Noble coat

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Time for another project. I lost a jacket in Oregon.  It was a puke green color, and first-generation fleece, and not particularly beautiful, but it kept me warm on cool nights in spring and autumn, and on a river.  I am not in a position to craft a fitted jacket like that, but I am going to be on a mountain in the middle of summer fairly soon, and a beautiful over-garment of some kind that is also warm would be useful. I think I look good in the Jedi tunic pattern I have from Simplicity. It can also be altered fairly easily for a lining, as I did on the Poet’s Coat — but the poet’s coat is a little heavy for mid-July.

(I’m surprised to discover that there’s no entry for the poet’s coat, I must not have called it that in the entry; but the red tunic is a variant of the same pattern).

A friend gave me access to a bunch of wool material.  Wool is warm, even if the wind is blowing through it, and it tends to remain warm even when wet. It might get wet on top of a mountain in July.  So, I made the shell of this coat or jacket out of some of that wool.  The result is a very plain looking garment that is unfortunately quite itchy on the skin.

So it needed a lining.

And if it needs a lining, then it might as well have fancy cuffs, and some beautiful trim.  Which I did put on the coat.  Getting the hems right was tricky. Next time, I’m going to sew the fabric on to the cuffs, then sew the trim on the cuffs… and then make the cuffs and the sleeve simultaneously.  It’s often the case that we learn our working procedures for the future, by making the mistakes of the present.
The cuffs still turned out mostly OK. One of the things that I’ve learned from a designer-engineer friend of mine, is that you should “make the whole prototype so that you learn where the mistakes are, and you have a better chance of getting them right the next time around.” It’s good advice, especially in the Maker movement or in a maker program. The learning in this sort of work comes from the mistakes, not from the perfectly-executed plan.

One of my critical pieces of learning from the last project, the green gown, was to do more pinning and more pressing.  I learned something similar from the shirt-making process.  So, I did more pinning this time around, and more pressing (ironing, really) before and after sewing different steps in the project.

The result was a much more finished-looking product. I still suck at lower-edge hems of garments, though, especially on costume pieces like this one.  Still, the gold trim flashes nicely in the light (it came from Cloak and Dagger Productions, which is fairly local to me).  The grid-like pattern that forms the cuffs appears to be the underlying grid for a tile pattern, and references my own recent obsessions with geometry.

Though not quite finished, the coat has an unusual lining. I had intended to line it with linen, but I turned out not to have enough linen for the project. So I searched around among my fabric scraps and came up with what felt like an inspired idea.  From the outside the coat is very plain and severe — black wool fabric, with trim based on geometric and floral designs.  It’s very orderly and regular, and not very showy despite the gold trim.

It’s very me, in that sense.  The coat has pretty clean lines and a very plain form — not quite shapeless, but not really a modern garment either.  It needs a belt, and I don’t know if I’m going to make a belt and attach it; or make belt loops for a belt and leave the belt for another day.  Either way, pretty plain, right?

However, the interior of the coat is constructed around a piece of tie-dyed fabric that someone gifted to me. I think they thought I would use it as an altar cloth, or a wall hanging. If that was its exclusive intention, I’m sorry. It’s now something else — probably irreversibly, at least until someone cuts this up and makes it into something else, which I hope they’ll do when I’m done with it.

There’s something wonderful about this coat, plain and severe on the outside, almost Saturnian, concealing a riot of color in its lining.  It’s possible the garment will now be too hot for its intended purpose.  I’m sorry if that’s the case. There are still a number of mistakes and problems with it, but it’s a lot better than anything similar that I’ve constructed (and this is now the sixth or seventh time through this pattern). Each time I make this, I make more variations and changes than I did the time before.

The result is that I can now say with some confidence that this is a great pattern for teaching young people the basics of sewing.  Some of the other pieces in the collection are likely not worth the effort — the ‘fake’ undertunic or dickie is a little silly, and the outer cloak requires a LOT of fabric for a first-time sewing student’s starter project, and the shoulder tabards/armor are not well thought out for my taste.

