I love New Year’s Day! Like the first day of school, or buying a new, clean notebook, it’s a time of reflection and renewal, January 1 is another chance to get things right. It’s a clean slate dropped in our laps right smack in the middle of a cluttered, disorganized world.
This year, consider embracing The Slow Stitching Movement completely, not only reignite your passion for all things fiber and stitching, but to allow what you learn through the process of slow stitching to sweep across all of the areas of your life. Here are the 12 ways (…plus 1) I’m continuing to concentrate on a slow stitching 2015. I hope you’ll join me.
Without any agenda, I wake up each morning and, before I’ve even have my first of many cups of coffee for the day, I handwrite 3 longhand pages of ‘nothing’ on my paper. I call these my daily process pages. Without fail, writing your process pages can be one of the most important habits you can develop in the new year. My regular, daily “process pages”, or “morning pages” as author Julia Cameron calls them, and simply, “writing/journaling” a long-time tool of the 12-step programs, have the ability to change your life in a slow, yet permanent way — much like braces on teeth. If you are struggling with a lack of creativity in your life, writing process pages every morning can change that. If you find your personal relationships are suffering, writing diligently about it each morning can transform those relationships. Anxiety? Depression? Spirituality issues? Conflicts? Lack of motivation? Writing every morning, without an agenda, just free and loose thoughts from brain to hand to paper, can help you clarify the issues in your life and leave you free to incorporate wonderful and abundant creative inspiration into your psyche.
The world is a fascinating and groovy place and we are lucky to be here but, in order to appreciate all of the endless and limitless possibilities for inspiration in our creative lives, it is important to approach every day with a sense of childlike wonder. That’s why I force myself ( yes, force myself because it is often a pain in the butt) to snap at least 3 photographs of 3 different things that inspire me in some odd way. I came up with this idea from an Oprah gratitude journal show. Oprah fans were asked to write three simple things they were grateful for in a journal each night before they went to bed. It sounds pretty easy, but it isn’t. As you move through daily the actions of your life, you find yourself looking for the three things you are grateful for — everywhere. Because you’re afraid that you won’t have the 3 things you are grateful for to write in your journal that evening, you end up finding gratefulness in everything all day long. The same is true with snapping photographs that inspire you. If you commit to taking at least 3 photographs a day, in your home or your neighborhood, around your office or your sewing space, or while you are shopping, etc., soon you will begin to see creative inspiration EVERYWHERE and ALL OF THE TIME! Taking 3 simple photographs, not artistic photographs or a “styled image”, but just a picture of something you like – a color, a design, a shape or a texture (Quickly snap what attracts you. These aren’t going into the Louvre by the way, nor is this a course in creative photography). You will soon begin to see endless opportunities for creativity and inspiration around you everywhere you walk or drive. These 3-a-day, simple photographs, just using your smart phone or some cheapie digital, can change your creative life in profound ways. When you’re bored, uninspired, and feeling like the weight of the world on your shoulders is stopping you from manifesting your talent or moving forward, simply go back and look at all of these wonderful photographs that you had taken and allow those images to refuel your muse.
It is so important as we go through our days, and engage in our stitching, whether it be a fast project or a multilayered long-term project, that we remain present and conscious of what we’re doing. It’s not just about sewing a seam into fabric but it’s about the texture of the fabric, the feel of the needle going through the layers, the design, the movement. Being present means feeling the yarn and the canvas while you’re needlepointing and not just filling the holes. Presence is about the hand, the smell, the depth and the tones of the dyes in the wool you’re rug hooking with. Being present is precisely what slow stitching is about. It is simply being aware of your craft, your supplies, your tools and your process to erase the chaos and sounds of the world around you and focus only on your fiber art. Dude, I want to be clear that this is not a simple or fast task and, as I have mentioned before, this takes”practice”. It’s called a practice because we never get it right and we stitchers have to keep practicing to achieve a focus and intention while we engage in our art. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. Take baby steps. A few minutes here and a few minutes there, until you get the hang of it, then you will find your attention to your process grow. To start, maybe you only need to become conscious of being present – in tune with your creative process – as you stitch, knit, cross stitch, embroider, tat, crochet, quilt, etc. As you practice your slow and intentional stitching, your life, your attitude, your creativity, your health, your spirituality… all of it will benefit as a result.
Gratefulness and the ability to be grateful is a gift. Take advantage of it. When you sit down to your slow stitching, in whatever form or medium that may be, acknowledge and be grateful for the free time that is available for you to stitch. Be aware that you have been given the gift of time to pursue your stitching or knitting or needlepointing…whatever and don’t just take it for granted. While you are being slow and conscious in your stitching, recognize and be grateful for the process you are engaged in. While you are manipulating your yarn, or your thread, wool or fabric, be grateful for the materials and tools you are working with so you are able to manifest more creativity into your life and create beautiful, well crafted art for the world.
