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The Life-Changing Magic of Slow Sewing

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What is the Life-Changing Magic of Slow Sewing?

The Life-Changing Magic of Slow Sewing pin

Recently, I read this book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It’s a best seller and lots of folks are getting into the KonMari Method of decluttering. Just search “konmari” on Pinterest and you’ll understand. (affiliate)

For me, I’m not really changed by the book. I keep a fairly tidy home and have brutally decluttered with our last move. However, what Marie does talk about over and over are the feelings associated with getting rid of clutter and organizing your space. Her mantra is, “does this spark joy?”

I was reading a recent chapter on how she methodically enters her home and bit-by-bit puts away her purse, shoes, and keys; and I was struck by how this was her way of restoring order to her life. In a nutshell ~ she is able to find peace because of her orderly home.

I have found a different path that sparks joy within me. Slow Sewing.

What is Slow Sewing?

quilt pieces

It’s about stitching a slow sewing project by hand.

It’s about hand embroidering a sampler for fun.

It’s about hand appliqueing a design to a quilt top.

It’s about all types of sewing handwork.

It’s about taking the time to pause and reflect on what you’re sewing.

Why Slow Sewing?

Have you ever attended a sewing class? They can be really fun. You make a few friends, you learn something new, and you go home fulfilled. On the downside ~ you have to pack up your sewing machine, sewing supplies, plus a ton of fabric.

There’s usually a little prep work before attending the class. I don’t know about you, but after I’ve attended a class I usually deposit everything in my sewing room and then redistribute things a day later. It takes a few days to get it all sorted out and by then I’ve lost some of my class Mojo.

What if all you needed was a small basket (or Zippered Box Pouch, in my case) that was always ready to go. In it there is a square of fabric fitted into an embroidery hoop, a couple of needles, some thread, and a pair of scissors.

That’s what I mean about slow sewing. It takes up very little space and the supplies easily fit into a small basket.

Zippered Box Pouch

Slow Sewing is about more than just sewing…

ladies hand quilting

I think when sewists started purchasing bigger and better machines that did it all, we lost sight of the value of handwork. Why hand embroider when a sewing machine can do it in minutes, right? Or, maybe not-so-right. While we can get the task done in record time, there is real value in the time spent doing something slowly.

Think about gathering together with a few sewing friends. All you need is a small basket of supplies and you can get together to help hand bind a quilt. If everyone had to drag out their sewing machines, no one would come.

Imagine the fellowship that could occur at a simple gathering where you bring a needle-turned design you want to appliqué onto a quilt block. You are hand sewing and visiting with friends. Sharing techniques, growing skills, working with your hands, and talking about plans for future quilts.

Slow Sewing Inspiration:

Have you heard of the quilters from Gees Bend, Alabama? You could say they wrote the book on slow sewing. You will have to watch this video because there.are.no.words.

Step away from the screen and do something with your hands…

Screens, screens everywhere. Even on sewing machines. I challenge you to step away from the screen and pick up some hand sewing.

There really is something magical about working with your hands which is why I titled this post The Life-Changing Magic of Slow Sewing. Being able to slowly create something with my hands seems to alter time a little. It takes me from multi-tasking down to doing just one simple task. When I’m in this place I can feel myself breathe.

And somehow order is restored.

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  1. I agree with you completely and found your views very true.

    I have just come back to sewing after thirty years, and things have certainly changed with the amount of blogs, patterns, forums on the internet now. I absolutely love it andoften find myself on my iPad rather than sewing. However, there are so many websites that offer “make a skirt in 20 minutes”, “the one hour dress” it’s quite overwhelming. In my view, and perhaps I’m showing my age(!), there’s no real satisfaction for me in sewing a couple of seams (using a RTW garment as a pattern), leaving the bottom edge unsewn and just turning the top over to form a waist or neck band. There are shops I can go to (Primark, the major supermarket setc) where I can buy very acceptable clothing at prices even cheaper than handmade clothes.

    I find the construction of clothing so satisfying, as a flat piece of material turns magically into a garment – even a simple top put together with love. Perhaps if folks are new to sewing they get a similar feeling from making something they can wear so quickly but it’s not for me.