But this tunic/coat has a lot of potential in it, and it can be made to do a variety of cool things.  It’s worth a look in a school MakerSpace that’s trying to build up a sewing program.

Knitting: Second Hat

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I had some time this weekend, and I was in the mountains where it was cold and rainy over the weekend.  So I spent a fair number of hours working on my second hat.  I finished it on Sunday. And a good thing, too, because I needed it on Monday, when it was again cold and rainy and ugly.

The hat is a little bit on the large side for me. I was trying to scale it up from the “Adult L” size to my extra-large head, and I made it a little too big, I guess.

All the same, there’s a couple of things here that I managed to get right:

  • Ribbing to create a frame for the hat
  • knitting in the round on a circular needle
  • knitting in the round on four double-pointed needles
  • managing decreases (knit2 together)

So, all in all, a successful second hat was made. By me. To wear. Right away. I’m eager to make another one, but this time I think I’ll keep it at the Adult L size, rather than trying to add in another 18 or so stitches to make it conform to what I ‘think’ is the correct size.  This kind of thing only gets easier with practice.

The next challenges?  Socks and mittens.  Then gloves.

Holiday Making

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I’m in the middle of a dilemma.  I like to post an article a week these days, so that people know I’m still working on stuff.  Yet at the same time, some of my readers are also recipients of the things that I’m making. So, that’s no good.  I can’t very well show what I’m working on, and give away the surprises meant for later in the season… right?

So what I need to do is give an update on what I’m working on, without giving away what I’m working on.  And the best way to do that is to present areas of skills-development and talent-training.


  • Sewing machine cleaning, triage and repair
  • Sewing straight seams
  • Sewing curved seams
  • Scaling patterns up and down
  • Designing patterns from scratch
  • Sewing multiple/thick layers of fabric together
  • Quilting

Bookbinding & Graphic Design

  • Panel Book Making
  • Book of Secrets Making
  • 11×17″ book layout & binding
  • Coptic stitch binding
  • Belgian secret binding
  • 11×17″ book layout & binding (long-edge binding


  • Brass soldering
    • (still can’t do it. But have the tools, and can experiment)
  • Wire sculpting
  • Jigs and templates for soldering


  • Knit Stitch
  • Perl Stitch
  • Casting On (Long Tail)
  • Casting Off
  • Bamboo Stitch
  • How to knit a lazy-8 scarf


  • Progress on HTML/CSS
  • Progress on JAvaScript
  • Progress on Python
  • Writing my own program using arrays, variables and counting processes

All in all, I’m making pretty good advances on the skills that I have, and that I’d like to have going forward.  I still feel like electronics and robotics eludes me to a large extent.  But I have other abilities that most Maker Spaces and Maker Programs don’t have.

31 DoM: Lay a Powder


TOday’s 31 Days of Magic project from the Strategic Sorcery community around Jason Miller is to lay a powder.

31DoM: lay a powderAs anyone who has been reading along with the previous 23 days knows, I don’t do things the way a good many other magicians do things. I’ve recently gotten my scroll saw set up in the basement, after several years of owning it but having no place to put it. And now it’s up and running.  I’ve had a couple of projects put on hold as a result of not having a scroll saw to work with.  It was time to get back to that work.

And so I glued some of the pattern pieces down to the boards of the right thickness, and got started. First up were these small washers for an astrological instrument I’m building called a Nocturnal. The design of the instrument isn’t mine; I got it from Clayton Boyer.  Once I got these washers cut out, I’d made some powder in the form of sawdust, and scattered it around.  And I thought, Wow, this is great!  LEt’s do some more.  So I did.

31DoM: lay a powderNext came the main mobile plate of the instrument, the dial.  This required drilling a hole n the center of the wood, and then cutting out the piece.  OK, I did that backwards, but it still got done.  More sawdust, more powder laid.    Making progress, here, toward moving some projects along.

And then came the hexagonal caps which will serve as the decorative top-elements of the nocturnal, holding the other parts together.  These were particularly tricky. When the blade is whooshing up and down at high speed, how do you know where it’s going and what it’s doing?  It could be doing anything at all, and about to cut your hand. Also, when working with such small parts, how do you hold the part in a steady way, so that the blade cuts just outside the line, and not over/inside the line?

