Monday, January 15, 2018

Possibly The Perfect Tarot Deck

Tonight's deck is one I've always just called "The Barnes and Noble Tarot".  I figured it had to have some official name, but all I knew was that the only place I'd ever seen it for sale was at Barnes and Noble, in the spinny rack of desktop-sized work distractions that they keep up by the registers...tiny Stonehenge models and golf games and Harry Potter wands.  Apparently, this deck does have a name, though, and it's Tarot Nova.

It's so little and cute!!

This thing hits all my right buttons:  It's small and adorable, it comes in a small and adorable box, it's got a small and adorable companion book, and all the components sit together so neatly and so orderly in the small and adorable box, that it just makes the organizer in me fall to pieces with dollhouse-sized delight.  The artwork is also adorable.  Simplistic, but full of color and personality.  It follows Rider-Waite traditions and flows nicely.  I especially love the colored corners, which more card artists should get down with, in my opinion. The cards themselves are thinner than you would expect, but durable, though I have to tell you, I've done readings with this one, and it is a nightmare to try and shuffle if you do the fan thing like I do.  The cards are too stiff, their size makes the pile very fat, and the shape of them does not lend itself well to being manipulated physically.  The cards also tend to like to stick together, due to the edges being ever so slightly curled, which also gets in the way of proper shuffling.

To give you an idea of the size

That said, there's something about this deck.  Something that resonates with people.  The first time I did a professional reading with it, the client loved it so much they demanded I give them the deck.  (This person was my boss at the time, so I didn't argue.  Oh, and in case anyone wonders who may be reading this, I am not Wiccan. I'm not bound to those rules they have about not charging for services of this kind.  I'm proud to say that my prices run *considerably* lower than average, and I don't charge friends and family.  Or bosses.)  Anyhoo, I went and bought another one.  And the next time I showed it to someone, they squeed so hard I couldn't resist, and made them a gift of it.  Sooo...I went and bought yet another one.  I imagine one day, someone else will flip out over it and I'll give it away again, and by then I'll have to buy one from Amazon because Barnes and Noble will have petered out completely and closed like every other bookstore on Earth these days.  I've had all kinds of decks over the years, and done professional and personal readings with numerous different ones, but Tarot Nova has been the only one that I've had people get this excited about, or merely straight out ask me to hand over to their possession.  I'm not saying this deck is special in a mystical way.  The power never lies in the cards, but the reader and the....the read-ee, I guess?  But the art, the size maybe?, the layout?....something about these ones hits buttons in people.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Next, I'll Be Making Toilet Paper Cozies With Doll Bodies On Them

Anytime I want to use a bookcase that only has two shelves, I run into the same problem:  There's a big gap in the middle where there are no peg holes.  You can either make the top shelf short and the bottom shelf ridiculously tall, or vice versa.  I had a shelf that I wanted to place tall books on, but in order to make that work, I had to drop the shelf below that peg-less gap, leaving me with all kinds of empty air above the tops of the books, which makes the space look off-kilter. The empty space constantly draws the eye (its right next to my bed) and drives me crazy-go-nuts.  So, how about something to fill that space, right?  The easiest answer was a valance.


There is nothing easier in the world to make than a valance.  It doesn't even have to be sewn if sewing is not your thing.  All you have to do is cut a strip of fabric the width and length you need, create a channel on top for the rod, maybe hem the bottom, and voila, a valance.  I'll throw some links to valance-making instructions down here if you're interested in doing this yourself.  Hell, you might want to create an overly-tall bookshelf on purpose just you can do the valance thing because it looks nice and adds charm and homeyness to the room.  You know, you could even make a valance or little curtains, and use the shelf as a stage for a diorama.  That would actually be really cool.  Hmmm....I may have to try that, myself....

Follow the link for valance-making instructions.  There's a lot of leeway to be had on how technical you can get on something like this, but at least a modicum of measuring is definitely needed, depending on how ruffled you want your finished product to be:



Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cats. Cats. Cats. Twenty Two Of 'Em.

Have I ever posted about this one?  I don't think I have....maybe I have.  I don't know.  Let's pretend I never did post about it, and its all new and you've never seen it before, okay?