Make a point to never stop learning. Use this year to take a class in something you know nothing about: be it a creative kind of class such as glass blowing or yurt building, or a bookish class like calculus, women’s studies, or phlebotomy. Explore new ways and new techniques in your stitching, and then perfect them. Now, I’ve written pages here about my creepy need for perfection and how it stifles my creativity, so I am certainly not suggesting that your goal in exploration should be to reach some kind of perfect stitching nirvana. I am just asking you to push beyond the comfort circle in your stitching life, to learn all you can about new techniques and ways of doing things both within and out of your stitching. Embrace new ideas and design opportunities wherever they may show up, and continue to always deeply explore the roots of the stitching world you have come to love.
Commit to making new stitching friends this year and a renewed engagement within your stitching community. Make a point to support your local shops and your local artisans as a way to promote ethical shopping and buying. Establish your own Slow Stitching Salon so that you, and a few of your like-minded creative peers, can support each other in your shared creativity and to move you beyond what has been your stitching status quo. Along with others, dive into new depths of your inspired life. Learn about the stitching masters in your town, your city, or your state. Document and label your projects for future generations. Become a part of the bigger slow stitching picture, moving outside of your solitary creativity and sewing studio, dining room table, or knitting chair, and interact with humans, face-to-face, in engaged relationships (yes, that means turning off the damn computer, putting on some shoes and finding people).
Move beyond the same old ways that you’ve always stitched and created, and allow yourself to completely trust your unique creative urges. I’m going to be honest with you here – learning to design your own sweaters, paint your own needlepoint canvases, or draw your own applique templates is a really scary, almost overwhelming, idea to tackle when you begin. That said, just like priming a well for water, the more elbow grease you put into taking a crack at exploring the bounds of your creativity, the more inspired you will become. Breakthrough ideas, designs, and choices will just begin to come to you. Now, there is nothing wrong with working from other people’s patterns or ideas, but I’m asking you to try to streeeeeetch here and to consider drawing up your own patterns for your stitching. Start to choose and experiment with own color palette within your work. Give yourself limitless permission to trust your own creative urges and fantasies in 2015. Be willing to allow these small, baby-step risks to ultimately become great rewards for your creative self.
Look beyond the obvious choices around you. When you sit to stitch look beyond the project that you are stitching or the tools that you’re using. Use your focused and intentional slow stitching time to explore and elevate your creative being. Use the time, your quiet intentional stitching time, to deepen your relationship with the world around you by allowing yourself the freedom to meditate on your unearthliness, your creative hunches, and your life through your slow stitching process. Give yourself the gift of elevating the simple repetition of your needles to allow them heal and inspire your life and to clarify your place in the universe.
Through your focused practice of slow stitching you will learn to love and appreciate yourself and to trust wider swaths of your creative hunches. No longer will you be frightened to try, then master, new techniques and creative challenges in your stitching. Your newfound feelings of self-worth and self-appreciation will carry through into other areas of your life where you never expected them to. Soon, you will begin to experience your creativity in very different and broad ways. You will appreciate art and color and design in ways that you have never even noticed before, and you will be able to embrace and applaud exactly who you are, on every level, as you work through and practice your slow stitching process, day by day.
It has been scientifically proven, over and over again, that the repetitive movements and the focused stitching of knitting, crochet, needlework, etc. can have profound health benefits be they lower blood pressure, a decreased heart rate, easing simple depression, and acting as a cognitive distractor from your day-to-day worries and anxieties, etc. Through your slow stitching, and the profound relaxation response it triggers, making the choice to embrace slow stitching as a part of your everyday life will allow you to begin see and feel the physical and emotional benefits or your process.
When scheduling and taking advantage of time to concentrate and embrace slow stitching as a lifestyle choice you are also saying “yes” to the potential of the limitless creativity and inspiration in your stitching and in everything else you do. Ultimately, you may not see yourself as “just a cross stitcher” anymore, but maybe as a cross stitch designer or the cross stitching creator of your own legacy piece. The days of following somebody else’s ‘rules’ on how you stitch “the right way” might be history as you realize that your own creativity is boundless. Who knows, through your slow stitching practice, you may develop the next “new thing” in the stitching world? Following the tenets of The Slow Stitching Movement will help you give yourself permission to divorce your ego from those things that you think are expected of you, from the maybe not-so-nice judgments of your fellow stitchers and other petty life distractions, and allow you to move past the creative limits you have unconsciously set for yourself. Slow stitching enables us to expand and gently pushes us into a new way of living – understanding that creativity and transformation is limitless in all of the areas of our life.
Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that engaging in new daily habits or trying out a new lifestyle routine, that no matter how easy it sounds, is not so easy to apply. As a matter of fact, even if you are skeptical that slow stitching can change your life in 2015, I’m going to ask you to participate in what I call my Divine Experiment. Try slow stitching for eight weeks, that’s all. Practice slow stitching for 2 months and give it your all while diligently embracing all of the tenants of The Slow Stitching Movement. Let’s face it, I’m not perfect nor are you, which means we are going to walk through this journey with ups and downs. We will experience wonderful feelings of self-worth and creativity, while our old friends, those feelings of defeat and ambivalence, will make unannounced visits. Stick it out. Keep going. Continue working on the process of slow stitching. The great rewards of slow stitching – health, expanded creativity, glimpses into renewed spirituality, and financial stability — are waiting for you only after the long haul. You won’t get much by writing process pages once or twice a week, taking 1 photograph every few days, isolating yourself, not scheduling stitching time, or watching reruns of Adam 12 while you’re trying to be conscious of the process of your stitching. Like a great white shark, keep moving forward or drown. Stitch with intention. Open your heart and your soul to allow the benefits of The Slow Stitching Movement to manifest the gifts to you and to change the world you are living in.