31DoM: lay a powderThe magic here, of course, is the intense level of concentration required when working with power tools. A drill press can take off a part of your finger if you’re not careful; a scroll saw or a circular saw or a bandsaw can take off your hand.  This is not the sort of equipment that you use in anything other than an altered state of mind — by which I mean, an intense mindset of deep and careful concentration, without any sort of medication or drug flowing through your system.  This requires your own mind, thinking about nothing else.

You’ll notice that in this photo, the piece of wood is actually nowhere near the blade.  This photograph is a set-up… or more accurately a piece of propaganda.  But look! Powder! (And you magicians among you — you have no idea what sort of secret correspondences lurk in the mixture of pine, birch, and the chemical components of plywood glue. But it works wonders! I promise. Sorta).

It’s worth noting that this is the sort of mindset that Jesus must have practiced while learning his earthly father’s trade.  Maybe not the band-saw speed-kills issue, but the mindset of careful and deliberate attention.

But I didn’t buy the right thickness of wood for the main body of the instrument, so I had to set these aside for a bit.  I’ll come back to that later.  For now that I’ve practiced on the scroll saw again, the correct astrological hour has come around at last for a particularly special working.  I’m going to summon an angel.

31DoM: lay a powderNo, really.

The nature of scroll-saw work is that you have to work simultaneously from the inside of the work and the outside.  If you want beautiful internal hole-work (and you do) within your scroll-sawn piece, you need a shape that has the right combinations of thick and thin places, and straight edges and curves.  This means that you have to drill holes into the middle of the work (with a drill press, ideally), so that you have a place to put the scroll saw blade through the work, cut it out, take the work off the scroll saw blade, and go on to the next work.

It’s absolutely necessary to understand that Rufus Opus, in his working of the Trithemius operations, insists on exactly the same level of care and attention to detail that the scroll saw angel requires.  Choose the correct hour, draw your circle with intention, apply the wand, gaze through the crystal to the work, question the angel constantly about its identity, and gradually separate the angelic identity from everything which is not the angel.  It is careful, exacting work, and I do not let my concentration waver.  The powder does its work well for me, and gradually its mystical power to separate out the non-angelic parts from the angelic parts succeed in doing their part.

31DoM: lay a powderAlas, the hour goes too quickly by. A signal appears which indicates that it is time to stop. I say farewell to the angel,  at least for the moment, and make a promise to return to the work again when the foretold hour returns again.  In the meantime, I have greater clarity about who my spiritual guest was, and what I have learned from my period of inquiry.

One of the things that I have learned, or rather been reminded of, is how hard scroll saw work can be.  I feel like the angel has been hammering on me, wrestling with me constantly as I found this spirit and drew it out a little at a time with my saw blade.

When I have put away my working tools, I come upstairs from my magical work for the day, and relax by checking out some things on social media.  My friend Gene has posted an article which draws my attention, Why I am not a Makerby Debbie Chachra.

Indeed.  The author mentions the metallurgist Ursula Franklin, who contrasted prescriptive and holistic technologies, and the prescriptive and holistic artisans who use these technologies.  My goal, always, is to be a holistic artisan: to know as much whole process of what I am making, from beginning to end.  I don’t want to be the sort of person who sends their work out to be made for them; I want to be the sort of person who makes things for the joy of making them.  And this is part of the goal of many grimoires, whether they be cooking grimoires like Alice Waters, or The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals, or the book on scroll saw work that a friend lent to me.

My goal as a maker needs to be focused and refocused back on people, constantly. It’s easy to get attached to the idea that this or that object needs to be made.  But I’m a school teacher — and my goal is to help students awaken to what it means to work with and know and care about other people. Sometimes we do this by helping other people.  Sometimes we do this by making (not necessarily the same thing as Making) something for them, like food or a box or a garment.