    1. I so agree with you. It’s probably why I prefer couture techniques and making fitted garments. I think some of the blogs are for beginnesr and serve that purpose well. Learning can be difficult without a person as a teacher, so baby steps are needed. We had a sewing class in the 8th grade that sparked my life-long interest, but I never wore what I made. It was too ambitious and looked amateurish as a result.

  2. What a wonderful video! Thank you so much for sharing. I so prefer hand-embroidered to machine-embroidered items. They show much more “character” because they are never quite as perfect and they represent an investment of the stitcher’s time. Years ago I was an avid counted cross-stitcher. But in recent years cross-stitch and hand-embroidery haven’t been in vogue or appreciated. I was also busy with work, family, and other pastimes. But recently I’ve picked up my embroidery hoop again. I am enjoying rediscovering an old hobby.

  3. This is a terrific post!

    I totally agree with your sentiment about the desire to have everything done NOW. There is a lot of value in taking the time to do something the slow way.

    If typing a letter is nice, a handwritten letter says to the recipient that they literally carved out time from their days to express what they wanted to.

    The same goes for slow sewing, I think. I love to embroider but definitely can wish for things to be faster. I need to take some time to enjoy the experience rather than wish for the end result.

    I have a very crafty heritage that I have a lot of respect for. My Great-Great-Grandma on my mom’s side crocheted a granny square blanket WITH STRING because that was all she had and it is the biggest bedspread I have ever seen (bigger than a king). My Great-Grandmother on my dad’s side made a quilt for my grandparents’ wedding present and made the entire thing by hand.

    Sorry this is so long, I just really agree with you!

  4. Hi Marie, wholeheartedly agree with you. I am a life long knitter, but have lately picked up my embroidery hoop and am channeling my grandmother who embroidered my sheets and pillowcases in my youth. Stopping by from #inspirationmonday.

  5. What a great post! You put it so well and it needed to be said. I like to think that slow sewing gives you more time to put more love into what you are creating and that feels good!

  6. I still love to apply that skill that I learned in school in the days when sewing and cooking were part of the curriculum. Very relaxing!

  7. There is a time and place for a sewing machine. I got mine two years ago for Christmas and really have been enjoying it. I do realise however the point of your topic: that thoughtful stitching has a place in our modern world, too. My sewing machine is quite basic: it does not have embroidery programs, hoops and screens or digitalized anything. I love sewing with it; and I also enjoy hand embroidery. I never really got the point of embroidery machines, as the projects turn out all looking the same as everyone else’s. The skill is in hand embroidery, in my opinion.

  8. Wonderful post! The most relaxing thing I can do is pick up my handwork! It’s my gift to myself.

  9. Are you aware of Mark Lipinski’s movement on “Slow-stitching”?
    Check out his website – Marklipinski.com or Pickleroadstudios.com

    1. Never heard of either of these. I was thinking more along the lines of the slow food movement by Michael Pollan

  10. Leslie, this post is so timely for me. For a couple of months now I have been struggling with gout in both wrists, and it is so shocking to me what the use of one’s hands really means in daily life. I have been sewer and ‘hands-on lady for more than 80 years now, and it is who I am. The blessing is that now it appears there’s a chance I can get some relief from treating with meds, and I’m so excited at the prospect of becoming ‘me’ again! Blessings to all who have discovered the joy of peaceful creating. There’s no other thing that calms the soul so!!

  11. Absolutely loved the story told about the quilting bees
    We have gotten away from these wonderful things of making our own articles because of the convenience of purchasing it as we need it now.
    We need to learn to slow down and enjoy as life is too short.
    Thank you for reminding me of that.

  12. Yes! This is such a lovely post…

    For me, decluttering is making room for the new…physically, emotionally and spiritually…

    And slowing down and simplifying is being much more in the moment…

    Perhaps turning 60 this year, and realizing just how quickly life goes makes slowing down and simplifying all the more important…

  13. I found the video very, very interesting. Thanks so much for sharing it. I believe you have a point in what you are saying; we are missing out on something very valuable if we don’t consider and see the importance of slow sewing as you have described it. Now to find some sewing friends to do it with. Thanks again.

