Key Magick

“The key to happiness…”

A key can both unlock and lock, at the same time giving access to that which was previously hidden and setting boundaries or limits. Symbolically, a key is the means to a new realm of knowledge, spirituality or destiny; when we say something is the “key to happiness (success, etc.)”, we call upon its symbolic power to open the door to whatever it is we aspire. The key is a male symbol; a lock represents the feminine. Together, the lock and key possess a yin yang duality, i.e. one thing complementing the other, or the inability to function one without the other.


This collection includes antique and modern skeleton keys – some functional, some decorative. Can you spot the jailer’s key from the 1880s?

The skeleton key, which can be any shape, plain or decorative, both antique and modern, is designed to open any door, thereby symbolizing versatility. In magick, the skeleton key (’cause, you know – we can’t just use a plain one) represents gaining passage to unknown worlds or planes, secrets and arcane knowledge.

Cultural Keys
The Roman god Janus, with his two faces looking to the past and future, was the protector of gateways, doors and roads, and beginnings and endings (especially of conflict). His symbols are the staff and key. In the Roman Forum, an enclosure dedicated to Janus was opened during times of war and locked when there was peace. Christianity’s St. Peter, guardian of the Pearly Gates, is often shown with two keys: a gold one which gives the worthy access to heaven, and a silver one which locks out damned souls. The Hindu elephant god Ganesh is the remover of obstacles and is associated with keys. In Voodoo, Papa Legba – an elderly man bearing a cane and keys (and a dog) – is the gatekeeper between the physical and spiritual worlds. Hecate, queen of the witches, is another key-carrying gatekeeper. In Tarot, the Hierophant has a set of crossed keys at his feet – one gold (the Sun), one silver (the Moon). Their meaning has many interpretations: the keys to the kingdom, heaven or the temple of wisdom; the conscious and subconscious, etc.

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

antique-keyKeys to the Castle
In antiquity, the person responsible for guarding a house’s keys was almost always female; this may stem from the Greek and Roman deities Hestia and Vesta, hearth goddesses of domesticity who kept the keys to household supplies. Upon marriage, Viking women became responsible for the family’s treasures and wore their keys conspicuously as a symbol of equality, respect and power. From the Middle Ages onward, the lady of the house or a head housekeeper (think: Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Hughes) wore the keys on a chatelaine, a set of chains with a decorative clasp worn at the waist; she had the authority to direct servants and servicemen and decide who had access to what. Tea was once so expensive that only the woman of the house owned a key to the tea chest.

Bestowing the “key to the door” (presumably, the front door of the home) on a person’s 21st birthday is a traditional coming-of-age gift representing the attainment of adulthood and responsibility. Giving someone the keys to the city is a symbolic sign of trust and honour rewarding public service or a great deed.

Having the “keys to the kingdom” means you have everything you’ve ever wanted, with the world at your feet and all roads open to you.

“Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Love Locks
A movement which started in Rome in 2006 as a result of a book and film has couples attaching padlocks to bridge railings and other public places, and then throwing away the key as a symbol of their unbreakable affection. Paris’ Pont des Arts bridge is perhaps the most famous example of this charming yet destructive act of sentiment (let’s call it vandalism by devotion). Sadly, the added weight of hundreds or thousands of locks – over 700,000, in Paris – can cause the structure to which they’re attached to crumble and become a hazard and eyesore, so the locks eventually must be removed. However, some municipalities such as Niagara Falls, Ontario, embrace the locks as a tourist attraction, to the point of selling padlocks right next door!


Love locks on the Humber Bay Arch Bridge in Toronto, ON • Photo © Nancy Barrett Photography 

Toronto has seen its share of love locks, too (see photo, taken by my sister). In the historic Distillery District, there’s a Love Lock public art installation which encourages visitors to add their own locks, customized with initials, dates or special message, to a large metal LOVE sign complete with giant heart. The padlocks are removed from time to time (and put in storage intact, according to the City) to make room for new ones, but ‘locking up your love’ is, after all, just a symbolic act.

