Grab a Cuppa

Grab a Cuppa

bioimageSit down and grab a cuppa as I have a few newsy items this morning and a bit of musing has been going on.

Firstly the Take it Further challenge is still growing as people are still signing up. It now sits at well over 200 people who have signed on. I have updated the participants list. It is going to be a very interesting challenge because people from all areas of textile practice are joining.

It’s taking me about an hour and half a day to answer emails and update the list if it gets much bigger I may have to set a sign on date and keep the numbers at that. I am not sure yet, I was going to leave it open, but I will see if things settle down in the next week or so and then decide.

I had a wonderful surprise in the mail yesterday. Paula of The Beauty of Life had a small email interchange after I wrote about my charm quilt. This tale needs a little back story to fill you in.  I have been hoarding a scraps of fabric off old garments for 28 years with the thought of eventually making a charm quilt.

Recently Eve my daughter has become interested in quilting and I pulled out these scraps thinking she might like them. As I said in the previous post in this hoard I have scraps from my clothing, Eves clothes, from my mother, my grandmother, sisters, step mother who is is a dress maker, some of Jerry’s shirts and friends have often given me scraps that I have kept as little memento of them.

Many of the fabrics hold family stories for instance I have a scrap from the dress I was wearing when I met Jerry, the blouse I wore on our first date, from maternity dresses, clothing I made for Eve when she was a child. Some have stories of another kind as the other day I discovered a scrap from the shirt I was wearing the day John Lennon was shot. I remember looking down and seeing my shirt sleeve when I heard the news and gazing at the pattern for a while.

Anyway I decided to show this hoard to Eve thinking she might like them but she immediately talked me into me making the quilt. In my email interchange with Paula I confessed to being a good few hundred pieces short as I have done the math and need 2,700 scraps. This is after receiving a very generous hoard from Linda of Chloes Place a few weeks ago. So with Paulas gift that arrived yesterday I am over the moon as I am sure this will mean I hopefully have enough scraps.

It’s a busy time of year but apart from Paulas gift of course, I have cut all the diamonds which you can see are quite small. Eve and I have spent many hours with scraps laid out on the dining room table checking for doubles. Just as we think we have culled any duplicate we discover another!

I have also actually stitched a few. As said this will be a hand stitched charm quilt and I expect it to take some time. Not many done but a few as you can see I am working with blues at the moment. I was also asked if I will be documenting it. Yes , I will as I keep a visual journal and everything I make gets documented so this will too.

Allison Aller left a comment on the previous post about this project she said ” … I just love that this is hand-done…no downloaded designs, no long arm quilting machines…The design is a sister to the crazy quilt you are working on, too, isn’t it? The 3-D tumbling blocks, or diamonds? I think it is wonderful that you are working in two formats that are so related yet so distinct.” I love the hexagon and diamond formats for some reason I just drawn to them and I like hand stitching. I enjoy the fact that I can just pick it up stitch a bit and put it down and that in the very act of it being made of such scraps it is loaded with personal meanings.

A Slow Cloth

I recently came across a new blog Red Thread Studio written by Elaine Lipson who talks about the idea of a slow cloth. For this project, the philosophy of the slow movement I definitely embrace. A slow cloth is a bit like slow travel and slow food as slow cloth is a return, out of choice, to a process that I can emotionally connect to.

I do not mean that quilts made on sewing machine are not meaningful, just that in this case for this particular project making it by hand feels right.

I have been thinking much about this notion of slowing down in order to have quality rather than quantity in life. The idea of a slow cloth made me think that  perhaps we need a slow craft movement too. A philosophy that celebrates the hand made and dare I say it the craft process. Not projects that are marketed and sold as a thrown together weekend quick recreational activity but objects that are made with care and with the expectation that we have a relationship to them in other words they have meaning.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against using things like sewing machines to produce items just questioning  the quick thrown together projects that often look more as if they are made to be consumed ie used once or twice and then thrown out rather than valued for a lifetime.

At the risk of sounding totally idealistic do you think we need a craft philosophy that celebrates the hand crafted object made with care and meaning without regard to time. What do you think? Mull it over, go away think about it slowly … come back and leave a comment I would love to hear what you think.