  14. i am guilty of the dump and sort later, but I also hand sew when I’m watching TV or travelling, so I think I maintain my equilibrium! Thanks for the link, I’m iff to follow it

  15. Thank you for sharing this video. I am one that listens to TV shows. I am always doing something else with my eyes. Admittedly, I sometimes miss things this way. However, I could not take my eyes off the screen this time. I would have missed some of those fantastic quilts, perfect in their imperfections. Now, I have some crocheting to do.

  16. This seems like a nice idea. I think this is partly why crochet is so much fun and also relaxing to me. I can just stitch and stitch without really losing my place if I need to put it down for a bit….but while I am stitching, I just go into the project, even if I’m having a conversation while I’m doing so.

    Sewing is newer to me and I don’t know that I have the confidence (yet) to slow sew an entire project, but it sure does look fun and relaxing done in more of a group setting 🙂

  17. I so agree – I spent this afternoon at my quilting group where I worked om my first ever Candlewicking! I love working on hexies and do a bit of knitting and crochet too – my ‘quiet time’ 🙂

  18. Your title caught my eye. Once I heard about the SlowMovement, I thought I had found my “people”. I totally support Slow Sewing! You are the first person I have heard of, other than myself to refer to it as such. I love hand sewing although I am new to quilting. I love French Handsewing. Or anything by hand. I tell my students who balk at hand stitching to think of how much less the fabric and lase cost them per hour.

    Enjoyed your post.

  19. I loved this video and those ladies! I would just love to get together and sing and quilt with other women:) I love their creativity. Sometimes we have maybe too much information available, so that we lose the practice of problem-solving and creating for ourselves, which is really part of the pleasure in making things.

  20. It seems to me that we have lost our creativity when it comes to our clothes. When I was a child, clothes had embroidery, or smocking for decoration. Home crafted clothing always seemed more special, because it was made especially for me. There was more detail, like piping on pockets and collars. Our handkerchiefs were monogrammed and our pillowcases were hand embroidered or edged in crocheted lace. I may be showing my age, but we even embroidered our bell bottomed jeans. Slow sewing has become a luxury. I think slow is great!

  21. Oh how thankful I am to find your websight. That video was so inspiring! Yes, I have a fancy sewing machine, fabric everywhere, with a self of patterns, and yet I am missing something. I am missing the joy of sewing. I worry about the quarter seam or if things match or something else. So I don’t sew. But these ladies enjoy the process, the whole thing, and they enjoy themselves! Thank you! I need this. I’m a grandma too! Bless you.

  22. Must be something in the changing of the seasons. Earlier today, I dug out my penny rug felt, embroidery threads and needles.

  23. Thank you for your article. I found you on Pinterest. Your story was beautifully and eloquently written. I’ve often felt the same way. I have a love of almost all handwork. It feels more personal to me… As if I’m giving more of myself. Thank you again.

  24. I always have hand sewing at the ready….whether it be Embroidery, Crazy Quilting, or my Dear Jane quilt I’m
    stitching by hand.

  25. I have just spent in the order of 300 hours on an embroidered blanket,a Jenny mcwhinney design, Arabian nights.It has been a lot of fun and very satisfying.I agree,sewing slow is wonderful.

  26. What a great video! Thank you for sharing! Very inspiring. Makes you reflect and should make everyone grateful for what they have!

  27. I absolutely loved this post! I fell in love with sewing and it gave me the inspiration I needed to begin to “slow sew” and bring my daughter in law and grand daughters into the circle of my craft. Thank you

  28. LOVE the video on the Quilter’s of Gees Bend. I’ve seen a special about them before, but this one was different.
    Makes me want to go spend some time with them, singing, praying and stitching <3
    What and inspiration they are. Thanks you for sharing that with us. It captured my heart and full attention, taking me away for a bit

    Seems the older I get, the more I enjoy the "hand – stitching." That's how I started out sewing. Find it relaxing, and it really goes pretty fast. I usually have a bag ready of some kind of handwork I can pick up and take with me. Helps the time pass more quickly when you have to wait somewhere.