This deck was a gift from a friend years ago.  It's the cutest little thing, and also a collectible, so there's a double joy-whammy.  Now, I was about to type "I've never been a cat enthusiast, but I love this deck", but then I remembered that people on the internet, whether involved in the pagan community or not, tend to take cats and their importance really insanely seriously.  For some reason.  So, let me clarify.  I grew up with no less than two cats in the house at any given time.  They were country cats who, (usually, though not always) lived their lives as both loving housepets and terrifying predators.  We had a cat named Wisteria who I think really was on friendly speaking terms with Satan himself.  I think that fact was confirmed for me the day she snuck into a rabbit warren when the mom was away and half-devoured/mutilated every one of the babies.  Maybe I'll make an entry someday out of stories about her.  ANYWAY.  I will usually enjoy the company of a cat, but I don't go all gaga-crazy obsessed over them.  I've always seen them as completely fierce, independent spirits who don't need any blundering, obtuse, blind-minded humans constantly pawing at them and fussing over them and messing with their diabolical plans.  Oh, and also, as has been amply chronicled by YouTube, they are NOT allowed to walk all over my kitchen counters when I am cooking and stick their faces and paws and tongues in the foods and drinks that are meant for my consumption and get their greasy matted hair all over everything I own and leave partially-eaten animals anywhere but in the weeds outside the house and they are definitely not allowed to make my house smell like cat pee by spraying everything they have the desire to take ownership of.  Because no.  All that said, let's move on to the deck:

I wanted to make sure that you all could see the details, so I did close-ups, but the photos don't convey the size of this thing.  It's little:


It's a tiny portfolio!  SQUEE!


The portfolio is labeled " 22 Arcani 'Gatti' ", "Il Meneghello" edition.  Number 793 out of 2000.  It was printed way back in ye olden dayes of 1990!  Actually, now that I think about it, I was 14 in 1990...I'm 41 now.  I guess it really was ye olden dayes.  Okay, now I'm depressed.





The cards are printed on very heavy stock and less yellowed than the photos are making them look.  I wouldn't dare ever try to use them for a reading or shuffle them.  The cardstock is super heavy, but would absolutely get creases or bends in it if you tried to use the cards for anything but careful display, which I imagine is what it was meant for in the first place.  The deck only includes the major arcana:


The High Priestess

Temperance

The Devil.  Wisteria?  Is that you??

The only criticism I have is that most of the cats look extremely similar, as if they're almost all the same cat playing different roles.  But that's a nitpick.  Overall, its a super cool little treasure.  You know, every time I've ever looked at this thing, the first thought that has popped into my head, every single time, is "I wonder if they did a Dog Tarot?"  Or, like, a whole series of animal tarot decks in tiny limited editions?  I should look into that one of these days.


I Must Succumb To The Perfectly Executed Whimsy

The word I see most often associated with the Joie De Vivre Tarot is "whimsical".  I've been trying to think of another word to use to describe this deck, but I'll be damned if I can make it happen.  I never thought I would use the word "whimsical" as a descriptor without a tinge (or, let's be honest, a huge sandbag-full) of sarcasm or hipster irony, but here we are.  There is no other word.  See for yourself:


whimsical ?

Whimsical !

WHIMsical !!

WHIMSICAL !!!

That said, I love the Joie De Vivre Tarot.  Love, love, love.  It is wonderful.  I've made it my current go-to deck.  Love.  Lovelovelovelove.

Back when I used to collect decks with more regular zeal, I was always looking for tarot artwork that I could never quite find.  So many decks with excellent concepts, but with artwork that left characters looking stiff, heavy, mannequin-like....computer-generated.  Or it went in the other direction:  artwork with personality, but coming across like the artist, well, just isn't that great an artist. Doodly, sketchy, or primitive-looking, but without the charm that goes along with making it look that way on purpose.  The Joie De Vivre Tarot is what I was always looking for, but was never lucky enough to run across until now: wispy, ethereal, and ever-so-slightly dark enough in tone to avoid being cutesy.