  1. Sharon, I don’t get the chance to read everything every day, so I’ve just picked up on this item about slow cloth. I have to say that this is what I’m missing, and see that is missing, in textiles at the moment. I hesitate to say it, but magazines aren’t helping. QA, for instance, is ideal for the quick fix, but true art takes time and comes from the soul.

  2. I totally embrace the idea of “slow” in my creative meanderings. I will rip out something that I’m not happy with in a project, and that really slows things down! When my friends see some of the things I make, they say I should sell them at our Church boutique. My answer is usually along the lines of “Are you kidding, that took me 3 months to make!”. (Since I work and have teenagers and not a lot of time, the vast majority of my things are made slow-ly.) When my first daughter turned 2, I made her a Raggedy Anne doll with a very carefully embroidered face. My aunt said I should make them to sell. But my heart was really in it for my beloved and only (at the time) daughter, so there’s no way I could put that effort and love into it, just to sell. I love the antique crafted items, where even the back or the bottom is decorated. This obviously takes time. I do totally relate to the desire to make more things and sometimes wish they took less time. But sometimes that time is spent learning and healing, and you can’t beat that.

  3. If you want to push this movement, call it something besides “Slow”. I have always thought that “Slow Food” was a very unfortunate name for a movement whose philosophy I share, simply because it doesn’t convey the true meaning of the idea, and is over simplistic, too eager to sound clever and catchy rather than thoughtful. Ironic. Also, there is high quality work done by machine, and poor quality work done by hand. If you want to distinguish between something made with respect to craftsmanship rather than something made carelessly, then say so. Care, skill, and belief in quality are the desirable things, not a particular method.

  4. A couple of connected thoughts – I have dropped out of TAST because I can’t do “fast cloth.” I have only a limited amount of leisure time, and this year has taken me in different directions. I tried just making a few stitches each week but didn’t enjoy it when I didn’t take the time to “push the stitch.”(Still looking at other’s work though, and may do some on my own later. A plug to keep the TAST site active for a while longer.)

    I hope you will keep the “Take it Further Challenge” signup open. I may be able to participate, but don’t think I can make a definite commitment right now. I’ll be looking in though.

  5. I love the charm quilt. I made one a few years back – 999 fabrics and I showing the top to my inlawas and was pointing out that there were no repeats. My FIL [bless him] said, “sure there is” and pointed out a pair in the middle of the quilt! Didn’t notice those! The one fabric I kept searching for – knowing I had seen it before – well, it was in the quilt that I saw first thing every morning when I opened my eyes!

    So not only the fabrics will create memories – the interactions while you’re working on it! Definitely a worthwhile “slow cloth”

    Good luck!

  6. I have been thinking of this subject a lot lately. I work in several mediums: fabric, beading and leather work. For me hand work and the time it takes to do something is a relaxation in the fast paced world around me. Sometimes I piece quilt blocks by machine, but the time used is still done with thought, consideration of the colors, pattern and the final effect. In beading and leather work, it is all by hand, and is by its very nature slow, contemplative work. I prefer hand work and the slow movement of the process. The hardest problem I have, is with folks who don’t appreciate the time (whether by machine or hand), I do put into my work. They want it yesterday, or feel I must be lacking for having all this available time to do this work. My life is as busy as everyone elses, but I make and take time where I can find it, to bring my soul and heart into the creative process. I guess it is how one looks at the value of time. Slow is very valuable for me.

  7. I think there is a place for both forms of craft. I regularly donate small and lap size quilts for women’s and children’s charities in my local area — these quilts are made quick and easy, simple patterns and are meant to be used, abused and used up. But on the other hand I have projects that are slow, hands only from start to finish, a variation of the grandmother’s flower garden is in its second year of piecing, crazy quilt blocks in a neat pile that gets added to once in a while and has been in progress for more than 7 years. Both ways of exploring my interest in Quilting is important to me, both ways have their special place in my world. I don’t see why one has to be better or worse than another — they are just different methods for different purposes.
    Like Black and White, both are needed in the world we live in.

  8. Of all the comments, I have to agree with Barbara’s comment as sharing the same opinion as mine.

    I think there is a place for all kinds of crafts–both handmade and machinemade. I certainly would not want to discourage anyone from experimenting with fabrics and techniques because she was not willing to do it by hand.

