Make Your Own Altar Cloths Easy and Cheap

Make your own altar cloths! No talent required.

As previously mentioned many times on the old blog, altar cloth colors can change with the Sabbats, the moons, and for special events such as the Rites of Passage.

Sewing is not necessary! All you need is a roll of Stitch Witch and an iron. Fold up the edges, iron to help them stay in place, put a strip of Stitch Witch in between the two layers of cloth, iron again. Voila! Altar Cloth. If you can sew, stitch all the way around to secure the hem more thoroughly.

We’ll get fancy later in this writing with decorating your plain cloths. Stick with me, okay?

COLORS

Invariably, most fabric stores have seasonal fabrics on hand well before needed. For example, Yule fabrics can be found almost immediately after Samhain. We pagans simply have to adjust and think ahead a bit. Right now, I can find all the love spell cloth I need, thanks to Valentine's Day. The Eostar cloth should appear any day now...

But, let’s start with the basics. The two colors most often needed on altars are available year round – black and white. In fact, it’s not uncommon to layer an altar with a black permanent cloth, and use the white as an overlay for Full Moon. However, some want to change out to symbolize the differences between Full Moon and New Moon. Your choice. For the purposes of this writing, we’ll make no distinction and simply call it the “underlayment.”

Each Sabbat has a few colors associated with it. Some common examples are:

Yule – dark green, red, purple, gold
Imbolg – brown, ice blue
Eostar – light green, pastel pink, pastel yellow
Beltane – grass green, white, red
Litha – bright yellow, gold, turquoise
Lammas – wheat gold
Mabon – red
Samhain – orange, black, purple

These are by no means all the colors, merely an example. Don’t freak on me if you use another. In addition, each Sabbat has symbols also available in cloth. Yule holly, snowflakes for Imbolg, painted eggs for Eostar, strawberries for Beltane, suns and herbs for Litha, wheat for Lammas, fruits for Mabon, and jack-o-lanterns for Samhain to name a few. These may require a more diligent search, but can be used as well.

One yard will do for each one of these unless you’re using your entire dining room table for your altar. Prices will vary, depending on sales and your choices. If you just have to have that lovely red velvet, you’ll pay dearly. Broadcloth can be much cheaper if your wallet has moths inside most of the year.

I recommend looking at the sales flyers for your most convenient fabric store or taking a reconnaissance wander through the aisles at least monthly for bargains. Remnants are often found tucked away in a basket or special shelf, if you’re willing to make do with less than a yard. The sales flyers can be a gold mine of half-off coupons to save you a bundle!

Can’t sew? Don’t worry! You have two choices. Stitch Witch is rolls of fusible webbing about the size of scotch tape you sandwich between two layers of fabric and iron. Just follow directions. My only caution is that after a few washings, you’ll have to replace the Stitch Witch. Same goes for fabric glue. Get the kind that says it’s permanent. It lasts a little longer, but not much. Eventually, you may want to hand stitch or prevail upon a friend to hem the cloth for you.

Let’s assume you’ve taken your treasure home, hemmed it (at least with Stitch Witch) and it looks a little plain. You have a myriad of choices available, and –if you are blessed with friends or a coven—a group project.

Appliqués – these ready-made embroideries are a blessing for anyone who can hold an iron or do a few hand stitches. Look for symbols to match your Sabbat. For example, you have a green cloth for Beltane, and you found red strawberries to appliqué on it! Perfect match. Some appliqués even come with adhesive on the back, requiring only the heat of an iron to make them stick. Just follow directions. Others will require the use of more Stitch Witch, permanent fabric glue, or a few quick stitches with a needle.

Fabric Paint – You can either free hand or use stencils to create your symbols on your cloth. I had a wheat stencil and gold glitter paint to use on a pale cream cloth for Lammas. On a flat protected surface, I laid the stencil down on the cloth where I wanted the symbol to go. A few strips of masking tape held it securely in place. I poured the paint into a recycled Styrofoam meat tray, dipped in my stenciling sponge (available in the same vicinity as the fabric paint) and tapped the sponge on the stencil until I thought the paint was sufficient to hold my design. Carefully, I removed the tape and lifted the stencil away from the cloth and washed the stencil immediately to keep the paint from drying on it. After I patted the stencil dry, I placed it on the next area I wanted that design and repeated the procedure until I was happy with the way it looked. Let it dry somewhere safe for at least 24 hours.

Tee Shirt Transfers – You can buy tee shirt transfers for your computer printer at any good office supply. A search of good images on the Net will result in some lovely choices. Be prepared with a fresh color cartridge if you’re just learning. Some even come with the necessary software. There will be a learning curve, but soon you’ll print out transfers to iron on your chosen images directly on the altar cloth. However, I highly advise painting with fabric paint over the design in the same colors if possible. Tee shirt transfers made at home are not very durable. The heat of a clothes dryer will eventually destroy it. Paint over to save your work.

Buttons, bows, fringes, trims, silk flowers, crystals and beads all may be used to enhance your vision of what you want. Go into the store with a purpose, but be open to possibilities. For instance, I found a jar of antique buttons in a thrift store and originally bought the jar for itself. However, when I dumped the jar out at home, there was a set of ivory colored rose buttons that perfectly matched my Beltane "wedding style" table runner. You never can tell what you'll find, or where! Even if you don't have a full vision yet, stick those little apple appliques in your Mabon Sabbat Box for another day. Who knows?

I'll talk about those Sabbat Boxes again next Wednesday, so those who missed the idea can see it again.

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