That's not to say that I'll never use another deck again, but for now, this is the one.  The cards are plenty sturdy enough.  They shuffle fine without nicking the corners or peeling at the edges.  I could not recommend this deck more highly.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Grim Grinning Ghosts Come Out To Socialize

I love ghosts.  The old-fashioned kind:  melancholy, half-transparent spirits that float around mourning lost loves and earthly regrets.  Ghosts with alarming messages for the living.  Ghosts trying vainly to communicate as if through sound-proof glass.

The Ghost Tarot delivers.


3 of Wands 
The Chariot
Justice
10 of Swords
8 of Cups
5 of Pentacles

This deck is definitely now in my top five.  I wish the cards were slightly more durable, but on the whole, they're not nearly as slippery and thin as some other decks I've reviewed.  It might be best for an intermediate to advanced reader, as the names of the cards aren't very noticeable in the minor arcana, and totally nonexistent in the major.  You really can't beat this deck for aesthetics, though.  Perfect for Halloween or reading in a romantically gloomy atmosphere, most definitely by candlelight.

*

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

So Happy Colors! Such Delicious Pretty!

I am tickled to DEATH by this one.  Seriously.  These are the cutest, sweetest, happiest things you can make out of felt.

Popsicles!


I'm not great at making beautiful patterns, but here's my best shot.  Click to embiggen.




Start out by tracing the pattern onto your felt and cutting it out.


IMPORTANT:  Make sure to cut a slit in the middle of the "popsicle bottom" piece before you start stitching it together, in order to accommodate the popsicle stick later.

Stitch together the popsicle pieces.


If the middle strip ends up being too long, you can snip off the extra.  Be sure to leave one side open on the bottom, so you can get the stuffing in.

Next, stitch together your stick.  Now, I didn't bother to make it solid, because I knew I was going to be making these into a mobile, and wouldn't need to hold them by the stick.  If you'd like to make them into actual play food, you're going to want to use real wooden popsicle sticks.  Realize, though, that you'll still have to make the felt covering for the stick, because you'll need a way to attach it to the top part, and the flaps at the top of the felt version of the stick are integral to that:


Insert the stick into the slit you made in the bottom of the popsicle.  A few little drops of super glue on each flap, and your stick will be attached.  If you've put a wooden stick inside the felt one, don't worry if it sticks up past the flaps, it'll be invisible anyway.


Next, stuff your popsicle.  Be careful not to stuff it too fat.  Work the stuffing around and try to keep the sides from bulging out too far.  Then, stitch up the opening.


And there you have it!  Popsicle!  If you'd like to take it further and create a mobile, make lots more colors and string them up to an embroidery hoop.


The nostalgic kid-happy is overwhelming with this one.  I put mine in my kitchen, but it would also be super perfect for a kid's room or an ice cream shop or for a sun room in the summer.

YAY!!!

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

Spinny Hangy Things

I am a pathetic sucker for mobiles of all kinds.  It's really bad.  I try to reign myself in a little now, but back in the day, my entire bedroom ceiling would be just covered.  (In fact, I think I may have even posted about that a bunch of years back.)  Anything that can hang from the ceiling, turn slowly and move in any whiff of air that happens to pass through the room....maybe make some little chime-y tinkle-y sounds....  It just feels so calming and magical.

Mobiles are easy to make, but very time consuming.  I'll be working on even a simple one, and suddenly look at the clock halfway through and realize two hours have passed.  You have to have a lot of patience for repeatedly tying up and snipping off thread, and possibly re-doing a bunch of strands if the length comes out wrong.  Here are some examples of ones I've made:










A couple of mobile-making tips:

- Snap up Christmas ornaments when they inevitably go on sale for 70% off two weeks before Christmas even arrives.  You can often buy whole sets for a couple bucks during these sales.  If you go for the colors and designs that are less Christmas-centric, you can make mobiles to hang all year round.

- Look for sales on necklace pendants and spacer beads.  Especially look for metal and wood components that have holes for stringing on both the top and bottom.  The first photo above is of a mobile I made pretty recently, and it includes necklace pendants, chandelier baubles, keychains, tiny bells, pieces from bracelet kits, metal flowers, and a cardstock Alice from Alice in Wonderland meant for including inside a greeting card.  If it's got a punch hole in it or a jump ring attached, go nuts.  