    I have been just as awed by machinework as I have by handwork. They both take a tremendous amount of skill to master and I think anyone who attempts to master her skill level should be encouraged to do it.

    For me, the satisfaction is being able to blend both machine and handwork into a designed piece of my own successfully.

    And, as a final comment, some machine work can be very slow. I am currently working on a machine embroidered piece and some of the individual birds are taking about 3 hours to embroider. This piece is definitely slow & requiring a tremendous amount of skill; albeit, machine done.

  9. my life is really fast,,i need be fast all the time,do fast analisys,fast programs,fast result,fast research,fast,fast….but…
    my crafts (crossticht, felt,etc)are my private island of time, sometime, is a fast progress in other slow..but in this piece of my time, i don´t care the velocity,only the love, the effort that i do in any tiny stitch, and i really enjoy thats moments.

  10. Actually i think i like both hand and machine work almost equally. They are of course very different processes, but each has it’s own value and reward in terms of product and job satisfaction. If I just do hand work for a while I find myself itching to use the machine, free machine embroidery, piecing, creating fabric from bits and overlays . . . And after a spell of that I’m aching to do crazy q, or a ‘sumptuous surface’, or some TAST sampling. . . .
    The trick is, I believe, to learn to appreciate all work of quality we see, hand or machine, trad or contemporary, and also to encourage people who go for the ‘quick fixes’ to try something a little more demanding, and therefore, satisfying.

  11. Hi Sharon – I’m glad you received the fabric. I prefer handwork to machine, although I tend to use the machine to do some things-eg: sewing blocks together. I have done some machine work, but I get more done if I do it by hand – its portable, easier to pick up and set down, and I like it more – machinework tends to feel more like a chore. The hand vs machine debate, as mentioned by Mary Corbet, reminds me of the working mothers vs stay at home mothers, and the breast feeding vs bottle feeding debates (you can probably tell what stage of life I’m passing through) -I wonder if it’s a gender thing, or if men have the same debates – maybe we should just accept and delight it what other do rather than debate the relative merits of each. I think I need to say more so I’ll write it in my blog!

  12. I have been struggling just a bit with this idea myself, Sharon. My current CQ project (Midsummer) is going to take a very long time for me to make, both because of it’s size and also the fact that it will all be hand work (except the actual piecing of the blocks). I find myself getting a bit irritated because it is taking so long, and then I mentally give myself a shake and wake up to the fact that it is indeed the journey and the process that I am interested in… not necessarily the finished product (although I look forward to that also). I want to learn and explore as I go along, and it is indeed the journey and not the destination that count here, as others above have said. Here’s to Slow Crafting!!

  13. About slowing down, I feel the very same. I just wrote about this on my blog couple of days ago http://here/2007/12/10/14/. I think what I love the most about making something are those quiet moments, slow, when I can feel the needle between my fingers and my mind starts to wonder. Though, I think, even with the machine one can experience the same. It´s probably not the tool but the state of mind and heart which sets the pace.

  14. I have a UFO that I hope to piece together some day.
    I like to think of handpiecing as an amazing way to realize just how much you CAN get done in a short time like 15 minutes.

    When I quilt or hand piece I usually am pondering some wonder filled idea and creating the time and energy to do that…sit down…take that leap of faith by piecing one more block… feeds my soul…my motto is “little by little” or step by step.

    Truly it is amazing how much gets accomplished by “just starting” and breaking “it” up into pieces…quite literally in this case.

    I’m rambling… 🙂

  15. I’m not sure what you mean by “do you think we need a craft philosophy that celebrates the hand crafted object made with care and meaning without regard to time”. Do you mean an actual organised movement that celebrates slow work?

    You see, I think many of us already do that, possibly without realising it. In thinking about it now, I have only used my sewing machine for making clothes, not for my various hand-crafting endeavours, because it is the hand-work process I enjoy.

    With clothing I am after the finished article and it is not hobby/craft/enjoyment driven.

    For the rest, I do it because it gives me pleasure to do the actual work; it is rarely the finished object that drives me. It is the sitting comfortably in my living room, with work to do by hand, that I enjoy. Every evening I stitch and listen to the televsion while my husband watches it.