“You unlock the door with the key of imagination.” – Rod Serling

The practice of divination using keys to uncover information, predict the future or tell fortunes is called Cleidomancy (Greek for ‘key prophecy’). It originated in Europe as a means of discovering the identity of a thief, and later spread to the New World. The basic method involves suspending a key like a pendulum and interpreting its movement in response to a simple question.old-keys-with-book

Bibliomantic Cleidomancy, still used today, involves inserting a skeleton key into a bible or other large book, with the loop protruding from the top of the pages. The book is wrapped tightly with a ribbon or string, and two people grasp the protruding key and suspend the book between them. The name of a possible guilty party or a yes/no question is uttered; if the key moves, turns or pulls out of the book, that person is deemed to be guilty, or the answer to the question is “yes”.

Good Luck
Old iron keys, especially rusty ones, are good luck. Any key that rusts easily (and stays that way despite cleaning) is a sign you will receive an inheritance • Giving someone a key is a sign that family or domestic relations will improve • Receiving a key indicates you will receive assistance from someone with means or influence • Finding a key represents enlightenment or gaining understanding. It can also predict an upcoming move of domicile • Dreaming of finding a key symbolizes a positive solution to a current problem • Dreaming about keys can mean a marriage is coming • Dreaming that you are responsible for a set of keys indicates a new position of authority.

Shut the Door!
Finding a key can sometimes mean a robbery; it could be a reminder to increase security measures • Dropping your keys is a bad luck omen • Worst still, breaking a key means an opportunity will be lost • Losing keys, the worst omen of all, indicates something unpleasant is about to happen, including being disappointed by a friend. In extreme cases, it can be a harbinger of disaster or death.

Harnessing Key Power
Hang a key on the interior wall above your doorway to protect the household, specifically to guard against losing the home • Wear a key as an amulet to remove obstacles, open doors to opportunity and protect you whilst travelling • Wear three keys together to unlock the doors to health, wealth and love • Place a large key under a sleeping child’s pillow to ward off evil spirits and nightmares (old European tradition) • Touch a key for comfort and to keep you safe, especially when entering a dangerous situation • Jangle your keys to repel negativity or evil. But don’t do it on a Wednesday; it will drive you mad! • When lost, throw your keys over your left shoulder; the longest key will point in the right direction • Wear a key necklace when searching for a new job; it will unlock new opportunities • Give a symbolic or decorative key as a housewarming or house blessing gift.silver-key-necklaceWhatever you do, don’t leave an extra house key outside (e.g. under a rock, above the door)! It’s the first place thieves will look. And don’t ever trust those magnetic boxes for storing car keys under the vehicle – they can fall or be knocked off easily.

“A very little key will open a very heavy door.” – Charles Dickens



I have to admit, this month’s prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up was a bit perplexing. What, after all, could I do with a cue like Case?

I’ve got vintage and antiques on the brain lately, so much so that this blog’s theme for September is “Vintage Memories”. At the beginning of the month, I spent a leisurely afternoon at a country antiques market housed in a century-old barn. “The girls” and I used to go there fairly regularly, but those shopping excursions eventually stopped, and I hadn’t visited the place for about twenty years. So the act of returning to that barn – familiar yet new again – brought back very fond memories. For a couple of hours that day, I had a good browsle (that’s a browse + ramble). Or did I enjoy a good brummage (browse + rummage)? I went there with a particular couple of items in mind, and I happily scored good deals on a few small pieces. They’ll soon, no doubt, make their way into an upcoming post or two.

With vintage on my mind, and pondering the case for Case, I eventually realized that I do have something for this photo challenge!

Over the years I’ve gathered a modest collection of needle cases.

