If you haven't yet heard about slow stitching, then you're about to. After spending the past couple of years building up a quiet following, slow stitching is set to go mainstream.
What is slow stitching? Modeled after the slow food movement, slow stitching encourages sewers to forget about perfection and forget about the finished article. Instead, it nurtures the idea of enjoying the process of stitching for stitching's sake.
Slow stitching is a new art form built on old traditions. The movement was originally spearheaded by Mark Lipinksi, one of the quilting industry's most well-known figures.
Slow stitching is a craft where modern creativity meets ancient practices; a craft that's about the journey, not the destination. Slow stitching isn't about mending or making garments from a pattern. Neither is it about working towards a goal or a timeframe.
Slow stitching is about using the needle and thread in the same way you'd use a paintbrush. It's about creating art, about enjoying the process rather than worrying about the product.
Basically, slow stitching is about taking a step back from the busy, chaotic world we live in. It's about appreciating the moment, about taking a few deep breaths and relaxing. In other words, it's about mindfulness.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you'll have heard about mindfulness. Without getting too technical about it, mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. It's about being 100% aware of where we are and what we're doing. It's about maintaining a full awareness of our feelings, our thoughts, and our environment without applying judgment to them.
When we feel ourselves drifting into a poison sea of what-ifs and if-onlys, mindfulness is there to snap us back into the here and now.
There are 101 ways to practice mindfulness. For some people, mindfulness is about sipping on a cup of herbal tea and meditating. For others, it's about taking a walk and appreciating nature. For yet others, it's about sewing.
If you count yourself among the last group, you're not alone. As more and more of us realize the benefits of creating for creating's sake, mindful stitching is becoming ever more popular.
Mindful stitching isn't about being perfect. If you haven't got meditation down to a fine art, it doesn't matter. Neither does it matter if your stitching isn't the best.
The focus of mindful stitching is on the intention and the joy of creating. What the final product looks like isn't relevant. If it's got raw edges, so be it. If a few of the stitches are wonky, it doesn't matter.
Mindful stitching is about letting your creative juices flow and just running with it. Mindful stitching lets you turn your thoughts to what you're feeling at the moment and express those feelings with your needle and thread.
Forget about ticking projects off your list or religiously following patterns. There's a time and a place for both of those things, but this isn't it.
One of the beauties about slow stitching is that it doesn't come with an instruction manual. Slow stitching isn't about following a set of rules and regulations. It's about tapping into your creative instinct and going with the flow.
Ultimately, there isn't a set way to 'do' slow stitching. Once you understand the concept, you're good to go. That, essentially, is its joy. That, and a few things like ...
If you're a keen crafter, you'll know that sewing and quilting supplies don't come for free. The cost of fabric can quickly add up, especially if you're buying high-quality goods.
For some people, the exorbitant expense of new fabric makes quilting for fun a no-go. Slow stitching changes that by getting back to the roots of quilting. It's not about buying brand new fabric. It's about making use of what you already have. If you can sew with it, you can use it.
When you make a quilt the usual way, you need to plan meticulously. You're working towards a defined outcome and more often than not, you'll be using a particular motif or theme.
With slow stitching, there's none of that. If you want to narrow your focus, pick a motif by all means. But don't feel obliged. More often than not, your end product will come as a surprise to you as much as to anyone else. Maybe it's a collage, maybe it's a piece of embroidery... maybe it's a little bit of everything. What it is doesn't matter. It's how you got there that counts.
When you're creating something, you want it to be as perfect as possible. That's natural. But constantly judging your efforts and holding yourself up to a high standard isn't always healthy.
Slow stitching lets you put your inner critic on mute. You're not working towards a particular end goal. Whatever you end up with doesn't matter. Providing you enjoy the process of creating, you've achieved what you set out to do.
Sewing classes can be great fun. But boy, can they be time-consuming. Gathering up all your material before a class, packing them away after... it's tedious stuff.
Slow stitching doesn't involve anything like the same amount of effort. Neither does it require masses of supplies - providing you have something to sew with and something to sew on, you're good to go, wherever and whenever.
Slow stitching is an organic process. There are no hard and fast rules about what you need or what you should do. However, if you're drawing a complete blank about how to start, here are a few pointers.
Slow stitching doesn't require a trip to the fabric store before you start. For a basic project, all you'll need is some foundation fabric like quilt batting or cotton muslin, along with a few scraps of fabric from your stockpile. If your stockpile is looking bare, you might want to invest in some of the following key pieces:
Embroidery Thread - Slow stitching might be about throwing convention to the wind, but you'll still need the basics like thread.
