Slow Sewing

Why Sew Slowly?

It started with a vague inkling that I might like to blog.  This in itself raised questions that I had to get to grips with before I could begin (just because that’s the way my mind works) and the biggest question was ‘what sort of quilter/sewer am I? I do I want to define myself?'
I found it easy enough to work out what I wasn’t: not a traditional quilter, not an art quilter,  not a modern quilter. There are some great discussions going on out there on the web as people think about how they define themselves in a quilting context (you could start with Rossie's post on Mutant Quilting if you are interested) but I still haven’t found what feels like a natural place for me to settle.  This doesn’t necessarily matter – I’m happy with what I am and am not going to lose sleep over this; I’m putting it down here because it was part of the process by which I came to think of myself as a slow sewer.

While I was browsing other people’s sites, coming to these conclusions, I became a bit overwhelmed by the speed at which some of them were working.  In my most productive year to date I produced three quilts.  I have never made a quilt using a jelly roll, or machined my binding, or, so far, even done my quilting by machine, (though not ruling anything out here) but maybe I should have been. What would I find to blog about if I couldn’t make a quilt in a week, or a fortnight, or at least a month? 

But then I read something in Gwen Marston Liberated Quiltmaking that really chimed with me and I thought “I really like to quilt, in fact it’s my favourite thing to do, so why would I hurry all the time to get to the end of it?”   

About the same time I was beginning to practice mindfulness, which focuses on trying to be fully in the moment as much as possible, and to read about the Slow Movement.  Everything came together for me in this quote from Carl Honore’s  book, In Praise of Slowness (2004):

It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible.

So I have concluded/decided that I am a slow sewer, that it is as much about the journey for me as the point of arrival, as much about the process as the product. It is a state of mind, as well as a reflection of the pace of my work, and I am happy with this label. 


  1. I'm most definitely a slow sewer too. For me it's about the whole process, and process should be savoured - it's experience that defines a happy life I think. I don't really identify with 'buy this fabric, buy masses of it, make it, finish it up quick, move it on out' ethos - it seems part of the whole mass produced culture I want to retreat from. And I've never bought a jelly roll either ;)

  2. I wish I could sew the way you two do...I have to hurry or I'll get bogged down, bored or something. I do try to be in the moment, but my ADD brain wants to flutter around with two or three different ideas at once. One way of avoiding that is to move a bit faster, forcing my brain to focus on the one thing. That's not to say that I can't calm myself....just let me jump into a hammock and see how quiet I can be! Even better, give me a needle and thread...I fall into a calm nap within 10 minutes EVERY time I do handwork. But, oh well, that's me and at my age, I'm likely not going to change. I do love the process--every bit of it--no matter what else is going on inside my brain and am eternally grateful to the women who taught me to quilt.

  3. Hi,
    I just found your blog via Ann Brooks post on g+.

    Your approach resonates very much with me, especially "It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them".

    You probably know this already, but in case you don't: There's actually a Slow Stitch Movement, inspired by the Slow Movement. Here's the link to the home page with a link to their blog:

  4. Posts like this one are a breath of fresh air in the midst of so much rush and production simply for the sake of production that we see around us in the quilting world. I do "get that" (the rush and the need for rapid production) for some people - particularly young quilters with young families and newbies. But what I really love is the carefully-crafted quilt - large or small - full of attention to detail and quality. That is what draws me, too, and coupled with a squirrely mind like Mary talks about, it results in my complex, circular way of working on many different projects. This year I'm looking forward to a lot of finishes, but that's because I have a closet full of over 30 quilt tops that have been put together over the last 10 years that I'll be quilting up. I do really enjoy machine quilting, but I always want the more intricate work that takes gobs of time. And that's OK - because as you say, for me the pleasure is in the journey and the deeply-rooted connection with my finish because I put all of my heart and deliberation and attention into the work rather than rushed through some motions so I could call out a finish. Not to bash calling out a finish! lol!! Those link-ups are what finally taught me to focus my attention on a given project for much longer than I ever thought I could stand to do, so that now I'm a finisher instead of a spastic starter-and-dropper. ;D Love your post.

  5. I appreciate your "slow stitcher" philosophy I am a hand quilter and nothing gets finished quickly. I love the light and shadow that plays on a hand quilted item and that take time. Slowing down doesn't mean I get less done, it means I feel peaceful while doing it.

  6. Absolutely... we are quilting twins!

  7. That makes lots of sense to me, relaxing, enjoying the process, shocking concepts indeed!

  8. I could identify with your thinking here! I also inherited my grandmother's 1938 Singer in 1974. It is now not working right. The motor is wonderful, but the bobbin won't pick up the top thread. It will get fixed. I love this machine almost more than anything! I grew up with it, and loved seeing it work as a child. I also like your quilt here. This is my style. Just free style I call it. Hugs~

  9. Yep, so its looking like I've finally found sisters who think its enjoyable to spend hours hand quilting. My life has to be doing a little of this and a little of that so my back doesn't start arguing with me. I can't seem to stand the machine quilting for very long anymore and I really love hand quilting so its all OK!!

    I've read the comments here and yes, I agree, its not about production of counted tops or quilts, its about are we enjoying the process and the stitching. I get soooo many things worked out in my head while hand stitching or hand quilting. I've not had the presence of many quilters who got this whole process until now. I doing the happy dance!

    About your quilts! I love them and such joy you must have felt while making them, I can see the happiness it brings you!

  10. Wonderful justification for not rushing through to finish the project. Thank you for helping me realise why I am so often in conflict with myself. <> Never mind 1 January, the new era starts 31 December!

    1. <> there was a quote in there - If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

  11. My piano teacher used to say, "Anyone can play a piece fast; the goal is rather to play the piece well."

  12. That's good to know that you should get a new needle if you have a thicker thread like this. It would be frustrating if the string kept breaking otherwise. I'll have to invest in some embroidery needles now. It's exciting to start experimenting with decorative stitches Lisa W. Degregorio

  13. I love this post. These days with work and kids, it takes me a month or even 2 to finish a single quilt. It's hard not to look at so many other people who are making quilts at the rate of 1 or more each week and wonder how they do it! But I have to remind myself to be satisfied with what I can do, and that's ok.

  14. I do like your In Praise of Slowness quote, I cut and pasted it to my husband, who teaches mindfulness. Most of life is about the journey, there is a quote I read somewhere about goals are like stars in the sky, you may not reach them but they help you to navigate. Namaste

  15. I'm 47. I started putting my first blocks together when I was around 27 & I've almost finished piecing those blocks together. That's slow! Lol
    However in the meantime I have thoroughly enjoyed the process and can see the improvements and changes in my stitching technique. I started that quilt my ad-hoc way when all around me were telling me it was wrong and I wasn't quilting & sewing properly. They are no longer in my life but the quilt is....
    I love handsewing. It calms my mind and really makes me think about what I'm doing. I've since started other slow-quilt projects that won't take me 20+ years to complete as I deliberately make more time to do them because it's enjoyable. Thank you & the other commenters for sharing your experiences :)

  16. I want to be a slow sewer--I used to be....a lot...I seem, though, lately, to set myself deadlines (like gifts for birthdays, Christmas etc). I need to slow down and wait, ponder --so many times I find myself rushing ahead and then thinking afterwards--"Oh I could have done that instead!"
    I am working on hand quilting my Dresden Plates--a step in the right direction...Hugs, Julierose


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