Can it be possible that sewing stitches on a piece of material allows us to see and observe the kind of day we’ve had, and how we’ve felt in it? Growing up I took the art of sewing into my teenager daily life, remembering with joy the invaluable lessons this craft taught me as an adult about the rhythm of life and the importance of taking one stitch at a time…
The Sewing Machine from Heaven!
When I was around 4 years old I was fascinated in sewing. My mum had a large (and heavy) Singer sewing machine and I would peek up and watch her sew. She was incredible, she moved with effortless speed and soon enough a garment would emerge! I would stare in amazement at the dresses she used to make, from a full-length pink silk ball gown, to a black cocktail dress, to light summer dresses to children’s party dresses for myself and my two sisters. To me there was something magical about taking a piece of material and turning it into something beautiful and then being able to wear it and feel how amazing that is!
I would notice that there were days where the sewing machine seemed to purr along effortlessly, gliding steadily along the seams and then sometimes the thread would ‘catch’ and I would hear my mum tutting and having to re-thread the whole machine again. This was were I would step in and begin to rethread as I had a keen eye and enjoyed it. This to me was all a part of the experience.
Standing Still With Time
During my childhood, I remember we had a lot of what I would now call ‘idle time’ and so I would spend a lot of time creating things, whether it was outside making ‘mud pies’ with pink flowers on top, baking decorative biscuits, making a doll’s house or opening up mum’s large sewing cupboard to see what I could create. It was easy to find something as it was always brimming with dress patterns and draws full of balls of wool and lengths of beautiful materials for all occasions. There was so much time to be creative in our home. There wasn’t the rush or drive to get things done, and those moments of creativity felt so spacious, as if time stood still.
So when I grew a little older I was so looking forward to my first needlework lesson at school. I took to it very quickly, it all felt very familiar to me. It was in these lessons that I felt free and could just ‘be me’ and use my creativity. My teacher used to remark on my stitches – delicate but precise, neat and even, one stitch at a time…
The Magic and Joy of Sewing Revealed
Needless to say, needlework was one of my favourite subjects and I became good at it. I enjoyed the way the teacher would sit at her large desk covered in swatches of material and sew along with us. Every one of us in the class would quietly sew. It felt so simple and still. Carefully watching each stitch, and seeing something magical start to emerge at the end of the lesson.
I remember standing at the teacher’s desk one day and watching her sew, I could see how much time and attention she was giving her piece of work and I could feel her enjoyment… and so I told her so. She looked up at me in surprise as if no one had seen that in her before, she then nodded and agreed. I replied, “I know because I feel the same too.”
Needle & Thread – The Marker of My Day
Looking back, I realise then that sewing was a great indicator of how my day was going and how I was feeling. If I were rushing to get it finished or if I was in a bad mood that day, it would show! I would prick my finger, which I hated, or I would mess up my stitches and have to unpick and start again. I once heard that someone sewed their fingers to a sewing machine, which was enough to make me really pay attention! I didn’t use the sewing machine that much, I tended to enjoy just using a needle and thread because then I did it at my speed, and I could take my time and check every stitch.
What I learnt from all of this was that it wasn’t so much what I was making, but how I made it that counted, for example –
- Just paying attention to the small detail meant that everything else was taken care of. If the stitches were put in the wrong place, the seams would open up and the garment wouldn’t last.
- If the material I was using was too flimsy, then that wouldn’t do either. The material had to support what it was being used for, and the stitches held it all together.
- It took the right planning and getting a sense of what was needed and taking one stitch at a time.
I realise now at the age of 42 that all this was a very valuable yet simple life lesson, not just something confined to sewing, but something that I could take with me through life:
- If/when I rush, and become driven it is like missing a whole line of stitches and that sense of quality and attention to detail that I so love would not be in every step.
- By not taking one stitch (step) at a time and instead racing through to get things done, it often meant I was missing out on enjoying me, taking the time to be with me and enjoying everything that that moment brings.
- It is like holding up my garment at the end of the day and noticing there are large gaps with stitches missing! The steady stitches (steps) are needed to hold the whole together – miss the stitches and the whole garment will not feel the same.
I still love to sew today and can still feel why I enjoyed it so much as a child growing up. It taught me the importance that taking one stitch, one breath one step at a time. This forms the sequence and order to my day and how I feel in it. This rhythm of life offered through sewing is invaluable, and treasured with deep appreciation; and it’s been something I am continuing to joyfully build on, throughout my life.
by Susan Green, UK