And maybe, for me, this defines the difference between a Maker and a Magician.  A Maker prioritizes the work, the thing made, as the most important part of the activity.  The Magician, on the other hand, prioritizes the internal experience which arises from the creative endeavor, and the interactional experience when the creative endeavor is seen and experienced and understood by others in the magician’s presence.  The Maker loves the work; the Magician loves the people for whom and by whom the work is made.

Not everyone will agree, I know.  And maybe it’s the wrong set of distinctions.  It’s hard to be sure. All I know is that now that I’m done for now, and my powder is scattered as it should be, is that I want some coffee, and some time in the company of others.

31 DoM: Charge a stone or crystal


For the 31 Days of Magic project from the Strategic Sorcery community, today is about charging a crystal or a stone.
31 Days of Magic: wire wrapped stones I wound up doing three. The first was a plain rock, which I picked up in a place that’s important to me.  I clipped off about 20″ of wire, fairly-thin copper gauge, and wrapped the stone using some tutorials I found through Pinterest and YouTube.

It was not very complicated.  Having my grandfather’s wire-cutters and several pairs of needle-nose and snub-nose pliers helped, as well.  The results were — not perfect.  But not bad.

I feel it’s important to say that I’ve never done this before.  This is the first time I’ve ever created a wire wrapping for a stone.

31 Days of Magic: wire wrapped stones The second was this … aventurine? I genuinely forget what kind of stone it is. It’s a pale green color, not really transparent but of quartz-like hardness. I guess I would characterize it as slightly translucent.  Here, I used a thicker wire, and used the wire’s greater stiffness to create an open-basket shape with a spiral at one end and a loop for a string on the other.  I don’t feel that this design is really strong enough for a necklace, though, unless I’m prepared to lose the stone.  So I tried again a third time.

31 Days of Magic: wire wrapped stones And this was the third try. This time it was a carnelian, one of the sacred stones of Egypt (along with lapis lazulijasperturquoise [this doesn’t sound right], and malachite.  There may be others, or my information may be wrong… but this is what I’m working with from seeing the King Tut exhibit in around 1979 when it came to the Met in New York City.)

This time I took two scraps from my work with the heavier wire on the aventurine piece, and bent them into two loops or fish shapes.  I then wrapped the lighter wire around the two to create a stable base for the stone.  This lighter-gauge wire was long enough that when I felt like the two loops of larger wire were stable, I went right into stone wrapping.  Eventually, it seemed like the stone was secure.  Then the needle-nose pliers bent the wire in a few strategic spots to gather and tighten the wire around the stone.  I ended by building a loop at the top, and doing a bit of light sanding and buffing with a Dremel tool to clean up the clipped ends of the wires.

I consecrated the three stones this morning during my druidic practices.  The ordinary stone I intend to use in a larger project, so I don’t want to say that much about that one.  The other two are going to be gifts for people; the aventurine I charged according to its traditional uses as a stone of luck and eloquence, and as an amplifier of decision-making and leadership qualities.   The carnelian I also consecrated according to its traditional uses, for boldness, quickness, and cleverness.  It is a stone of motivation and endurance, according to the research I found.


In English-speaking magic, we usually use the term “charge” these days to mean energize or load-up, as we would with a battery.  But I think it’s useful to consider some alternative meanings.  For example, we can use the term charge as a verb in heraldry, as in to paint or adorn a specific logo or sigil or item on an object.  We can also use charge in a legal sense, as in a formal accusation against someone or some thing.  W  e can entrust a duty or a responsibility to someone, as in “I charge this committee with the task of finding a solution to problem X.”  We can pay for something with a charge card, or charge someone for the purchase of an item.

I chose to think of this term in the sense of charging the stones with a particular set of responsibilities, as well as loading them up like a battery. I think I have to make a couple more of these objects, because they’re fun to make and they’ll make useful presents to give to people, both with an energetic signature and without.  Yet even more importantly, from my perspective, is the tremendous internal joy I feel from teaching myself a new skill and being moderately successful at it the first time wheeling it out.  This is the basis of nearly all my success as a teacher, too: finding and using the available resources to learn a new skill, and then putting those new skills to work.

It’s always nice when those skills succeed, and it makes me feel — and act — more magically in the future.