Aha! You were wondering where I was going with all this, weren’t you?! Here are several types of needle case – also known as an étui – along with other sewing implements I’ve gathered over the years.

antique-sewing-implementsClockwise from bottom: This dainty sterling silver Art Nouveau needle case belonged to my grandmother and bears her monogram; it came with a few old needles and a pin with a tiny grey pearlized head (topmost in case) • Although not technically a case, this pewter magnetic needle holder is sculpted in the shape of a lady mouse with sewing needle and spool of thread; I’ve used it for nigh on 30 years • A velvet strawberry pincushion holds antique glass-topped stick pins • These silvery embroidery scissors are embellished with leaves and the Tudor rose • The thimble is also an antique and came to me along with the needle case.

needle-cases-pincushionClockwise from top left: This roomy needle tube, made in France of turned boxwood, was a gift from my husband after I’d complained I had no container large enough to hold my hefty darning and leatherwork needles • The classic tomato pincushion comes with an emery-filled strawberry to keep needles sharp. It holds a tiny stork scissors lapel pin • This small wooden needle case came unfinished; I gave it a few coats of beeswax polish and use it to hold cross-stitch needles • Another lapel pin, this time in the shape of a sewing bird • Ever-popular gold-plated stork scissors have been a delightful tool for many a sewing project.

medieval-sewing-toolsClockwise from top right: This handmade 4.5” needle case of spalted maple with stopper on a leather thong is a rustic repository for forged iron and bone needles, part of my collection of Dark Ages and medieval living history ‘artifacts’. (Check out the wonderful Jelling Dragon for period-accurate Celtic and Viking supplies.) • Waxed linen thread for leatherwork • Forged iron snips with leather case, also from Jelling Dragon.

I have more pincushions, too, which I’ll share some day in another post. Since many of the bloggers I know are needle and fabric artists, I would love to see your collection of sewing implements!

Cupolas, Towers and Turrets, Oh My!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!

There’s something so romantic about a lonely bell tower or rose windows of leaded glass. Or a Victorian mansion with a witch’s hat turret. Dreams of copper-clad cupolas and gazebos graced with gingerbread really get me going!

I love visiting old buildings, researching their histories and documenting them in photographs. The ones I’m interested in must be “of a certain age” (around a century or more), possess some notable architectural features or style, and have a story to tell of the area’s history and culture. And if they come with a local legend or ghost story, so much the better! I guess you could call me a veritable Collector of Curious Constructions.

Over the years, I’ve encountered quite a few with fairytale towers and turrets. Here are just some of them, with a bit of history thrown in:

old-house-with-turretJames G. Ramsey House • 49 McKenzie Avenue, Toronto, ON
Built as a grand private residence in 1896, this house is situated in Toronto near the site of the former Castle Frank, summer home of Upper Canada’s first lieutenant-governor, John Graves Simcoe. I haven’t been able to find any information about Ramsey, unfortunately. However, with its odd circular balcony and witch-hat turret, his mansion certainly makes the perfect Hallowe’en house!

credit-valley-railway-station-streetsvilleCredit Valley Railway Station • 78 William Street, Streetsville, ON
Around the time that I was planning this post, I stumbled across this peculiar building purely by accident, when I was forced to take a detour to work! Built circa 1879, the station was painted white instead of the usual “railroad red” typical of early stations. The corner turret provided a clear view of the tracks and served as the telegraph operator’s office. The station was constructed near the end of the railroad heyday and soon became obsolete; it was moved by horse-drawn cart to its current location in 1914. It is now used by the Victorian Order of Nurses.

blue-house-with-turret-brampton234 Main Street North, Brampton, ON
This Queen Anne residence, circa 1882, features fish scale shingles (common in historic Brampton houses), the original front door, ornate iron weather vane, and a polygon corner turret.