    I make up my purses by hand, enjoying the rhythm of stitching the straight seams. I join the patches in the patchwork/quilting things I have made by hand, enjoying the matching of points and angles and seeing them fit together.

    I also wonder if the time available to do one’s hobby is a factor. I work full-time and have another commitment most Saturdays, and so hand-stitching fits into that. I can pick it up when I have a few minutes, and I can do it in the evenings. Perhaps the gentle slow process of hand-stitching is also an antidote to my otherwise busy life.

    Each to their own, I guess. Some prefer to use the latest technologies to express their creativity, others prefer the simpler methods.

  16. I like the process and the magic of making things whether the starting point is a ball of yarn that becomes a pair of socks, a hat or a scarf; a piece of fabric and box of threads that becomes a piece of embroidery; or a bowl of flour, salt, water and yeast that becomes a loaf of bread.


  17. Hi Sharon,

    I’ve recently made a personal commitment to try being as open-minded in as many areas as I possibly can. My goal is to look at things as an observer without judgment from my own ego and preferences.

    This is a relatively new approach for me so my first inclination was to jump in and say yes, I agree completely with a “slow it down and enjoy the process of creating” statement. And on a personal level, that is my own philosophy. For some people however, lack of time or patience may be a factor. There are people out there who enjoy making things but lean towards needing instant gratification. Of course, hand needlework then is not a suitable craft for those people.

    I was at a quilt show a few years ago with my sister. We were standing in line waiting to pay for something talking about machine work for finishing and hand work for enjoyment. The lady in front of us overheard our conversation, turned around and told me in a “not so nice way” that I was absolutely crazy for doing needlework by hand and that it’s unheard of these days when we have machines to do it now.

    I was rather floored at the time for obvious reasons. Talk about being narrow-minded!

    For years people have told me that they just don’t know how I can sit and stitch by hand all the time. The funny thing is, until recently, I couldn’t understand someone who didn’t do some sort of hand work. The point I’m making is that although, we, as a group enjoy the process of creating something by hand with a needle & thread, it’s just not enjoyed by everyone.

    I do agree though, that it would be nice if those who didn’t care for doing hand work or who didn’t do any type of craft, would understand the value of time and effort put into doing hand work.

    I’ll end with an interesting thought that ironically popped into my head yesterday. Most of my blog readers already know that I believe we create our own reality. Basically, I believe we get what we focus on.

    It occurred to me yesterday, what if I had an idea for a themed CQ piece, say a purse, and then the minute I thought about it, it was instantly created, complete and ready to use? Instant materialization. Hmmm…… I knew the answer to that question immediately. I would lose out on the enjoyment of actually stitching it.

  18. Interesting post and everyone that answered seems to feel the tug of a slower way of playing with our art. I have made lots of quilts. All but one on the machines. I loved doing them. But the one quilt I did by hand was a Grandmother’s Flower Garden, all done by hand, it took time. It was for one of my sons. But you know of all the quilts the one that gets the most comment is the hand made one. Now as I get slower I find by hand may be my key to still doing my craft. Your blocks are going to be awesome . Rene

  19. In October I blogged at http://jowynn.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/others-work/about feeling discouraged because I work so slowly and my output is so meager as compared with the work of others whose blogs I follow. I still wish I could produce more because I have so many ideas I’d like to execute. But in fact I enjoy the slow process of germinating ideas, deciding what to work on, designing and planning the piece, and stitching it slowly. For me it is a meditation practice.

    I had such a busy, busy life before being forced to retire. Going slow makes for a different quality of life, a life mindfully lived. Work mindfully done.

  20. I am a weaver and handspinner. Handspun, handwoven garments take me a couple of years to finish. Many times I have the handspun yarn, but don’t quite know what I want to do with it. Sometimes I dye the yarn, handpaint it, or I might just leave it natural. I need a garment plan so I know how wide/long to make the fabric. Once the fabric is off the loom and washed, I have to get up the nerve to cut it into the pattern pieces. Then all the raw edges need to be finished. The garment is sewn, worn, and loved. Knowing how long it takes me to make one item, I marvel at the women pre-industrial revolution who used to spin and weave every bit of textile in their homes. Textiles were treasured then, not tossed out at the end of the season.