Nota Bene:  I’m going to be skipping challenges 9 (use a single herb) and 10 (brew a potion) over the weekend due to time pressures, but I will be doing Monday’s (use a specific color focus) and Tuesday’s (use a seal, e.g., of Solomon) challenges instead for the weekend.  And then on Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be doing the two challenges I skipped.  Just so you know.

31DoM: Use a poppet


Today in the 31 Days of Magic (an outgrowth of the strategic sorcery community around Jason Miller) we’re supposed to use a poppet.  This is fundamentally different than jewelry or clothing, because those are the sorts of magic one does to present one’s self in a particular way. They’re glamoury of a sort, as Deb could tell you in detail.  But poppets and dolls are something else, because it’s creating something specifically to affect someone else.  And in general this is not the sort of magic that I do.  I’m much more interested in doing magic that helps people; and poppets have always struck me as magic for causing harm or difficulty or trouble.

But it’s the magic of the day.  I’ve been thinking about how to do this within my own code of ethics around magic for days.  And I finally hit on a solution.
31 Days of Magic: Poppet I’ve said before that one of my purposes in doing these 31 Days of Magic is to find people who will be co-workers and colleagues in the mission of teaching children to be Makers and creators, and bring more hands-on skills into the school.

And so I made this poppet.  It’s got yellow ‘skin’, and blue jeans, and a black t-shirt, all made of felt.  I started out by rummaging around in the fabric bin, and finding some scrap felt. All of the fabric was scrap from the MakerSpace at my school — it’s ‘consecrated’ or energized for the purpose I have in mind; this is fabric that has been cut up and used by a variety of students in my school who are having a great time Making things, and enjoying the creative processes which I’m trying to teach.  It’s sewn together with a polyester-cotton blended thread… and as I sewed this poppet, I spoke words of blessing and consecration over the parts and thread.
31 Days of Magic: Poppet

As the poppet came together, it looked more and more real and complete. Actually, it didn’t look more real and complete. It was more real and complete.  I mean, Look At It.  It is a real thing, isn’t it? Regardless of whether it’s a powerful and magical object, it’s a real object.

You want to know how real it is?

It’s so real that a colleague of mine saw me making it, and said, “Are you making a VOODOO DOLL??”  

And of course, I said “yes.”

This person’s eyes bugged out of their head.  “Who is it of?”  I smiled, and said, “nobody in particular.  Potentially anybody.”

This person said, “why are you making it??”

31 Days of Magic: PoppetI said, “It’s a magical doll, sure. Not exactly voodoo… I mean, I’m not going to stick pins in it or anything. But it’s suggestive of a set of powers. Cutting and sewing.  And it will sit in the MakerSpace with a bunch of similar objects.  And sooner or later, one of our colleagues will look at it, and think I could make that with my students. It doesn’t look so hard.  It actually looks pretty easy.”  

I finished sewing the poppet as she watched and listened.  “And then,” I said, “that means that someone else will take up the work of teaching kids how to make something with their hands. Someone else will take up the work of teaching kids to sew.  I can’t do it all, but I can do some of it.  And now this little magical poppet will sit in the MakerSpace project library, beckoning to all who see it, You could make something like me, and make it better, and it would be a lot of fun to learn how.” 

I cut the last thread.

And now, this little fellow sits in the MakerSpace project library, exactly where I said he would be. And now… don’t you want to make one too? Don’t you think you could make a better one?

AWS: Further Insights


I’ve finished my own commitment to Autumnal Maker School, but something urged me to keep going. And something else said, “go back to some of your paper-engineering stuff. That’s important, because paper engineering is an important route into the Maker movement, especially for schools with little to no money to invest in tools and equipment.”

And then Deb Castellano kicked my ruck-sack with her current post, Glamour Practical: Burn this Place Down. Mentally, I’ve been under the weather, and unwilling to get out of my own head to get stuff done. Sure, I built a bunch of cool crafts and machine models for working on automata. But I was doing that for school, not for me.  I wasn’t contributing to my own wonder about the world, my own sense of amazement and my own joy in creating. That was work. But her she was, reminding me to play.