house-with-corner-turret-packham-bramptonGeorge W. Packham House • 27 Wellington Street East, Brampton, ON
Packham was the owner of Brampton Brick, a company still in existence, and this Queen Anne house was built for him in 1892 using materials from the brickworks. Whoever stays in the fairytale corner turret bedroom is fortunate, indeed! It features fish scale shingles, a dormer window with pierced wood decoration, bracketed cornices and a flying goose weather vane.

old-post-office-cambridgeGalt Post Office • 33 Water Street North, Cambridge, ON
Overlooking the Grand River, the former Galt Post Office (built 1885) was designed by Thomas Fuller, architect of Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings and many other public buildings, including 80 post offices. Their construction was part of a national program to establish a firm federal presence with prominent edifices in smaller communities across the country. Now a National Historic Site, the old post office is in the High Gothic style with Romanesque and Second Empire features. Local legend (likely concocted by an Irish pub that once inhabited the building) has it that the postmaster conducted an illicit love affair with an employee but broke it off to save his marriage. The love story ended in tragedy when, a few days later, the young lady’s lifeless body was found hanging from the rafters of the clock tower. I visited the pub once and felt odd sensations when I stood at the base of the tower steps, and in the creepy basement.

toronto-necropolis-chapel-bell-towerToronto Necropolis Chapel • 200 Winchester Street, Toronto, ON
Opened in 1850 to replace a smaller Potter’s Field (a.k.a. ‘Strangers’ Burying Ground’), the Necropolis cemetery is the resting place of over 50,000 souls, including many prominent figures such as William Lyon McKenzie (Toronto’s first mayor and leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion), George Brown (a Father of Confederation and founder of what is now the Globe and Mail), Thornton Blackburn (former slave who made his way to Canada via the “Underground Railroad” and established Toronto’s first cab company), Roy Brown (WWI RAF officer credited with shooting down the “Red Baron”) and Ned Hanlan (world champion oarsman). The adjacent chapel, with its Gothic Revival arches, stained glass and spired bell tower, was built in 1872. Ontario’s first crematorium was added to the site in 1933.

carnegie-library-old-fire-hall-bramptonOld Fire Hall • 2 Chapel Street, Brampton, ON
This Romanesque structure is Brampton’s oldest municipal building. It started life in 1854 as the market and town hall and became the fire hall when the 40-foot bell tower was added two decades later. The tower had a secondary purpose: the fire hoses were hung from it to dry. To the left of the fire hall is the Carnegie Library, a rare Beaux Arts building erected in 1906. The library is one of 156 Canadian libraries funded by Scottish steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Only ninety of these structures still exist.

house-wtih-castle-tower-mcintosh-castle-kingstonMcIntosh Castle • 14 Sydenham Street, Kingston, ON
Kingston is chock-a-block full of fascinating architecture. Nestled in a quiet downtown neighbourhood is McIntosh Castle, a Gothic Revival villa built starting in 1849 for Donald McIntosh, a ship owner. A local story says that McIntosh promised his family a castle with a lake view to induce them to move to Canada from Scotland. Sadly, the family never got to live there; McIntosh ran out of money and sold the house in 1850. The villa was completed by successive owners. Another rather macabre legend says that, in later years, the crenellated tower containing a widow’s walk was added so that the lady of the house could sit in comfort with her tea and watch hangings at the gallows of the courthouse next door!

boldt-castle-thousand-islandsBoldt Castle • Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY
Located in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River, Boldt Castle (above) was built in the Châteauesque style in 1900 by millionaire George C. Boldt (proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City) as a present for his wife, Louise. The 6-storey, 120-room castle was still under construction in 1904 when Louise died suddenly. Heartbroken and inconsolable, Boldt halted construction and never returned to the island, leaving the buildings to the elements for over 70 years. The castle and other structures, including the Power House (below, left) and Alster Tower (below, right) were acquired by the Bridge Authority in the 1970s, restored and opened to the public. We viewed these fanciful buildings from our tour boat on the river; the island is a point of entry from Canada to the United States, so a passport is required to visit!boldt-castle-power-house-alster-tower

Acorn Magick

“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” – 14th century proverb

Oak & Acorn Lore
Acorns are the fruit of the oak tree, but did you know that each one contains just a single seed, and, when it germinates, its taproot anchors the tree for the rest of its life? That an immense tree which can endure for hundreds of years grows from something so tiny is impressive, which may be why oaks and acorns have been revered for millennia and become so symbolic.

