Slowing it Down

When I tell people I enjoy quilting, they assume I mean I enjoy choosing fabrics and colours, and piecing quilt blocks. They’re usually surprised to find that it’s actually the quilting that I enjoy, and that I do it by hand.

People are also often surprised to know how much hand sewing goes into the clothing I make. Buttonholes, zips, linings…even my t-shirts often have hand-stitched hems or neckbands.

Partly, I do a lot of hand stitching because I prefer the way it looks, or it’s the only way to handle something my machine can’t do.

But mostly, it’s a way to take my time and focus on both product and process. A machine stitches quickly, but if I sew something by hand, I can place each stitch exactly where it want it. I can shape an edge or an awkward corner. I can make hand stitches invisible or use them to add subtle embellishment. By sewing slowly, by hand, I have greater control over the stitches themselves.

Sewing by hand also forces me to take more time with each project. I rarely make anything purely for fun–when I sew a pair of jeans, it’s because I need a new pair of jeans–but I also enjoy sewing. It is tempting, sometimes, to whip out a project quickly, just to get it done and have the final product to wear. By sewing parts of a project by hand, I am able to slow down and enjoy the process, not just the product.

While I am sewing by hand, I have time to think–about the project, about the person it’s for (if it’s a gift), about the ways in which it might be used, about how the process is going (and whether I need to rip a hastily done seam and do it over, or add a feature I hadn’t planned on). There is something meditative about hand sewing that sewing by machine doesn’t provide. And I think it has to do with speed.

It’s like walking versus driving. You might not get there as quickly walking, but you will experience more along the way.