With slow stitching, there are no hard and fast rules about which threads to use for what. That said, it's a good idea to get a few different colored skeins for variety.
Foundation Fabric - A pack of cotton quilt or muslin will give you all the foundation fabric you need to get started.
Fabric Scraps - If you don't already have some pieces of scrap fabric from past projects, the first port of call is your wardrobe. If you have any old clothes that have seen their better days, consider whether you could repurpose them for scrap material. Otherwise, take a look on Etsy or try your local fabric store for cheap fabric bundles.
Slow stitching can be done anywhere. That's one of its joys. But to make the most of the experience, it's worth taking some time out to pick the right kind of surroundings.
If the lighting is good, if you're comfortably set up, and if there are no distractions around, you'll find it easier to get into a meditative state of mind. Consider lighting some candles, playing some relaxing music, or even burning some essential oils.
None of this is essential, of course - providing you're comfortable enough to be able to focus on stitching, that's all that really matters.
Once you're comfortable and relaxed, it's time to start stitching. Slow stitching isn't about following a set pattern or defined set of rules. What you do and the order that you do it in is up to you.
That said, most people begin by cutting out their fabrics first to ensure they fit the backing material. Once that's done, you can start sewing. If you want to keep things basic, opt for a running or straight stitch. Otherwise, try more advanced techniques - it's really up to you.
As you're sewing, keep your mind focused on your stitches, not on what the end result will look like. This is the time to enjoy the process of creating, not to worry about how neat the finished article will look.
How and when you finish your project is up to you. Once you feel it's time to put away the sewing needle, you might want to consider adding some embellishments with ribbons, buttons, jewelry pieces, pins, or charms. None of this is essential- simply go with the flow and add just as much or just as little as you like.
Once you're done, sit back and appreciate your work of art.
Slow stitching might be based on traditional practices, but that doesn't mean you need to abandon the 21st century completely. When it comes to refreshing your skills or learning some new techniques, the internet is where it's at. Depending on what you're looking to learn, check out the following handy tutorials:
One of the joys of slow stitching is that you don't have to begin with any specific sort of project in mind. Neither are you confined to any particular medium. You could knit, crochet, embroider, quilt, or even combine them all together.
But if you've spent a lifetime working with set rules and towards specific goals, going into a task without any end in mind can be daunting.
If you need some inspiration to get started, consider some of these great projects, all of which give you a specific goal to work towards while still letting you concentrate on the joy of creation.
Hand Stitched Buttons - Buttons might be small, but their uses are extensive. Hand stitching buttons can add a special layer of personalization and bring a big hit of interest to whatever project you decide to use them on.
Lap Quilts - Quilts are the perfect medium for slow stitching. All you need are two layers of fabric to get you started. From there, you can add whatever embroidery and embellishment you like.
Kitchen Towels - A kitchen towel requires the bare minimum of materials to make. It's also the perfect medium to showcase your embroidery. Add embellishments or leave it plain: the choice is yours.
A Bag - Once you cut out your foundation fabric, you can go to town making a bag that lets your embroidery and fabrics shine. Keep it simple or add as many jewelry pieces, buttons, and charms as you dare to.
Mindful stitching workshops are a great place to meet up with like-minded folk, get inspired, and show off your projects. By exploring texture, stitches, and colors, you'll learn how sewing can be about more than simply making something. Slow stitching workshops educate you on the meditation of the slow of stitchwork, and on the importance of opening your mind and heart to the moment.
If you'd rather learn online, the following sites offer excellent workshops that explore the concept of slow stitching and teach you everything you need to know to get started.
As the interest in slow stitching has grown, so have the number of books on the subject. If you want to find out more about the joys of slow stitching, the following books come highly recommended.
Claire Wellesley-Smith’s beautiful book "Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art" is a great introduction to the art of slow stitching. The book is gorgeously illustrated with projects that Claire, a textile artist working in Yorkshire, England, has made with her own fair hands. It's a great guide that lets you connect with a new way of working using simple techniques based on age-old practices.
Lynn Krawczyk's "The Hand-Stitched Surface: Slow Stitching and Mixed-Media Techniques for Fabric and Paper" will teach you how to create amazingly intricate hand-stitched projects using various forms of mixed media. It'll instruct you on the importance of slowing down and enjoying your handiwork while exploring color, mixing threads, and learning unique ways to create hand-stitched patterns.