31DoM: Cord Magic

Today’s work with magic in the 31 Days of Magic is cording magic.

Cording lore: Spinning

I am neither a novice nor non-partisan about cording magic.  I knit, I spin, I lucet, I weave, and I do nålbinding. I make my own tools for working with yarn and cord, from knitting needles to drop spindles to inkle looms.  I also sew, and I believe that a good magician makes his or her own robe.  And, in addition, although some of my colleagues in the strategic sorcery course have panned this kind of magic as “old women’s work”, I think it’s important to recognize that some of the oldest statuettes of women ever discovered are wearing skirts and aprons made of string and beads — the act of clothing and sheltering and decorating someone has been women’s work for 20,000 years.  At least.

Cording lore: knittingHere’s how I used these arts today.  I knit a few rows on a scarf today  — a holdover from attending last night’s “stitch and bitch” at a local coffee house.  Every week I’m in town, I meet with three to ten other people to work on making useful and beautiful objects that keep people warm in the winter. Every object is made with love and care — it has to be made with love and care, because if it isn’t, it will fall apart.  I’m doing ten-ish rows of alternating black and blue — black for Saturn, to remind myself that I can’t do everything; blue for Jupiter, to remind myself that I can do considerably more than I think I can, and that practice will make me better at anything — including knitting.

I also finished spinning two single strands into a double-strand, using a trio of drop spindles that I made myself.  Single ply thread represents the power of a single course of action— but it’s also a good way of understanding certain chemical processes.  Today, I completed the work of spinning one spindle empty, and making about 100 yards of double-ply spinning.  Someone’s always spinning, right, Gordon?  Right, Deb?  For me, making my own spun yarn was a way of demonstrating one of my personal key principles of magic — that tools make tools, make things, Make Things Happen.  Carpentry tools made my drop spindles. My drop spindles made yarn.  My carpentry tools made my knitting needles. My knitting needles will make my yarn into a scarf, or a hat, or a pair of gloves.  See above about how important knitting-done-with-love really is.

For me, making these two or three hundred yards of single-ply yarn into Double-Ply yarn is also about one of the key elements of this magic I’m working on in these 31 days — finding partners in the work. Finding co-teachers and co-carers in the work of creating and making and inventing, who will help other students create and make and invent.  I’ve called this person in.  I’ve taken my thread, and joined it to theirs.  I’ve joined them together for a long ways.  In this way, a single-ply thread is made stronger and better.  It will last longer and eventually be made into something still more beautiful and useful than a skein of string — it will be a scarf. Made with love.

Cording lore: Nålbinding

The cording lore is not difficult to learn.  The basics can be learned in a few hours from YouTube videos. But it is not always easy work.  I’ve been fussing around with Naalbinding, or nålbinding, for weeks without quite getting good enough at it to make a hat or a scarf or a pair of mittens.  It’s a ‘flow’ activity, which means that all I can do is show you a finished product, or a project at the start before it becomes anything: a handmade needle and a hank of about a yard of yarn torn off by hand.  Making the tool one needs to do it was the easiest part of the work so far.

Cording lore: lucetingThe act of luceting a cord is a powerful example of Tools making tools making things making things happen.  I make luceted cord as a component of many kinds of magic — from edging on bags and jackets and tunics and robes and other costumes, to raw material for bindings and wrappings and hangings — three kinds of objects mentioned in Cornelius Agrippa’s 3 Books of Occult Philosophy.  You can think of it as like a continuous mala, really — each stitch or loop of the work can be endowed with its own power. Today’s cording work was dedicated to the principle that my magical actions shall be square (sturdy) and strong, and that no one shall undo my work without difficulty.

More than that, though — that those who see this work, either in person or in photography, shall instantly consider five or six ways that these skills of working with string could be applied to their own practice.  For that’s one of the things that I want to get across in these 31 Days of Magic: that working with string isn’t just magic, it’s Making, and that all of these skills could easily help students be more hands-on and skillful in their encounters with the world.

12 comments

  1. How in the Sam Hill do you “make” the time to get all this done? Volunteering, working, crafting, magic, blogging…you’re my hero! Anyway, super post. I know little about any of these crafts except basic sewing. But I love cords and the symbolism of braiding and weaving and such. We use cordage at the martial arts club. Each student gets issued a length of cord and ties knots to keep track of attendance. Do you ever play with knots artistically or magically? If I had the time, that’s a craft I’d love to pursue!

    • Dear Robert,

      Thanks. Part of the way that I ‘make’ time for all of this is that it’s my job. So my colleagues don’t think much about me making thread or weaving, because I’m usually doing so in the context of showing kids how a thing is done. Luceting and knitting can be learned from internet/YouTube videos pretty easily. I needed to find someone to show me how to do Nalbinding, though, because it’s a dumb trick that none of the videos I’ve yet found explain very well… and I still don’t know how I’m doing it.

      I love the idea of knots to track attendance. What about using a simple overhand knot for attending, and something like a Chinese double-coin knot for a day when you teach a major component of the system? The double-coin knot might not be appropriate; but maybe a figure-eight would do…

      I have always been fascinated by cording work; as I kid I learned finger-weaving and friendship bracelet-tying (which is just hundreds to thousands of half-hitches done in embroidery floss). But those sorts of friendship bracelets are incredibly time-consuming, and they tend to put a lot of holes in the knees of your pants, where the safety pin pulls against your leg.

      • Well aren’t you the clever one? Great idea sir, I’m going to give this some thought and discuss with the group. We should have differing knots for attendance, knots for initiations, etc. Scintillating!

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