Very slow stitch

As a result of working too hard at the day job I’ve developed a repetitive strain injury over the last 10 days or so. This is painful, and a nuisance. I’ve been to the physiotherapist this morning and am now wearing a splint to prevent my right thumb from bending. An important question, obviously, is whether or not I can do any stitching. Since I got home I’ve done a few things very slowly. I’ve lit the fire (a very slow process), and I’ve read a couple of chapters of a book (no faster or slower than usual). I ironed a couple of shirts, badly and slowly. And I’ve tried a bit of stitching in a hoop, stitching with my left hand and holding the hoop braced against me with the fingers of my right hand. This is not ideal, and every stitch takes a good long while, but it can be done so I will be able to continue with my current project.

This got me thinking about slow stitching. One of the advantages of hand stitching is that it is necessarily a slow and meditative process, and therefore a useful corrective to all the mad rushing about that passes for normal life. I’ve grown to appreciate it more and more as an oasis in my over-busy life. I was reminded of something I’d read on the internet a while back, and when I started searching I found references to ‘Slow Cloth’ as embodying a particular approach to making. Elaine Lipson named this concept and she has a Facebook page devoted to it, which is well worth a look. There’s a link there to a talk she gave at the Textile Society of America, which I’ve just read, and which makes a lot of sense to me. She talks about time, naturally, but also about the time taken to master skills. She says: ‘Slow Cloth aims for the mastery, fluency and depth that can only come from cultivating a relationship to making, and to textiles, over a lifetime, not jumping from one crafty workshop to the next that aim primarily to sell you a lot of supplies’. Well said, Elaine Lipson – mastery, fluency and depth.

Making things with your hands is so important. This injury has got me thinking about my hands and how precious they are, and how much an injury to them matters. But also, that this injury is an opportunity to stop and think about what I’m doing. If you read this, do follow the link and read Elaine Lipson’s paper.

And, finally, how did I type this? Well, slowly, of course.