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On staving off the sadness and slow stitching

stitched on linen

A few days ago I got caught watching the news. I consciously avoid doing that as much as possible, getting information from a few places but not spending a lot of time reading and watching because I know how negatively I get affected. I was watching a program on TV and when it ended, I wasn’t paying attention and on came the news. The war in Ukraine was at the top so I watched and listened, in horror and disbelief and sadness that in this day and age, we still have not found a way to live and coexist in peace. I know that part of my sadness was because images were being shown of the city of Odessa, on the Black Sea. My grandmother was born in Odessa, when it was part of the Soviet empire. Odessa was founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 as a Russian naval fortress on territory annexed from Turkey in 1792. By the early 19th century, the Russian settlement had become an important grain port. Part of my sadness is because the chances are high that Russia will invade and take the port, and I fear there will be little left of this amazing port.

After the news changed to something more local, I turned the TV off. Not watching the news doesn’t mean I don’t care, it’s more about finding balance and listening to my inner voice to find some inner peace. If you’ve been following, you’ll know that I joined, once again, the 100 day project. I am working with rocks, appliqueing them to a background and adding stitches. I do this mostly at night, when the time comes for me to have dinner, relax and watch a program on TV: something mindless this time around that does not require much thinking – or paying attention. and it’s then, when I turn my thoughts to slow stitching.

The Slow Stitching Movement

Do you remember the world before the Internet? What did we do before screens, tablets and phones?

I remember growing up with books instead of TVs and tablets; walking to the bookstore to get the latest Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book (which the bookstore owner would put away for me as soon as she got a new one in) and stopping at the bakery to buy a pastry as it was next door (what a great combination!); taking the train to go downtown which gave me time to daydream or read a book or knit a scarf; it was the same for a lot of other people travelling at the same time.  We got to know each other after a while, and shared conversations. And became friends.  Not a single screen in sight.

The world seemed to move at a slower pace then, and although I use technology every day – it seems we cannot escape it – not even during our creative moments, I wonder sometimes at our need to do everything faster.  This is where the slow movement comes in.  Its origin can be traced to the mid-1980s and the beginnings of the Slow Food Movement in Italy started by Carlo Petrini who became haunted by what he considered fast food companies eroding Italy’s ancient culinary culture.  Closer to home, one man set out to change the way we create, stitch and quilt.  Mark Lipinski created the Slow Stitching Movement as a mission to tell quilters and stitchers to stop and slow down, to prepare people for a higher form of creativity and important work in the needle and fibre arts.  The slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace.  It can be summed up in one single word:  BALANCE. 

Slow stitching is about being present, about slowing down and taking your time working on that piece of art instead of rushing to have it finished because we need to fulfill that quota that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year.  Slow stitching is about enjoying the moment you take to create. 

My slow stitching moments take form with hand-stitching.  I love everything about it:  the fact that it is highly portable, that I don’t need a lot of materials to achieve lovely results and that it allows me to think and go into a zen mode while stitching.  Every night, my zen moments come when I take a few stitches into one of my rocks, or on one of the few pieces I’m working on at the time. It doesn’t matter if I spend 10 minutes at it, or an hour; what matters is that I sat down, closed my eyes, took a few breaths and centred myself. It matters that for a moment, the world revolves around the rhythmic ins and outs of needle and thread. For those few moments, the sadness goes away.

And if you are looking for a book on the subject matter, I have a few recommendations for you:

  1. Slow Stitching by Claire Wellesley-Smith and it’s sequel Resilient Stitch: Wellbeing and Connection in Textile Art
  2. Stitch, Fabric and Thread: An Inspirational Guide for Creative Stitchers by Elizabeth Healey
  3. Embroidering the Everyday by Cas Holmes
  4. The Intentional Thread: A guide to Drawing, Gesture and Colour in Stitch by Susan Brandeis

As usual, I encourage you to support your local bookstore. Here in town, I visit Pages in Kensington and The Next Page in Inglewood. They deliver and will ship worldwide.

