A Slow Stitching Journey Focusing on the Enjoyment of the Process Without the Anticipation of Moving on to the Next Thing.
How you behave in one aspect of your life is evidence of how you behave in all aspects. That’s what I believe.
The Slow Stitching Movement, for me, is a reflection of how I try to live my life as a whole.
Simply put: Mindfulness
Mindfulness is being present in your life and not living in the future or the past. I try to be present for all of it, even the seemingly-insignificant things. Being present isn’t something that came to me naturally, it’s something I had to learn.
Flashback to 1992: I’ve just moved to a new city 4 hours away from my family and my only job is being a mom to 3 month and 17 month old daughters. The figuring-it-out stages of being a mom are over and I feel that I finally have time in my life for creative expression. I have the freedom to pursue basically anything I want. So, what should I do with myself?
Like a lot of people, I went with something familiar. There are five girls and one boy in my family including me, and at age 10 we all learned to use my Mom’s Singer called Brownie (yes, it was brown; a creative name indeed). I guess you could have called it a right of passage in the Bryson family. I realized quilting was the only art form that wasn’t entirely foreign to me. I gave it a shot.
I’m the short one in front.
Well, I gave it more than a shot. I bought fabric, I bought my first sewing machine, I made cardboard templates, and I signed up for a class at the local high school. The whole nine yards, you might say. You could also say that I was hooked from the start. I finished all the blocks for the twelve-week class in only a month. I killed myself trying to match every block perfectly and get every seam just right. Then when I was finished I made the same quilt again. I was an overachiever, to be sure. I found that not only did I have the patience for the tedium that quilting requires, I thrived on it. I had found my drug.
It’s a familiar story with many quilters and creative people. The sleepless nights, those times when you forget to eat, the utter obsession with the craft. I found myself wondering why quilt shops aren’t open 24 hours. Doesn’t everyone need brown thread at 2:00 in the morning? I was the one asking myself these questions and sewing as though my life depended on it. Driven by the fear that if I didn’t finish my quilt by the next day then I would forget all the designs and ideas I have planned for the next five, ten, fifty quilts I have in my head. I was sewing with such urgency that before I knew it I had quilt anxiety. Even my dreams were plagued with seam rippers and rotary cutters.
“Mindfulness is being present in your life and not living in the future or the past.”
Early on it occurred to me that this behavior was less than healthy. There had to be a way to maintain my level of passion without being so stressed. I knew there was a problem, that something I was doing wasn’t right, but recognizing the presence of a problem is only half the battle. And that’s when I stepped back and decided to take it easy. As a result, my stress diminished, my quilts were given the time and care that they deserved, and I was happier and healthier. The end.
Oh, wait. I did the opposite of that. I got involved in the quilting world as a professional. I became an entrepreneur and opened up a quilt shop on my own. I made the majority of the samples for the shop myself. I averaged a quilt top a week and ended up having to plan events months ahead of time. I simply had no time to live in the moment. Next, my sister and I started Fourth and Sixth Designs. Now at least I had someone to share my obsession. We became authors and began frequently traveling around the US to teach and lecture and to sell our wears at Quilt Market. We had quite a bit on our plates. Eventually, something had to give.
“The Slow Stitching Movement, for me, is a reflection of how I try to live my life as a whole.”
After eight years, I closed the shop and gave some thought to hanging up my rotary cutter altogether. My life lacked balance, I realized, and I decided to seek that out. I thought through why I loved quilting in the first place, and wondered why all of this wasn’t bringing me satisfaction. I really do love all aspects of making a quilt (except binding, I consider that a necessary evil). I love choosing fabric, washing it, pressing it, folding, cutting, sewing, all of it.
So, what I discovered was that the answer wasn’t to give up the business or give up the hobby. What I needed to do was segregate my personal quilting desires from my professional ones.
I focused first on the personal side. I started making quilts just for myself again. Completing the ideas that had been in my head but I never found the time for. In a matter of months I felt just like I did back in 1993, but without the anxiety and stress. One quilt in particular helped me immeasurably with this.
I made this postage stamp quilt for my husband for our 25th wedding anniversary. I named it “The Anniversary Stamp” for that reason. I had asked him several years previous if he had any requests for quilts. Our house is full of them, but I had never actually made one specifically for him. He asked for a postage stamp quilt. In hindsight it was the perfect challenge: there was no time limit, it was complicated and inevitably time-consuming and I was making it for someone I loved. I collected 110 reds and 65 creams, washed and pressed each and every one of them, and cut what felt like an endless number of 1 1/2” strips. I didn’t log my hours, but it took quite a bit of time. I loved every minute of it. And I loved every tiny square and stitch I put into it.
In changing my attitude I was left with only the therapeutic experience of quilting. The enjoyment of the process without the anticipation of moving on to the next thing. I rediscovered my connection with the journey of creation. I wanted to do it rather than wanting it to be done. And to my great surprise, this attitude took care of the business side as well. No extra work was required to improve my professional life, an understanding sister/business partner doesn’t hurt. That seemingly small change had balanced out both sides.
Of the hundreds of quilts I’ve made in my life, The Anniversary Stamp is in the top four. These are a couple other slow-stitched quilts in my collection. Each of the fabrics in these two quilts were lovingly curated from my closet.
105” x 105”
Batik Log Cabin, 112” x112”
One inch logs. Two inch center.
My sister and I are bringing a little slow-stitching to the quilting world. Block of the month projects are forced slow-stitching. You can only do one block a month, and, more importantly, one block at a time. It’s a great way to remind yourself that you love the process as much as the finished piece. It’s a way to learn to work with purpose and mindfulness.
Full Bloom 80” x 96”
Sewing is meditation for me, and it easily can be for you too. Solutions to many problems, both personal and professional have come to me while sitting in front of my Bernina. Be present. There is so much to enjoy in your life and you don’t want to miss it. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Unless your destination is the Grand Canyon, then I guess it is the destination.
About Mary Hoover
Mary and her sister, Barbara Persing, are award-winning quilt artists, and their quilts have been published in many quilting magazines. Born the fourth and sixth children in a close-knit family in south New Jersey, their mother taught these Jersey girls the art of garment sewing at the young age of ten.
Mary began quilting in 1992 when she moved to upstate New York. As a stay-at-home mom, she needed a creative outlet and immediately knew quilting was the answer. She began teaching quilting classes in 1993 and opened a quilt shop in 1999.
Despite living 300 miles apart, Barbara and Mary began collaborating shortly after the start of their own businesses. This collaboration quickly became a partnership that has grown into the pattern and design company, Fourth & Sixth Designs. Check it out at www.4and6designs.com. Take a look at their book titles and patterns and their new fabulous batik fabrics for Island Batik, too!
If you have any questions about today’s post, please email Mary at email@example.com. Fourth & Sixth Designs are available at 4and6designs.com. There you can enjoy their newsletter and blog. “However,” says Mary, “we are slow newsletter and blog writers. Please forgive us.”
We would love for you to share your creative process, thoughts, feelings and your place in The Slow Stitching Movement.
Just email Mark Lipinski at: firstname.lastname@example.org
He will email you the simple guidelines for posting your own blog here and introducing yourself to the world of Slow Stitchers!