  21. Fast has its place, but I was shocked during the CQ weekend. One lady made 5 quilt tops – by machine. Admittedly she was in the 1/3 that were doing their own thing, but still. She was going to have the quilts machine “quilted”. The only hand part was the binding.
    I love doing CQ because it is so hands-on and evolves at its own pace. You can’t do hours of hand work without putting part of you into the project – – and that is just one block.

  22. I am whole-heartedly for a slow crafts movement! I am really tired of people asking me why I embroider when it takes so long to finish a project. I embroider because I enjoy the process; the finished product is something of an afterthought at times! I don’t want to finish something fast-if I want “fast” I can go buy the darned thing. I don’t want to make many of the same thing. Although I do make hats on a regular basis, they’re all one of a kind, many variations of the same pattern.
    Slow down, visit with people while I sew, pet the dog in between stitches, and take the project with me. Much harder to do that with a sewing machine.

  23. As with Christine, I’ll blog on the slow cloth subject, one that is close to my heart.

    I have a quilt made from family clothing scraps that I treasure. It is a simple strip patches quilt. Because the blocks are so small it has lots of duplicates in a delightful mille fleur sort of arrangement. The one additional charm is that all the blocks were marked and cut by my grandfather (pre-rotary)and I watched him cut many of them.

  24. I agree. Food for thought. Might blog about it. This is a pet-peeve of mine, actually: hand embroidery vs. machine embroidery. The problem is, I notice that machine embroidery advocates really get offended if hand embroidery advocates advocate hand embroidery over machine embroidery! Why is that?

  25. Slow movement in quilting has always been my preference. While I’ve done some machine piecing and am trying to learn machine quilting for some items, I agree with you that hand piecing is best for some other quilts. It does take a long time, so we can’t get as much done, but it’s my hope that what is done is cherished by future generations in a way that I’m not sure the machined pieces will be.

    I definitely believe that there is something meditative about the hand sewing process, be it quilting, embroidery, whatever. For the past several weeks I have been hand quilting a queen-size top that I machine pieced. Each morning I quilt one to three blocks, taking about 45 minutes a block. While I quilt, I listen to NPR or simply sit in silence and enjoy the beautiful fabrics and think about how my daughter will enjoy sleeping under this quilt when she comes to visit at Christmas.

    I think,as you piece and quilt your charm quilt, Sharon, you will be finding wonderful moments of recollection and memories to meditate upon as you come, perhaps unexpectedly upon pieces of your own history that you are weaving (mixed metaphor, I know) into a new story for your daughter and those who follow her.

    I’m so glad you have raised this idea.

  26. Hi Sharon! I ready to get back to stitching again and plan to use your challenge as my starting point. Through the modern miracle of medicine my shoulder is so much better I can once again hold a needle and stitch for more than 3 minutes at a time so sign me up! I’m looking forward to the new year and a new challenge!

  27. I know that I make many, many projects that are made with lots of thought and love and expectations that they will be cherished.

    However, most of them are made mostly with the help, at least, of my machines. I am just not a personality who can deal with handmade projects that may take months or years.

    I have too many in my head to take that long. But I surely expect a lot of my projects to last a LONG time.

  28. I think your suggested craft philosophy could also celebrate the extraordinary benefit to the crafter that result from projects made with care and without regard to time. The therapy. A focus on the journey rather than on the destination…. Not all projects can be done that way, at least not all my projects, but I love having one going that nurtures me while I nurture it. Does that fit with slowness?

  29. A perfect thought for this time of year: slow down, slow down sewing. Instead of the “cringing” stash busting (of whatever: yarn or fabric)for 2008 terminology we should all be more kind to ourselves and call it Slowing Down 2008 and enjoy ourselves!

    Your charm quilt is going to be fabulous. But I DO want to know: when DO you sleep? 🙂

  30. Hear! Hear! I heartily agree. Every time I see another new book come out touting something as “fast and fabulous” I tend to cringe. I like taking the time to think my piece through, and while my quilts may not be pieced by hand I take great pleasure in hand applique – have never warmed to any form of machine applique. Maybe that’s one reason that I love old quilts so much – I can “feel” the love and time that went into their making. Thanks for a thoughtful post !

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