Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sewing as Meditation

We hurry so much and cram so much into our days.  It seems like a bad thing anymore to take the time to slow down and really put some time and thought into whatever we are doing.  As if you might be punished if you are contemplative or mindful.

One of the things I really enjoy about being creative is using my hands.  Sure, the computer helps to get through certain tasks more quickly so you have more time to enjoy other things.  Computerized sewing machines (with matching software for the PC) have revolutionized the home sewing industry for sure.  Some days I feel like my sewing machine is smarter than I am.  But I only truly feel creative when I am holding my work in my hands, whether it be a needle, thread and fabric, or a paintbrush, or an ink-loaded rubber stamp, or paper and glue, or a pen, pencil, or pastel stick.  It is only then that I feel truly connected to my work, to my ideas, to my muse - and to the final product, whatever it may be.

I did get my sewing machine back the same day I took it into the shop, but I had already mentally prepared myself for the possibility of not having it for a couple of days.  I planned to do nothing but hand-sewing.  Since I didn't have to leave the machine overnight for the problem to be corrected, I could have done some other projects, but I just wanted some quiet thing to do instead.

So today was all about handwork.  Nothing fancy, just some hemming.  I do have a blind hemming feature on my machine and could probably have finished all six pair in record time, but I've found over the years that I actually prefer hand hemming - not only because often it looks better (and you can make minor adjustments as you go, which is difficult while speeding along on the machine), but also because it makes me feel connected to past generations.  I always think about my ancestors when hand-sewing; I wonder what it would be like to completely hand sew a garment from start to finish and wonder if I would even have the mind-set to do so.  The majority of our ancestors didn't have a lot of leisure time to sew - with few exceptions, it was an activity of necessity, not of luxury.  And yet, looking at vintage textiles and thinking about the hours and hours of time put into them, you can't help feeling like part of that person is still there - that there is still a voice of sorts that could tell so many stories, if only we knew how to listen to them.

Time seems to be suspended while I'm working with my hands, which doesn't happen with other activities.  I think I need to set aside some meditation time every day.  Somehow, I always forget how accomplished I feel when I'm done, until I pick up a project like this to do.  Of course, if you factor in how much longer it takes to do the job by hand, you don't end up making much for your time.  But sometimes, that's just not the point.

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