In ancient Greek mythology, the oak was Zeus’ sacred tree, and the Roman goddess Diana is often depicted wearing a garland of acorns. Norse legend has Thor sheltering from a thunderstorm in the lee of a towering oak. (An oak’s ability to attract and withstand lightning strikes has come to represent perseverance through adversity.) To the Celts, the oak was a storehouse of wisdom and strength. Indeed, the genus’ Latin name, Quercus, is thought to derive from the Celtic word meaning ‘fine tree’.

Oakleaf Manor, a faerie house topped with oak leaves and an acorn finial.

The Norse and Celts believed acorns were powerful little packages of knowledge, fertility and immortality. Ancient seers and druids (the word druid may stem from duir, meaning ‘oak’ and/or ‘door’ – a gateway between worlds) would chew acorns before making a prophesy to enhance their ability to see the future. (Because they can contain bitter, toxic tannins, raw, unprocessed acorns should never be consumed.) Many civilizations used the acorn as an emblem of patience and tenacity, growth, endurance and power.

A 17th century “cure” for drunkenness was to administer the juice extracted from acorns; the potion was supposed to give perpetual imbibers the fortitude to stop drinking.

The Japanese believe that acorns are very good luck, and for centuries the nuts have been used by many cultures as amulets of protection. English soldiers during the Norman Conquest, for example, were supposed to have carried dried acorns as protection in battle.

Green acorns are particularly lucky, so brimming are they with youthfulness and raw potential.

“Every majestic oak tree was once a nut who stood its ground.” – Anon.

Preparing Acorns
This was a banner summer for our oaks to shed lots of acorns, and I managed to gather a handful of green ones before the squirrels got them! Even though they looked intact, with no telltale holes, I wanted to make sure there were no hitchhikers inside (i.e. insect larvae, which, if you don’t do something about them, will turn a nice collection of acorns into a bagful of maggots). I also wanted to ensure they were completely dry, so I baked them for several hours in a low temperature oven.

To do this, spread the acorns in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for two to three hours at 200° to 250°F with the oven door slightly ajar to allow the moisture to evaporate. Turn occasionally and check to make sure they don’t scorch. Green acorns will turn brown in the process, but most of the caps should stay on. (If they do separate, you can always glue them back together.) Allow to cool before using.

Dried acorns can be ground to a powder in a sturdy mortar and pestle.

Harnessing Acorn Power
• Following Scandinavian tradition (after the Thor legend), place an acorn on a windowsill to protect the house from lightning strikes. (This is why window blind pulls are often acorn-shaped.)
• Banish loneliness by carrying an acorn in your pocket.
• If you’re female, carry an acorn on your person to stay young. (British tradition)
• Wear acorn-shaped jewellery.
• Gather acorns during a full moon or at midnight to attract faeries, who like to wear acorn caps as hats. This will bring enchantment and good luck throughout the month.
• To receive money in the near future, plant an acorn on a moonless night.
• Carry a vial of powdered acorn for protection.
• Make a harvest wreath and decorate with acorns, leaves and other symbols of plenty such as ears of corn or wheat sheaves.
• Scatter acorns and oak leaves down the centre of your autumn feasting table.

