Sewing by hand is slower, but this author knows there’s magic in it.

Photo courtesy of the author

I met a friend for coffee and crafting recently, and as usual I brought my portable English paper piecing kit — a flat box filled with small paper templates, fabric scraps, and my trusty needles and threads. As I contentedly sat there basting one hexagon patch after another and then hand-stitching them together, my friend watched me quizzically. “You know there are faster ways to do that, right?” she said.

I do know that, but to me, the faster methods just don’t have the same magic as sewing by hand. Of course I’m also a big fan of my sewing machine, and there’s a time and place for quick and easy crafts, but I make intricate hand-sewn patchwork on purpose. It helps me slow down and be more present in the flow of my life.

I always have at least one project going that will take me months or years to finish — to me, projects like these are an important form of self-care. When life moves like a whirlwind, it becomes a real blessing to have this slow-moving creation-in-progress to return to at day’s end. Even if ten minutes is all I can spare, that ten minutes has a deeply calming effect. (It’s also amazing how many stitches you can capture in ten minutes!)

Photo courtesy of the author

And each time I pick the project up, it’s interesting to reflect on how the lens of my life is changing. Some days I stitch happily. Some days my mind is distractedly replaying the frustrating events of my day. There are tired stitching days, and sorrowful ones, and pleasant ones, and special ones. And all of those moods get captured in my stitches, so that I can read a finished patchwork as a map of my life as I was making it. The cluster of hexagons at the center brings back memories of the lazy weekend I spent nursing a cold, curled up on the sofa stitching along to a Mad Men marathon. Those starry points remind me of the long car trip where I sewed and had a meandering talk with my husband. And in the outer border, which took months to finish, I can recall the giant work project that kept me from my needle and thread.

This is why I wrote All Points Patchwork — I hope to encourage more makers to start a nice long hand-sewing project and enjoy its journey. I think many of us put pressure on ourselves to finish every project we start, as if finishing were the whole point of making. It isn’t! Making is the point of making. So pick up a needle, find a comfortable spot, and settle into those stitches.

Diane Gilleland

Diane Gilleland is a prominent contemporary craft writer, designer, and teacher with an aesthetic that appeals to both traditional and modern quilters. Gilleland is the author… See Bio

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