I absolutely believe in the power of slowing yourself down, through most any way possible. For me, one of the best, most beautiful and also practical ways is by creating and making.
I use craft to meditate. And I know I’m not the only one.
What I mean by this is, that when I dedicate and focus to sitting and making or creating something – arts or crafts, you may call it – I find that I naturally slow down. The rate of my breathing slow, I feel a steadier deeper breathe. My mind stops chattering so much, and quietens to be with the project in my hands. My whole body is generally / mostly, by the very nature of craft, sitting down and still or calm (though of course, not always).
For me there’s some crafts that slow me more than others, some that really work their magic immediately. Some crafts or arts require a bit more skill, or technical know-how to move past before you can really fall into the mediation of the making. Knitting or crochet, to begin with, can be tedious and sometimes fraught with tension at learning the stitches, or making mistakes – of course, once you’re skilled then the slow becomes part of the process with these techniques. Loom weaving is a little easier to learn, to pick up, to make mistakes in – while you do need to know the technique, I find that I (and the students I teach) slip into a softer more contemplative mood very quickly.
Through my years of crafting, I’ve found that hand stitching is perhaps one of the best and easiest to pick up. Simple stitches, running stitch – in/out/in/out – in a straight line across the cloth. While I have been stitching my whole life, I’ve seen others slip into slow stitching easily. Slow Stitching, for me at any rate, is the sort that doesn’t require an outcome, or perfection of seam lines, or to be holding fabric together. It’s a decorative stitch, a simple pattern running along the cloth. Drawing with thread perhaps.
The tangent lines of a thought process working itself out with needle and thread on fabric.
Sashiko* and Kantha* -style stitches are most closest to what I’m talking about. And while Sashiko particularly, coming from Japanese culture, can be tied down with needing to have structure, rhythm and perfection to your stitches and patterns, in it’s simplest form it can be easy. I say ‘style’, as I work to my own methods, and don’t necessarily follow the stitches or rules of either Sashiko or Kantha. I best define it as Slow Stitching.
I’d love you take a journey with me, even if you declare loudly that you can’t sew. Would you allow me to hold your hand and together we’ll slow our days, steady our breathing and in the process create a beautiful, mindful work of art. The quality and perfection of your stitches doesn’t matter – it doesn’t matter if your lines are straight or wonky (mine are always wonky), or if the stitch distance is even or random. To use this process as mediation, as a slowing to your everyday regular life – you need to stop looking at the end result, and start sitting with the joy of the process, and the quiet of the making.
Over the next few days I’m going to share a project that I’m making, and I do hope you can join me too. Those of you who have never sewn before, I’d love to have you join. I’m starting a # on Instagram – #thecraftofslow – and I hope we’ll build a space for people to connect, share, support and all learn to slow through our stitches (be they knit, weave, crochet, sew or more…..). This will be a little like a knit-along… let’s call it a slow-craft-along!
This here, is a piece indigo dyed linen, with simple shibori marks upon it. And stitches slowly slowly building up upon it. I’m going to turn it into a cushion for our couch, when I’m finished, but while I make it – I’m sitting and slowing, I’m breathing deeper… and you know what – my family (those crazy noisy people of mine) are running around me while stitch, life is living. I’ll pick it up, and put it down. And while I have the needle running through the fabric I’ll be breathing. and slowing.
This is my form of meditation.
*I’ll talk more about Kantha and Sashiko soon, as well as share some of my favourite stitch books.