“May your luck grow as great as the mighty oak tree!” – gillyflower

• • • • • • • )O( • • • • • • •

This is the first in a new series of articles in which we’ll examine everyday objects with extraordinary properties to enhance your magickal life. Look for them in the Magick section of this blog, along with these earlier posts:

Steeped in Superstition: tea lore and leaf reading
Luck in a Bottle: one of many types of bottle magick
Five-pointed Protection: DIY pentagrams
Charms of the Enchanted Wood: more bottle magick
When Faeries Are Near: encounters with the Wee Folk

When Faeries Are Near

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Perhaps you’ve lost a favourite earring – and find it somewhere unexpected, or you spy an orb of light from the corner of your eye. You might just be in the presence – usually a benevolent, playful one – of a Faerie. Here are some signs that you’ve been visited by one of the Wee Folk:

If you encounter a complete ring of toadstools, you’ve discovered the place where faeries danced the night before. You also may have stumbled upon a portal from their realm to ours, so beware! You may be whisked away to the Land of the Fae for many years should you enter the circle!

The scent of violets in the spring, sweetgrass in summer, autumn apples or petrichor any time of year is the beguiling aroma of faerie perfume. (What’s petrichor? you ask. Some people says it’s the distinctive smell of raindrops hitting dry earth, but we know better.)

A softly-chiming bell announces the presence of the Wee Folk. That’s why I like to wear one of those chiming necklaces to call them to me; it is also thought that gently ringing a bell over a spring or pond will attract them. Take care, however, for a loud peal or gong will scare the magickal ones away!

An eddy of blowing leaves or a sudden breeze that lifts the hair from the back of your neck is caused by the fluttering of faerie wings. An unexplained, gentle whirlwind may just be a sign that the faerie nearby likes your company.

Faeries love music and dancing (see above). Have you ever heard faint, ethereal music emanating from a source that you just can’t track down? That’s the faerie Hit Parade!

If a crow or raven follows you, you have an escort sent by the faeries. But lo! Should the bird call thrice, it is a harbinger of certain death!

Faeries are irresistibly attracted to small, shiny objects, and they will steal them if they can. We once had a beautiful antique crackled blue glass marble that we left deep in the forest for the Fae to use as a gazing ball. The next morning, it was gone! If you tend to “lose” your keys, jewellery or spare change, you’re not becoming forgetful – the faeries have spirited them away. Be kind to them, and they will (almost) always bring your lost treasures back.

When you encounter a tree with an “eye”, which appears at first glance to be a hollowed-out knot, it is a type of magickal security camera. In other words, the Wee Folk are watching you.

Do you sometimes see what you think are fireflies in June? Those twinkling luminescent orbs over the meadow or amongst the trees aren’t insects at all; they are actually tiny, portable faerie lanterns! Similarly, the little folk use pearly white Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora, shown), also known as ghost pipes, to light their way through the darkest woods.

When plants sprout and flowers bloom in strange places (e.g. from the asphalt of a parking lot, between cracks in a wall), you’ll know that they were sown there by a sprinkling of faerie dust. The fact that a tree can flourish from the side of a sheer cliff, or a mushroom appears or a flower blooms when there was no plant there hours before is proof of High Magick, indeed!

There are many species of faerie which vary in size and appearance. The smallest ones like to use dragonflies and bumblebees or even small wrens or sparrows as transport. A Faerie Queene will always use a hummingbird as her jewel-studded Royal Coach.

Faeries also love a good feast (and they’ll raid your larder if you’re not careful). But that’s a story for another day!


The August prompt for Wild Daffodil’s Photographic Monthly Meet-Up is Flake. At our old wooden cottage, more than a century old, there are examples of weathered, peeling paint galore. (Seems like we just finish painting the house, and it’s time to start again!) These photos are my flaky interpretations.

This north-facing door bears the brunt of winter storms off the lake – and never seems to hold its paint!

The weathered old shed holds the paraphernalia of summer: swim toys, gardening tools and these peeling paddles and oars.

In the dictionary next to “shabby chic” is a picture of this dresser. My mother is always after me to refinish its flaking pale cream paint, but I like it just the way it is.

Original hardware that’s stood the test of time.

A Muskoka chair past its glory days subsides slowly on the shore.

