Sewing ‘The Rhythm of Life’ – One Stitch at a Time

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

460 thoughts on “Sewing ‘The Rhythm of Life’ – One Stitch at a Time

  1. I love that feeling of time standing still. This was something I used to experience a lot as a child, and now as an adult I still do experience it, almost like what I call a ‘time warp’ where I get to experience things seemingly outside the rules of time….

    1. But this ‘time warp’ only happens when I am not in drive nor in rush, just like Susan has shared in her blog above.

  2. Sewing and other similar work teaches us attention to detail…and attention to detail supports us with upholding a certain quality that then allows us to build a foundation for the next stage. In this way life and learning and growing never stops, and always can use the steady and consistent approach.

  3. Awesome sharing Susan – and I love the analogies used here with the ‘one stitch at a time’ and ‘one step at a time’ approach which really is the antidote to being enslaved by time.

  4. I love your analogy and have a deeper understanding of honouring the rhythm of life and how, when we miss a beat, we also drop a thread and it doesn’t hold the strong foundation that was on offer.

  5. Any activity that encourages us to stop and be present is good not just for the mind but also for the body.

  6. When we are really in that zone, paying focused attention to the detail its like we are also aware at the same time as the bigger picture.

    We can focus on the detail and get lost in it or we do another way where we focus on the detail whilst the bigger picture is always being felt.

  7. Doing one thing at a time does not come naturally to me, in fact I know I can feel agitated when just focusing on the one thing!
    This is when Esoteric Yoga comes into play, this great modality, helps me to stop, take a breath and go deeper into a stillness that otherwise I can spend the day ignoring!

  8. My mother used to make me beautiful party dresses and when I wore them I could feel the love in every stitch.

  9. I love your analogy with sewing and taking that into life. Just drop one stitch and that can affect the whole garment, no different to life, drop our focus and attention to detail and we loose the flow and rhythm of life as things start to get complicated.

  10. Sewing a beautiful analogy for how we live I love this one: ‘Just paying attention to the small detail meant that everything else was taken care of.’ If we do so we give life a quality, we value the whole by the attention we pay at every detail.

  11. With the demise of sewing in schools it feels like so many children have lost a golden opportunity to experience taking life one stitch at a time.

  12. This is really true from my experience too; ‘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’. When I allow myself the time and space to sew or garden than this feels very lovely and joyful, if I do these things in a rush and drive the joy is gone and my body feels tense and achy.

    1. So true that if we do not allow ourselves the time and space to sew or garden then our body reflects the choice of our movements. My back is showing me this morning that I went into drive to get my lawn cut yesterday instead of enjoying the activity and the opportunity to be outside on a glorious afternoon.

  13. This is lovely to read and reminds me of the simplicity and stillness of sewing and of why I enjoy it so much; ‘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.’

  14. Reading this was like a walk down memory lane, back to the kitchen table and the sound of the sewing machine gently whirring away until something went wrong and it started to make clunky noises, along with my mother’s sighs of frustration. I loved watching her create all sorts of garments, seemingly very effortlessly, but what I love the most was playing in her big tin of buttons; a tin that was still in use when my children came along and she began to give them sewing lessons. It felt like a time of simplicity, a time when we didn’t feel the need to rush and a time where every garment made was deeply appreciated and even though sometimes it wasn’t quite what I wanted, I knew it came with love.

  15. Susan, one stitch at a time is a beautiful analogy of how we can live our life in harmony both with ourselves and with our surroundings. For when we bring our all to each and every one of our activities, our body is fully present in the moment, rather than being dictated to by the heartless mind which darts back and forth in an attempt to keep the body in overwhelm and thus in disharmony.

  16. Loved it Susan. One stich at the time. Just reminds of work, were I sometimes want to do so many things in too little time, and then I think: let’s just start, and do what I start in full.

    1. Spot on Willem, it does expose multi-tasking for the drive that it can be…not saying it cannot be done with awareness, but that there are certain jobs we are better off focusing on one thing at a time otherwise we can too easily fall for the drive and be governed by time.

  17. Susan, I really enjoyed reading this blog. I love the analogy or metaphor of the sewing as a reflection of how we are in life. It makes total sense to me. There is a beautiful reminder here to create space, to put the quality you are in ahead of what you are doing and to take things in bite-sized pieces.

  18. Yes, how we are when we make or do something, or when we are living our lives, makes a big difference as you show in this blog, ‘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.’

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