Review "Mystical Stitches" by Christi Johnson

Happy New Year, everyone! Let's hope 2022 brings us all closer to the life we want to create for ourselves and our loved ones. This week I started the year off with clearing out the attic to create a studio workroom-project. At the moment I'm still at that stage of clearing out where it looks worse than before I started, as if a small tornado paid my attic a visit, but it's a necessary stage. I always find this stage of a project of transformation such a fascinating embodiment of exactly how inner clearing out before transformation works as well.
When I look at how my attic looked at the beginning of the week, sort of organised dusty mess that you're just afraid to approach because it looks like a solid entity, you don't remember what is in which box, you don't remember where the stuff is that you want to keep and where the stuff is that you definitely don't need anymore, and then there's all the stuff you don't remember you had.
It's exactly the same in our inner world, isn't it? When you know you need to make changes in your life, whatever they are; recovering from trauma, changing jobs, leaving a job to start a business, re-evaluating a relationship, finding your soul purpose, having a baby, it doesn't matter. There's always the beginning of the process where you know you have to start, but you're kind of intimidated and you don't really know where to start, it's just one big dusty, solid-looking mess. And then you decide to just start pulling out boxes and drawers here and there and just look at what's in them. And before you know it you're sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by a heaping chaotic explosion of shrapnell pieces of your past, your heart and your memories, laughing and crying at the same time reading old cards and diary entries. It's a necessary stage of getting to a new phase in life. For me, I always find though that the further I get into cleaning up my physical space, the more clear I become inside.
So I'm really excited to get this done, and I can't wait to have my own little work space again. I will do my best to take some pics along the way so I can show you guys the before and after in a few weeks.
I am especially excited to get my own work space again to be able to work with people again. And also to be able to work at a larger table on my polymer clay illustration projects and my fiber arts projects, which is where this wonderful book comes in.



I got "Mystical Stitches - Embroidery for personal empowerment and magical embellishment" by Christi Johnson (which you can find here: https://www.mixedcolor.net/book and Dutch book buyers can also get it on Bol.com here) for Christmas this past holiday season, and I love it so much, I decided a little review post is in order. I started and finished reading this book over the end of year holiday week. It was a real page turner to me! I had tingles in my tummy constantly while reading because I connected so strongly with it, and it has me longing to pick up my own needle and threads again! I especially can't wait to really get started on my visions of embroidering with my art yarns because of reading this gem. As soon as I can work at that big table, off I go!
This book is everything I want from a craft book and a spiritual book as well. It combines my two favourite subjects in the whole world: mindful handcraft and building a spiritual practice. It's essentially about how to use embroidery and stitching to guide your intentions into a piece of art, jewelry or clothing infused with your energy.
This past year I've been diving deep into my own spiritual pool, digging for the roots of what's been there all along, discovering and learning new things and eventually coming to the conclusion that this path will give me all the expansion and new opportunities for learning I could ever want, but above all, that my creativity and spirituality are inextricably linked.
This book spoke exactly to this realisation and I don't think it could've come into my life at a better time than when it did. It's a stitch witch's dream book.
But, all gushing aside for now, let's talk about the practicalities.



The size of the book is really nice, if you want to keep it with you while stitching a project from it, you won't have any trouble keeping an eye on it while having the book laid out on the table. The book stays open and flat when you leave it lying open, which is incredibly handy for a craft book, I think.
The cover of the book is beautiful, a depiction of an embroidery as you'd expect, but I do still think that's really cool, I know it's not super easy to photograph embroidery work as neatly and flatly as this.
Also, the book smells great! Are there any other book sniffers here? I just love to smell books, they all smell different, but most of them have a really comforting smell which makes the experience of reading a good book extra blissfull in my opinion. This book's smell is especially good, my love who is a fellow appreciater of book-y bouquets, kept coming by to sniff it when I was reading, haha!
This book is suitable for beginner stitchers and experienced ones alike. For experienced embroiderers looking to add a deeper dimension to their relaxing craft practice, you will love this book. If you're looking to start a spiritual embroidery practice, but you don't have much or any embroidery experience yet, you don't need any other books to learn the stitches, because that is covered in this book as well. All the basics on learning how to embroider: how to use a hoop, how to use the floss, what flosses there are, how to transfer a pattern onto your fabric, what fabrics to use, and also all the basic embroidery stitches are taught in this book. As I've mentioned in a previous blog post a while ago, knowing the basics in embroidery get you really far. It's a very versatile and forgiving craft.



What's especially wonderful about Christi Johnson's (teaching) style is that she really embodies the versatility and looseness that embroidery can give you. She very much encourages letting go of perfectionism. She makes you feel it's okay to make mistakes, to do stitches the way you find most comfortable and to not have to make your work look like it came from a factory. Wonky stitches is what makes your work so wonderfully you. It's what the embroidery gives you, and the energy you imbue it with, that matters.
I have to admit, even though I've been embroidering for a while and even produce my own patterns, I don't completely feel at home in certain corners of the modern online embroidery community because most people insist that embroidery needs to be as neat as possible. There's debates about knotting your floss, having the back of your work look just as neat as the front, and I'm constantly sitting over here, reading that and thinking 'who has time for that??'
Let me veer off into my ADHD and Human Design for a bit again: all my life I've been struggling with the concept of how long things should take to learn and then to be allowed to do them 'professionally'. I've always had this knack for learning things I'm really interested in very very fast. So much so that I would always scratch my head and wonder if I'd missed something important, because how could it be that I learned something in 3 months that others take two years to learn??
This past year I've learned that this is a large part of exactly who I am. People with ADHD have this talent, because we are interest-driven instead of task-driven. And in my Human Design profile I have the 2 Line, which means that I have a natural talent for learning things really quickly when they grip me. So I've been trying to work on embracing this and not have my mind police my skills in accordance with society's rules about how long you should study something before you can call yourself an expert. 
Reading Christi Johnson's book finally let me give myself permission to let that BS go when it comes to embroidery. What's more, I've found I'm not that interested in whether I'm an expert at something, I just want to do something or I don't. I want to learn stuff because I want to learn it, not because society tells me I have to study something before I'm allowed to do it.

So then there is the actual spiritual content of the book, which is just fantastic for starting your own spiritual crafting practice. The book covers all the basics of all the spiritual symbols and explains how and why to use symbols to set your intentions with. It covers everything from the lunar cycle, planets and zodiac to simple ancient symbols like the spiral, and animals, plants and mythical creatures. There's a short explanation for all these symbols, what they mean, where they come from, magical correspondences, what intentions they can be used for and such, which is sure to get your creative and spiritual juices going. Christi Johnson does a wonderful job of making you understand why hand crafts are such a great companion for your practical spiritual life. The book definitely had me solidifying my own pull towards using hand crafts for magical purposes.



The book covers how to pull different symbols together to create a talisman for a specific or broader intention. There are several patterns to be found in this book, along with tutorials on how to stitch talismans on actual garments and stitch keys for the symbols. You can use the exact patterns used in the book, but you're encouraged to create your own to suit your own specific wishes.
The only thing I would've liked to see added was a little tutorial on how to actually best attach pre-embroidered patches onto garments as I haven't done that before and I would've loved some advice on how to best do that so that the patch doesn't come off before I want it to.

To conclude: I recommend this book to any spiritually and witchy inclined person who is looking to include creativity into their spiritual/magical practice and also to any stitcher who is looking to add more spiritual energy to their craft specifically or their life in general. It's a book that reads really easily and it will have you going back to it again and again for inspiration.

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