Oil Lamps and Old Lace

In a favourite chair on a shady deck under the tall pines, I’ve been devouring Bellewether (Simon & Schuster, 2018), the latest novel by Susanna Kearsley.

Set in the present and in 1759 during the Seven Years’ War, the story features a Colonial house on the tidal shores of Long Island. In the present day, the centuries-old house is being turned into a museum honouring one of its owners, a Revolutionary war hero. As she researches the house’s history and acquires artifacts for the museum, curator Charley learns of the local legend of a daughter and her forbidden love, a captured French officer billeting with the family. The 18th century love story is told with plenty of historical detail and atmosphere. I can almost touch the wind-bent reeds and smell the salt-whipped air as I imagine two-masted brigs sailing down the Sound. Privateering and shipwrecks, tobacco and West Indian trade, draft-dodging and slavery all make an appearance, in Kearsley’s concise style. And, as always, suspense and the paranormal are handled perfectly: Charley’s encounters with the house’s resident ghost and a mysterious light in the woods had me shivering deliciously.

An aside: As I wrote this article, long past midnight after everyone else had retired to bed, the “ghost ship” once again slipped eerily past our island. The Wenonah II, a ship modelled after the Victorian-era steamers which once plied the lakes, was returning to the town wharf carrying only a skeleton crew. With no passengers aboard, the large vessel sailed like a shadow, with a minimum of lights sketching its outline. She made barely a sound as she passed and was visible for just a few moments before disappearing through the Narrows into the bay. How fitting as I write about a tragic tale of lost love, old houses, ships and ghosts!

The bookmark I made for myself – a lover of antique keys – uses ivory crochet lace and moss-green grosgrain ribbon, embellished with a key charm.

Our 107-year-old cottage was made for reading. There are Muskoka chairs (also known as Adirondacks) placed at the most scenic points of the island, perfect for a relaxing afternoon read. In the evenings, too, with no television, radio or other distractions, we read. My mother, siblings and spouses spend our holiday together, and a family that stays together reads together. And page-turners need bookmarkers to hold their places whilst lemonade or cups of tea and a biscuit or two are fetched. So, for the female bookworms amongst us, I made some vintage-looking bookmarks of lace and ribbon, finishing each with a small charm to match the recipient’s personality or interest. They’re easy to make and can be hand- or machine-stitched.

This ivory cotton crochet lace bookmark with pale blue grosgrain ribbon and silver-plated heart charm is for my mother.

To make these bookmarks, choose 1” to 2” wide lace that has holes running down the centre, big enough to accommodate the ribbon you want to use. Gauge the length you’ll need from the book(s) you’ll be reading (I used a paperback). Double that length, cut the lace and fold in half, lining up the holes. (The folded end will be the top of the bookmark.) Pin if necessary, and stitch up both long sides. Using a darning needle, thread ribbon (I used 1/8” polyester satin and 1/4” grosgrain) through the holes up one side and down the other, making sure there’s a loop of ribbon at the top end to attach a charm. Trim the ribbon, keeping half an inch of excess. (Optional: singe the ribbon ends carefully with a flame to prevent fraying.) At the bottom end of the bookmark, turn ribbon and lace ends to the inside about 1/4”, and stitch closed, making sure the catch the hem and ends of the ribbon to keep them in place.

Instead of threading narrow ribbon through the holes, you could sandwich a wider piece of ribbon between the layers of lace so that the colour peeps through.

To finish the bookmark, add a lightweight metal charm using one or two jump rings through the ribbon loop at the top (or through holes in the lace itself, if not using ribbon). In addition to the types of charms shown here, you could use an initial, a faux birthstone or a tassel.

These two white cotton eyelet bookmarks were made for nature lovers. I chose an owl charm for my sister and peridot-green satin ribbon to match her August birthstone. The butterfly bookmark with apricot ribbon went to my sister-in-law.