Fortune Teller

If you’re around my age and went to school in the US, you probably remember paper fortune tellers, aka cootie catchers, from around middle school. We loved those things. In case you’re not familiar, here’s a how-to on folding them. You write or shade colors on the top side, and numbers on the inside. Typically, this is done with two people, one of whom made the fortune teller and wrote the messages, and the other who’s having her fortune told. (This was mostly a girl thing in my school, so I’ll be referring to everyone with she/her pronouns.) The one having her fortune told picks a color, and the owner of the fortune teller opens it alternately up/down and left/right as she spells out the color. When she’s done, the other looks inside and picks one of the visible numbers, which is then counted out in the same way. The querent picks another number, and that flap is opened and the fortune or message read off. Usually at my school it was more messages and good wishes than fortunes.

So I was looking for something to do with the first batch of test triangles, and thought what the hell, fortune tellers are all triangles and squares, I’m going to try that. I figured out most of this on the fly, and took as many pictures as I could manage as I went, but this post will probably be a bit confusing. Sorry. After I’ve had a chance to make more of them, I’m going to try to work up a pattern, which will hopefully make more sense. In the mean time, if you’re having trouble visualizing what I’m doing, you might want to stop and make a paper one (all you need is a square of paper) to refer to.

You need 24 triangles to make this. You can do this with crocheted or knitted squares as well, in which case, use 12 and just omit the bit where you stitch triangles together. The seams are all very directional, in order to get everything to bend the right way.

For the top, you need 8 triangles to make 4 squares, and some way of designating them as different colors. For preference, actually make them out of different colors of yarn. I was working with what I had, so I grabbed some easter-egg-dyed silk (did you know you can actually dye protein fiber with easter egg dye? You can; maybe I’ll do a post after Easter), and needle felted it on in little spirals. First, though, I paired off eight triangles, stacked each pair congruently, and whip-stitched the long edges together:

The seam on each should be raised in a ridge. That’s the top.

Then I felted on the spirals. Needle-felting silk is a PITA, but it was what I had.

I used red, blue, yellow, and green. They’re all pastels, because that’s what you get with easter egg dye. What these are are silk hankies that have been drafted out into faux top. (Er. Yet another post for another day. But you can either spin from this or weave/knit/crochet with is as is.)

If I’d had four or five colors of yarn, I’d have just paired like colors to make solid-colored squares.

Now, if you remember, all the triangles have a knot on one sharp point, where the weaving began. I tried to put all of those in the same places, so on the top, all of them went to the outside. Inside the fortune teller, all of them gathered at the center.

So. Now I have four squares, each assigned a color. I set those aside.

I needed numbers for the inside, so I knotted pips, 1-8, onto eight triangles. Rather sloppily.

With a paper fortune teller, you have flaps inside the thing that you flip up to read the messages. That doesn’t work here, so the plan was to make each numbered triangle a little pocket that fortunes could be tucked inside and swapped out. So, each of those triangles with pips was paired with a plain one, and whip-stitched all around the edges, leaving part of one short edge open (the one without the knot, because I wanted the knots at the bottom and the openings at the top.

These openings turned out to be really hard to photograph. I tried several angles, and it’s still hard to see. Here’s the best, with yarn needles holding the slits open.

(The colors on these are crap. Sorry. The pips are sort of cream colored, not yellow or orange. I need to take a class or something.)

That, obviously, has already had the next step done.

Now it starts getting confusing. When I do one for the pattern, I seriously need to do the outside of the bottom in black or grey and the inside in colors, just so this is visible.

These squares need to have indented seams, so I paired them with the pips inside, and, again, whip-stitched the long edge.

You can sort of see the opening there.

So then I had four things that looked like this:

And it was time to sew them together.

Where the center lines of the squares needed seams that folded out, the joining between squares needed to fold in, so each square was set against the next, with the pips out, and stitched along the edge, eventually forming one big square.

And then attaching the top pieces to the bottom. Each top piece was placed back-to-back with one of the inside squares, and stitched along the two edges, being careful not to close up the pocket slits.

Hey, look, you can see those openings!

There was some extra stitching and knotting to make sure all the vertices were tidy, especially that bottom point, and there it was!

Just for fun, I thought I’d invent a small divinatory system, based on textile arts, four fibers and four tools.

  • Wool — the mundane, the every day, physical needs of the body; positive in practical situations, in purely creative ones a reminder to plan

  • Silk — Transformation, rebirth, recreation, new meaning, reexamining; take it apart and start over, or at least rethink where it’s going

  • Cotton — growth, stretching, reaching; let your creativity run wild, but don’t start too many new things

  • Hemp — vision, confusion, relaxation, stagnation; take a break and recharge, but don’t get stuck

  • Spindle — Begin at the beginning; fundamentals are important, don’t skip steps

  • Loom — The loom is empty, this is the beginning of a new project; decisions, choices, opportunities, possibilities (may be swapped for knitting needles or a crochet hook)

  • Shuttle — movement, work, progress, doing the job

  • Needle — putting the pieces together, finishing, fixing mend and make do

Cut up a couple of index cards, write the things on them, fold them in half, tuck them in the pockets. TA-DA!

I think that one said WOOL. Unfortunately, the marker I picked up turned out to be a disappearing ink fabric marker, and it was already fading. Oops.

I also think that random quotes, silly messages, and Delphic maxims would be good for these. Or even fortune cookie slips. Whatever.

For next time: This is really floppy, and I need to find some way to stiffen the pieces. The card stock in the pockets helped some, but not enough. Fusible interfacing or something, I don't know.