If you, like me, are a fan of the Great British Sewing Bee, but don't feel ready for the pressures of a pattern challenge, transformation challenge or made to measure challenge, then slow stitching is a great place to start. There is no pattern to follow, no finished product you're aiming for, simply some scraps of fabric of various textures, some coloured threads, maybe some buttons and your own imagination.
My wonderful friend Amanda Hamilton introduced me to the concept of slow stitching. The work in these photos is hers and demonstrates beautifully how a slow stitching project can turn out. I asked her a few questions about slow stitching.
What does slow stitching mean for you?
Slow stitching for me is a way of being mindful, in the moment. The process is as important as the finished project.
How did you first discover slow stitching?
I first discovered slow stitching at a retreat workshop in Northumberland. We could choose from scrap fabric and incorporate things that were meaningful to us. Using tiny pieces of fabric to cover a linen base these were fixed with rows of tiny running stitches. It's not about sewing skills, you can do the most basic stitches. For this, I made a collage and put writing on it. It was a story to myself.
You love many different crafts. What makes slow stitching different to the rest?
Slow stitching can be like doodling with thread in that you don't have an idea of a finished project. I like how a project can evolve organically and you are not following a plan such as in cross stitch. There's nothing you can do wrong. Even if you don't produce a work of beauty, the process has given you a breathing space from the deadlines and business of life.
How can an activity like slow stitching lead to more positive mental health?
Any craft that focuses your mind is good for mental health and as I don't have lots of energy for physical activities, I get my endorphins from crafting and become unaware of how much time has passed and relax my mind and thoughts. If you end up with something useful or beautiful, that's a bonus. I have also incorporated slow stitching as a way of visible mending, a far cry from our grandparents chores of darning and trying to mend clothes without be noticed.
I love that insight into this mindful activity that is growing in popularity by the day. It's like doodling with a needle and thread. It's all about the process, about slowing down, being mindful and cherishing each stitch.
In her blog Vintage Sewing Box, Emma Jones reveals three reasons she loves sewing so much - she's able to let go of perfectionism, slow down and can allow herself to make what she wants when she wants.
"Slowing down allows me to immerse myself in what I am doing, to notice every tiny detail in the fabric and to enjoy each and every stitch. It's taught me that although I love the end product, it is the process that I enjoy most of all." Emma Jones
You can see how this fits into the general ethos of mindfulness, can't you? Just like mindful eating, mindful sewing requires a slowing down, a savouring, an immersion in the moment.
Slow stitching is about the journey, not the destination.
Speaking of where things end up, what on earth does the Great British Sewing Bee do with leftover fabrics?