I wish everyone a week of slow stitching and reflection. Stay safe and keep creating,

Ana

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18 Comments

  1. Thank you for this lovely essay! The news about Ukraine upsets me greatly and I can’t watch it. This week I participated in the 5 Day Journal Challenge, where I made a book, decorated the cover piece, stitch the pages in by hand and it was delightful slow work. Have a good week, Ana. JoAnne Hoffman

    1. HI Joanne,
      So happy you enjoyed the post. I was really upset when I wrote it. And yes, we need to do whatever is needed to be able to find that balance between being “informed” and staying true to ourselves for our own sanity and well-being. I like your idea of a 5-day Journal challenge. Those moments we spend making take our minds away from the sadness and bring us comfort. I hope you find many more moments to make this week. Stay safe,
      Ana

  2. This is a lovely letter. For anything in the realm of the needle arts to be worth anything to the maker, it needs to be made with mindfulness, where every stitch is an intention of spirit and the project finished in its own time. And… I have a collection of Nancy Drew books! I used to read the stories to my children when they were little which created one of the ‘best times ever’ with them. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. HI Carla,
      So happy you liked the post. It brought great memories to me too. Although I lost all my old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. When I was in school, someone asked to borrow them and never returned them. She left school that year and I lost track of her. I was devastated. But I have a new collection I purchased a little bit at a time when I came to Canada :) It made me feel closer to home. They are not old and hard cover but it didn’t matter at the time. :) Great memories with these books. Thanks for sharing yours.
      Have a great week.
      Ana

  3. I do so agree Ana, I never ever watch the news or any TV. I know the horrors that are going on , I don’t need to rub my nose in it, the horror and pain just make me want to collapse , even tho I know that life is just a play and we are all here experiencing what we came to learn and to grow but at times it is still overwhelming. Like you I slow stitch every night and I add a lot of stitchery to my pieces. It is so meditative I do not even want to listen to my audible. I do like the stillness.Sometimes I think I live in a bubble of inner peace I create for myself, it is the only way to survive and keep sane.The pieces you show in your post are just scrumptious I have a bag full of rocks I made from your course I am trying now some made from silk and stitching on them . Thank you for this lovely post.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. My ex husband used to say that I lived in the bubble of the pink fart. That expression still makes me smile. but you know what? I do wear rose coloured glasses, and live in my bubble and that’s purely by choice. Life gets overwhelming without any outside help and I find comfort in the rhythmic movement of the needle. Plus, it keeps me entertained and my mind sharp, right?
      Enjoy your stitching and your rocks. I look forward to seeing what you do with them. Have a great week.
      Ana

  4. Thankyou for the reminder of a slower time. I to read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobsey Twins, and even Gone with the Wind. But I also rode my bike everyday. Then waited for the ice cream truck to drive through my neighborhood. Great memories. Today I play soothing music and sew., and read my Bible. I too try to disconnect from the craziness.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories. Ice cream trucks :) We had ice cream guys on bicycles :) Enjoy your stitching.

  5. Lovely writing, Ana, your thoughts so resonate with me.
    I, too, hand stitch in the evenings which brings my day to a more peaceful ending while keeping one eye on the news.
    Thank you

  6. Lovely writing, Ana, your thoughts so resonate with me.
    I, too, hand stitch in the evenings which brings my day to a more peaceful ending while keeping one eye on the news.
    Thank you

    1. Thanks for sharing Jennifer. I find so much comfort in stitching. And you are right, it’s a peaceful way to end the day. Keep enjoying

  7. Thanks Ana for this very timely reminder. Slow stitching really does redirect the mind.
    My plan now is to always have a project waiting however I’m having trouble with knowing when is enough stitching on my current project.
    Susan

    1. Thanks Susan for sharing. I know what you mean about knowing when enough stitching is enough. It seems endless really. You can add as much or as little as you want and it seems to make a difference in adding texture and interest to a piece. One thought would be to hand your piece somewhere you can see it at different times of the day and in different light and see if any areas catch your attention as to needing more stitching. You may find some areas are more heavily stitched than others, and that may give you an idea to stop working in one area and move to another. It’s a thought.
      Looking forward to catching up some time soon.

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