The Kavad & Making

And that meant going back to an idea which I’ve had for a long time. A long time indeed. The Kavad.

For those who are just joining me, and don’t feel like reading through a whole lot of posts from several years ago, the Kavad is this idea I had for a magical box.  The box would be made of wood, with a lot of hinged and spring-loaded panels.  Each of the panels would be painted and carved with traditional imagery from Hermetic and astrological teaching. It would be my Maker cabinet of curiosities, designed to teach me engineering and woodworking and three-dimensional design and astrology and Hermetics and neoplatonism, all at once.  I did manage to build four prototypes of it, in increasing complexity; but I got bogged down in the engineering and woodworking of it, and the challenges involved in learning how to automate it.

And then I discovered bookbinding. And see, the Kavad of Hermetics was always a cool thing, but it was a three-dimensional representation of a set of spiritual concepts, trying to cram a western/magical system into a device/tool/imaginarium that came out of India’s vedic and yogic traditions.  Whereas the Western world has always crammed its mysteries into books and scrolls, into grimoires and sworn books and papyri.  Different technologies, different mysteries.  It’s not to say that the Kavad can’t be built, or won’t be built.  Just that right now, I’m learning the skills that are required to build it.

clockwise from top: pulley card, two origami envelope folds, and a midori book page with contrasting inserts

See, the nature of the Kavad for me was always as a tool for exploring the nature of Making.  It would require skills in carpentry and cabinetry, rendering a two-dimensional material (like plywood or wood or foam core) into a 3-dimensional object. But the source material kept pulling me back to books, to paper.  How can these materials be used to convey particular ideas, particular concepts?  Not just concepts of spirituality, but also concepts of Making?


In any case, I got out my paper cutting mat and some scrap and good paper, and made a bunch of things.  I’m not happy with many of them, but I’m looking forward to fussing with these elements further.

Gender and Craft

Ironically, a good deal of the paper and book arts generally have been left to women, in the form of scrap-booking and album making.  I don’t wish to get into a huge fight about gender here, but women’s arts have been regularly relegated to the realm of “arts and crafts” and discounted as less valuable than the more ‘masculine’ arts of painting and sculpture.  Which is silly — painting and sculpture are wonderful, but they’re also sort of useless.  Whereas “women’s crafts” like knitting and sewing and paper and scrap-booking and related book-binding and -making arts are intensely practical… but also seen as less valuable? What’s up with that?  

Women have known this for years, of course.  And I have, too.  But Design Thinking teachers have to take care to notice this, to call it out, to object to it, and to demand that their students notice it and work to minimize and correct it.  When we run MakerSpaces, we have to take care that the gender issues in our society begin to be corrected in what and how we teach.  Hence the continuing focus in my Design Lab on making the tools for braiding, weaving, spinning — because those tools and skills lay at the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

(I’ve seen this in my own Design Lab, and I have to work to nip it in the bud, that the girls move in the direction of fabric or paper arts and the boys move in the direction of carpentry.  I have to work to stop this, or at least arrange for more divergence.)

Paper Album

I also spent some time tonight building a little paper album based on some designs I found on Pinterest.  I intended it to be a frame for some calligraphy practice, writing out some of the prayers and hymns and calls of druidry in the various pages.  The video is very fast — time-lapse photo rather than a true video — but it gives you a sense of what paper craft can accomplish these days.

This is based on Loretta’s video, here (and the website from which she got it is here):

She’s quite right — this is not particularly complicated or heavy-duty work to make.  But you have to Make it to learn how to do it, just as with the Pulley Card.  And you have to have a sense of what you’re going to use it for. Could this be a book about geology for one of your colleague’s classrooms?  Could it be a place to collect a short story in a foreign language?  Could it be a place to store a kid’s short poems?  Photographs? How do you make the process of teaching someone to Make this part of curriculum, whether in Design or embedded in core (or encore) curriculum?  I don’t know yet.  But I know that Making it helped me develop a sense of what’s important in a MakerSpace, and how to use paper as one of the key materials to teach important skills for Making generally.

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