    Thanks for the encouragement. Would love to start a "hand- stitching" group.

  29. I so agree with the slow sewing idea. Recently I made a garter for my niece’s wedding. It was quite fancy and required a good bit of hand stitching. I found it to be so relaxing and rewarding to use my hands rather than a sewing machine!

  30. I learned to hand sew at age seven. My mama would give me scrap fabric, thread a needle for me and sat me next to her as she made my clothes on her little black Singer. I made clothes for my dolls. At 65 I’m starting to up-cycle clothing from thrift shops and things I’ve owned that I outgrew a while back. Embroidery, knitting, smocking, crocheting, they’ve all found their way into my bag of tricks and yes, that’s what keeps my arthritis at bay. There is nothing so satisfying as turning out something to use or share from your own handwork. I highly recommend it!

  31. God bless you, I love hand sewing. It’s true hand made, whatever the item happens to be you are working.
    The time spent hand sewing gives me so much ……..praying time, thinking time, planning time, peaceful feeling come over you . Alone time is a quite and productive respite. I look forward to my respite.enjoy!

  32. I so appreciated your article. I learned slow sewing in Japan at the age of 10 making Japanese dolls at the youth center on Saturdays. The very old Japanese teacher said I had the nicest and most consistent stitches. I still enjoy sewing by hand and often repair clothing. I agree that carting a sewing machine to class is no fun. You have made me excited to do a project. Thank you.

  33. I am struggling. For years I sewed clothing for my children (grown adults now). I also loved to quilt and in the last five years I have done some wool appliqué. I am now struggling with asking myself if doing this kind of work is really the best use of my time. I have gone through plenty of things through a couple of moves that I have tossed that I no longer use or would hang up in my home. Some of these are items that my grandmother spent hours making, but they are so very outdated now that I don’t care to decorate with them. My family will not be interested in hand work items that I make someday.

    I believe we are made in the image of the Creator and it is a pleasure and an honor to stitch to glorify Him, however, I question myself in weather there are other things that would be more helpful to others than stitching for my own enjoyment.

    Strange question, huh? Just wondered if anyone has an prospective they might add to this. Thanks!

    1. This is such a great conversation to have. I agree and I disagree. I know that most of the things I make will not survive, but the joy I get (and give) will. That is what keeps me plugging along.

  34. Thank you!! I lose all track of time when I’m creating just about anything. I am so into the moment. I always thought I was slow or having difficulty staying on task because my mind wanders.

    I’ll practice mindfulness. I’ll simply enjoy every single stitch, cut, brush to canvas, bead, snip, etc.
    I loved this. I’m saving it and following!


  35. I completely agree! I’m an absolutely newbie to hand-sewing (as in, only been doing it for mere weeks) but I’m so hooked. All the projects I seem to find are for machine sewing. I’d love to see handiwork get more attention – it’s like my meditation!

    1. I started by hand sewing half a century ago making Barbie doll clothes with the scraps from my mothers sewing. I never did get the same satisfaction from machine sewing. I am retiring and have discovered a group of cos-tubers on YouTube who make historically accurate reproductions, many sewn by hand. That inspired me to pick it up again. I look forward to many happy hours with my needle and thread.

  36. What a wonderful story these women tell us. It’s about Community and Love. I will carry these women in my heart as I continue my sewing journey. I too have turned back to hand sewing and find contentment in each stitch. Your post brings a beautiful message! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this video.

  37. I am so grateful to have found your post! i am hand quilting with double gauze and will be more mindful when doing slow sewing. it is so true that we all want to finish a project without appreciating the whole process. The ladies are incredible and so creative with what little they had. That is art!

  38. Thank you for this article. I know how to machine sew. I am presently trying to develop my hand sewing to a higher level. I want to develop the expertise that was possessed before the sewing machine. To actually create an article of clothing by hand only, that contains only truly exquisite stitches.

    1. My christening gown was all hand sewn by my grandmother. She said she never trusted sewing machines because it was so easy to make a mistake.

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