t need to always place your design in a circle although you can if you wish. Your magic circle of influence can be drawn, implied, or imagined. To imply a circle use an embroidery hoop as a frame or draw swirls, arabesques or arcs at the perimeters of your design. Articulate the four directions and/or imagine a pentagram as a design guide.
Place appropriate items at these points. This is a good blueprint for any spellcasting whether your format is a clearing in the woods or a simple piece of cloth. Trace your design onto a piece of graph paper or purchase a premade chart or set of charted motifs and rearrange them according to your needs. Choose floss colors that support the goal of your spell. You can create two different spells using the same design by just changing the color scheme. For example, if you were to stitch the sigil of Venus in pink you would have a love spell but if you stitched it in green or gold you would have a money spell. It’s that simple.
When you are ready to stitch, formally caste your circle over yourself and your working area the first time you begin stitching. From that point on you can reestablish your circle by simply calling it to mind before you begin stitching again or use a circular embroidery hoop to hold your design and keep the circle in your conscious by visual means. If you were careful to design a thoughtful spell you can proceed by simply stitching with faith. By this I mean you can, but don’t have to be completely attentive to the stitching process at all points. Your familiarity with the design’s intent and the relaxing, trance like state that stitching conjures are enough to plant the spell into your subconscious. Many of us who stitch or do other forms of needlecraft do so while chatting with our children, watching TV or simply being with our family and friends. This is a most subversive style of witchcraft whose charm and humor I find irresistible. To all the world you are just stitching a pretty design on your collar but you know that the rowan leaf motif is protective and is analogous to carrying your wand with you everywhere you go!
When you are finished stitching your spell you can display it, give it away, or use it on your altar. I recommend that if you display it you change its position in the house with the seasons. I say this because when we see something everyday we tend to become blind to it after a while. Changing its position refreshes your intent and often gives you a new perspective on the issues involved as well as on the picture itself.
Many magical practitioners recommend completely forgetting about a spell after you have caste it. This is often good advice, as obsessing on any issue is obstructive and unhealthy. However certain types of spells require deep contemplation and time to work through the surface issues to come to a clear realization of the core issue that you are really interested in exploring. I recommend taking all the time you need with your spells. Allow them to evolve and change you on a fundamental level. Stitch spells are made for just that purpose. The changes you come to through these techniques are long lasting and fundamental to your growth in awareness. Let your collection of stitchwork to be like your book of shadows or a carefully cultivated garden, recording your progress as well as your path. The magic lives in the stitching and the stitchwork and in the space that lies between.
About the Author
Tammy Evans is a longtime practitioner of domestic witchcraft. She holds a BFA in Painting and Drawing and creates traditional and new media art. She lives in Atlanta Georgia with her darling husband and has just sent her best beloved and only child off to college and the wide wild world. Check out her main website, Stitch Witch Circle, for free samples, cross stitch instructions, and magical charts designed specifically for Pagan purposes.