Healing Stitch Meditations
In Search of Nirvana?
By Liz Kettle
My transition from speed stitching to slow stitching wasn’t as much a single conscious decision as it was a series of tiny intuitive hits that pushed me toward what has become my Stitch Meditations.
It all started just after my first book, Fabric Embellishing: the Basics and Beyond was released in 2009. I was a super busy girl! I was still homeschooling two of my 3 sons, babysitting my grandson a couple days a week, running a support group, teaching textile art classes and writing articles for magazines. I thought that if I just worked harder I could do it all!
In the end, my body called a halt to the madness! I was struggling with the buildup of many years of stress and a missed diagnosis that left me with numerous autoimmune disorders and a brain that was barely functioning. My gastroenterologist basically told me I had to totally change my way of living or I would just keep getting sicker…which really meant dead. The stress had to go!
“My little voice
gets a bit of an
I really wasn’t sure how to live a calmer, more centered life but fortunately, I had a few examples close at hand to get me started. The first challenge for me was to sit quietly without doing anything for 15 minutes every morning. Easy peasy, right? Oh man was that a challenge! I could barely sit still for 3 minutes at the start. There was going to be no moss growing on this rock!
About the same time the little voice of intuition said “Hey, why don’t you add some hand stitching to that fabric you mono-printed?” I don’t always listen to the voices in my head but this one seemed benign and I had started my love of stitch in the world of embroidery so that is what I did. Shortly after that I rediscovered a book I had on my shelves by Constance Howard. Her embroidery books are rather dull to flip through compared to modern books because they are mostly black and white but the ideas inside are revolutionary! Constance changed the way I approached all my hand stitching (and ultimately my machine stitching as well). No longer was perfection necessary or even desired. I also found what so many stitchers have known since the beginning of time…stitching is relaxing. Especially when you throw out all the rules!
Over the years I also tried meditation techniques to reduce stress and heal my body. I got much better at sitting still and could even manage 20 to 30 minutes. I found some guided meditations that helped with keeping my mind from straying to the to-do list but I wasn’t very good at mediating for more than a few days in a row before I slipped back to my old habits.
Fortunately, that little voice gave me another nudge. “Hey, you! Uh…you know there is such a thing as active meditation don’t ya? Hel–lo! How about stitching while you meditate you big dummy!” My little voice gets a bit of an attitude sometimes.
Anyway, I realized a great idea when I heard it and my daily stitch meditations were born.
I knew my ‘love to control it’ self would quickly take over this project so I created a few rules for my stitch mediations so they didn’t become big projects.
- I could spend no more than 3 or 4 minutes gathering supplies. My goal is to pick the first things that look interesting even if they don’t go together.
- I don’t listen to music, sit in front of the computer or any other screen, and I try to find a quiet place that has no other human occupants.
- I could stitch as long as I wanted with the goal of keeping my mind focused on each stitch as it emerged and not the rest of my world.
- No stitch is taken out once placed. Each stitch is perfection.
- Make one decision at a time.
- Once I stop the piece is finished.
I have a drawer in my studio and a basket at home and to take on my travels full of bits of fabric scraps, flannel, canvas and other sorts of bases. Stitch basics such as needles, thread and scissors are close at hand so I have no excuse handy.
I am still working on the ‘daily’ part of my daily stitch meditations. I still let myself get distracted by the busyness of life. However, I have reached the stage where not only do I miss the process but my body starts telling me ‘Hey, go stitch something! We need to relax!”
Try it yourself! It is easy and so worth it. Before you know it stitch nirvana will be yours too.
About Liz Kettle
Liz Kettle is a textile and mixed-media artist who loves sewing and creating with fabric and thread. Sharing sewing joy and thread addiction with others makes her deliriously happy. Liz is co-author of two best selling books: Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond and Threads: The Basics and Beyond. Share Liz’s stitch journey on her website and blog at www.TextileEvolution.comA
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