- Use black thread instead of, well, any other color when stringing your mobiles.  Unless they're hanging in very bright light all the time, black thread will be almost invisible, and makes a huge difference when it comes to the aesthetic of the finished product.  Also, once you've tied something off, try to cut the tail of thread down as far as possible, so there won't be little visible bits of it everywhere.

- The easiest way that I've found to make round mobiles is to use embroidery hoops.  They're cheap and sold anywhere that has a craft section.  Using really cool vintage found objects as bases for mobiles is the fantasy, but unless you hit up estate sales and such with the enthusiasm of a pub crawl, it can be very hard to find ring-or-round-shaped things like that to use.  Don't even worry about the embroidery hoop colors.  With the help of some glue or double-sided tape, they can be wrapped in whatever color ribbon you like.

- This one bears mentioning for absolute beginners:  String your base and hang it to work on it.  Add a really long string and hang it from the ceiling or a hook or whatever low enough so that when you're standing in front of it, it's at a height where your arms won't start painfully aching as you work.  If you need to be able to sit, hang it even lower so that when you're sitting in a chair you can comfortably reach it.  Hell, hang it above your bed to work on it, so you can REALLY be comfortable.  (I do this a lot.)  When it's done, you can shorten the string to whatever height you need.

That's about it.  Enjoy!

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Friday, March 04, 2016

Make A Felt House Doorstop

I see a lot of sort of generalized craft ideas around Pinterest and blogs and such that make me want to squee and immediately make, but I realize pretty quickly I have no actual use for them.  This time, though,when I started seeing felt house doorstops, I knew I needed one.  Our bedroom door, man.  It's like a ghost lives behind it.  I've been throwing a messy box of knitted arm warmers in front of it for something like a year now, but no longer!  My door ghost is finally thwarted.  I didn't follow a pattern or anything to make mine.  Here's some illustrated instructions:

You'll need:

felt sheets

stuffing

a bag of the plastic beads that you use to fill the butts of stuffed animals so they'll sit upright

a needle and corresponding colors of thread

scissors

To start with, you'll need to choose your colors, and if you don't have what you need at home already, you'll have to go out and buy some felt.  For those of you who've never worked with it before, it comes in 8x10 or 8 1/2 /11 sheets just about anywhere they sell craft supplies.  And it's wonderfully cheap, (like sometimes 25 cents a sheet) so making things out of felt can be a very inexpensive hobby if you're strapped for disposable income.  So, anyway, you'll need colors for the house itself, the roof, the windows, the shutters, and the door.


Take the pieces for the house part, fold them, and cut them in half.  Two sheets of felt will be all you need for four pieces.  What I did for the roof was, I cut the sheet in half, and then halved the halves.  You'll need the roof pieces for the sides to be triangles that will be the same height as the front and back.


Next, you'll need to make the windows and door.  I did this mostly by eye, because I was interested in a less polished look, but you can make a template out of cardstock if you like, and trace it on to the felt.


Now you're going to have to stitch down all those windows, shutters, and the door.  As I'm sure you can imagine, it'll take a while.  I tried gluing them down first, by using a paintbrush and glue, but that didn't work even a little bit, so it was Needle And Thread Time.

After the windows and door and such are on, start stitching together the sides of the house and roof, leaving an open seam on one part of the roof for filling later.


It'll end up looking something like this:


Next, you need to attach a floor.  Measure the width of the sides of the house, and use the measurements to make yourself a square that fits right onto the bottom.  Stitch it on, making sure there's no openings anywhere in the seams for anything to fall out, because that's the next step.  Dump in the plastic pellets.  If you don't have access to plastic pellets specifically made for stuffed animals, you can use rice, or dried field corn, or even rocks.  Whatever's going to make the bottom of your house heavy enough to hold open a door.  Fill the rest of your house with stuffing, and then stitch up the opening in the roof.

And voila, you're done.  If you'd like a more polished look with very flat real-house-like surfaces, line the insides of all the pieces with cardboard (using double sided tape) before you stitch them together.

You can embellish this in infinite ways, which I'm considering going back and doing.  You can embroider designs above the windows, add fabric flowers around the bottom, make some cute little felt birds for the roof.  You could make it a haunted house by choosing appropriate colors and then cutting out skeletons or ghosts etc to add around the walls.  Just some ideas.

Enjoy!

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