You know, I understand that incorporating The Slow Stitching Movement into your life may feel a little daunting and oh, so serious. Everybody thinks slow stitching is a solemn, no-nonsense, and meditative ritual. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I am the least serious person in the world. I was the Class of 1975’s Class Clown, for heaven’s sake! I began my career as a standup comedian of all things. I’m an entertainer at heart. I like to laugh. I like to make people laugh. I surround myself with happy, funny, and amusing people. If you can make me laugh, we can be friends because that’s how you win my heart. There are times, after reading the daily news wires, that I am convinced that the world sucks and laughter is the only thing that pulls me through. Each of us is on our own, very individual, slow stitching journey. Some of us are looking for a renewed spirituality and answers to who we are in the universe. Others of us only want to learn how to perfect the lazy daisy embroidery stitch. Yet others, just want to experience deep relaxation and increased creativity in their lives. Each of us will look for and find different gifts while engaging in the practice of The Slow Stitching Movement. All of that said, and after just reading 3-million words and an entire list of 12 ways slow stitching can change your life, I want you to know (from my own experience), none of any of this is worth anything if you cannot approach all of it with a sense of humor and grateful lightheartedness. We didn’t start lace making to be miserable. Appliqué wasn’t meant to be drudgery. Hours hunched over a needlepoint canvas wasn’t designed to be a struggle.
We create for JOY! All too often, creative people who want to be “taken seriously” seem to think that they need to then become pensive and serious themselves. Folks, that’s just bull with a capital BULL. Yes, of course, by all means, embrace The Slow Stitching Movement and all that it offers, but don’t give up your sense of humor for it. Can you imagine anything more horrid? Embracing slow stitching is meant to enhance your life, every part of your life, not temper the best parts. So, laugh long and loud, slow stitcher. Find the humor when you’re screwing up your process and intentional stitching (oh, it’s gong to happen, trust me) and when getting back on track know that screwing up is PART OF THE PROCESS. Laugh about it! Make 2015 the year you begin to rediscover delight, enjoyment, and merriment while incorporating slow stitching into your craft and daily way of life.
After all, without laughter and a healthy sense of humor, nothing we do or accomplish is worth all that much, is it?
Happy New year, slow stitchers! xoxom
Book Your Reservation!
It’s The First Ever
Slow Stitching Movement Getaway
Mark Lipinski, Meg Cox, Allie Aller, and Liza Prior Lucy!!
JUST A COUPLE SPACES LEFT!
When: April 21-24, 2015
This intimate, inspiring retreat will include 3 full days of skill-building tutorials, lectures, trunk shows and more, but most of the time, you’ll have a chance to work on your own projects in a stunning, relaxing setting that encourages your unique slow stitching journey and sharing your time with like-minded old and new friends. Our retreat will be held at the picturesque Lambertville Station Restaurant and Inn, situated on the banks of the Delaware River, where the food and service are as outstanding as the inspiring views from our glass-enclosed ballroom retreat space. Located in charming Lambertville, New Jersey, you’ll find a wide range of restaurants, world-class antique emporiums (amazing for patchwork inspiration), welcoming art galleries, unique shops, and parks. Just a short walk across the The New Hope-Lambertville Bridge is historic and artsy New Hope, Pennsylvania, full of boutiques, galleries, one-of-a-kind stores, cafes, and restaruants. Be sure to bring your camera!
During the retreat, international quilt teacher and designer, Mark Lipinski will give his lecture “The Slow Stitching Movement: Creating, Promoting, and Sustaining a New Vision in Quilt Making”, why he started The Slow Stitching Movement, and how retreats such as this one can help quilters slow down to deepen both their creative skills and satisfaction levels. Mark will also share his secrets to daily process journaling for increased creativity, developing your legacy project, and will share the current projects he’s working on, and resources that inspire him.
Author/journalist/teacher Meg Cox will share her slow-stitching projects and inspiration, and give a humorous but practical slideshow on how to take better photographs of your quilts.
Renowned crazy quilting guru and author Allie Aller will join us on our retreat as our special guest teacher, offering multiple tutorials on making fabric flowers and combining both machine and hand-stitched embellishment. Allie will also give a trunk show sharing some of her prize-winning quilts. She’ll be selling and autographing her two books, as well as selling “squishes”, special bags full of silk, velvet, ribbon and other scraps so you can practice some of her embellishing techniques..
Nationally known teacher and author Liza Prior Lucy will be on hand as well, offering a tutorial on paper-piecing hexagons. And, she’ll be selling Kaffe Fassett fabric, and special kits for an optional retreat project.
To keep the group small, and give everyone plenty of room, the retreat is limited to just 30 people!