One of the easiest ways to make some artful magic is by creating a talisman—an object we can enchant by calling upon natural energies, including our own, to charge it with our desired intention. Combined with the power of symbols that speak to the subconscious mind, this piece becomes a physical representation of the changes we wish to call into our lives. Creating a talisman through embroidery isn’t just about making something that looks nice—the act of making in itself can be calming and meditative. Follow the steps below to make this simple but powerful patch, or throw your favorite colors and personally meaningful symbolism into the cauldron, and cook up some magic of your own! –Christi Johnson
This small patch can hold big power, drawing on the symbolism of a triangle—the trinity of mind, body, and soul—represented through the pyramid, a shape which is thought to be an interpretation of the rays of the sun, with the apex being the highest attainable knowledge and possibility.
• 5″ x 5″ piece of brown fabric for patch (like muslin or broadcloth)
• A washable or air-erase marker or pattern transfer paper
• 3 skeins of embroidery floss in yellow, white, and dark orange (I used DMC 728, 712, and 301) • Embroidery needle
• 4″ embroidery hoop
1. Copy the pattern, then transfer the design to your fabric by taping the pattern to a window on a bright day, holding your fabric over it, and tracing the pattern onto your fabric with the marker. If your fabric is too dark to use this method, place your material on a hard, flat surface; place pattern transfer paper on top of it, and the pattern on top of that; then trace the pattern using a dull pencil so it transfers to your fabric.
2. Place your material in your embroidery hoop. Cut a piece of embroidery floss the length of your outstretched arm. Thread your needle and knot the end of your floss.
3. Following the pattern, create the bottom of your pyramid with chain stitches in dark orange. Outline the apex of your pyramid with yellow backstitches, then fill in the center with dark-orange backstitches. Place a French knot, in white, in the center of the apex. Create the rays surrounding the apex with ray stitches; shorter ones in yellow, then longer ones in white.
4. Once you’re finished, knot your loose threads at the back of the patch, trim any ends, and cut your patch to 3″ x 3″. Attach your patch to a shirt or jacket with running stitch.
Learn the Stitches
Bring the needle up through the fabric, and draw thread through. Then insert the needle back into the fabric at this same point, but don’t pull through yet! Position the tip of the needle to come out 1?4″ further along the stitch line from where it went in, and tuck the thread behind the needle. Pull the needle and thread through until the loop is gently secured against where the thread comes out, but not so tight that the loop pulls on the loose thread. Now insert the needle back inside this loop, right where it just came out, and repeat.
Bring the needle up and insert it back into the fabric a little less than 1?4″ from where the thread came out. Bring the needle back out this same distance ahead, and pull the thread through until taut. Insert the needle back into the closest end of this first stitch, then bring it out one stitch length ahead, and repeat.
To create expanding rays, bring the needle to the surface at the top of the first ray then back into the fabric at the bottom of the ray. Running the needle under the fabric diagonally, bring it out again at the top of the second ray and then back at the bottom of that ray. Repeat.
Pull the thread up through fabric, then wrap the thread twice around the needle very close to the fabric while pulling the loose end of the thread securely. Insert the needle just a tiny bit from where the thread came out of the fabric, then pull through to the back. Gently pull the thread all the way through, holding the knot down with your fingertip to keep it from tangling.
Bring the thread to the surface. Insert the needle back into the fabric at the desired distance of the stitches on the surface. Bring the needle back out along the stitch line. Continue this in and out motion.
Adapted from Mystical Stitches: Embroidery for Personal Empowerment and Magical Embellishment (2021, Storey Publishing) by ChristiJohnson.
Illustrations by Nina Chakrabarti
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!