Yesterday, I sat down to do some finishing hand-stitching on an item someone purchased from my Etsy store. As I started, I sighed and thought, Man, I hate hand stitching.
Maybe it’s the fast-paced environment in which I spend most of my days – the environment that would frown-upon the fact that it takes 15 minutes - 1/8 of the total time spent on the project – to do something that makes up a very, very small part of the whole. Or maybe it’s my perfectionistic nature – the way I feel a need for things to turn out neater, more exact than the human hand can produce. Whatever the reason, I always dread the hand-stitching or finishing stitching that often comes at the end of a project.
As part of my middle school home economics class we were assigned a hand-embroidery project. After trying the embroidery a few times and failing to get the stitches exactly even, I gave up. I whipped out my mom's sewing machine, machine-stitched the felt patches and was done in 5 minutes.
When I took my project to class the next day I was proud: my surfboard pillow with its machine-stitched felt stripes looked nicer than most of the projects there. Little did I know I’d cheated myself – the project wasn’t about making a perfect, pretty pillow, it was about learning various hand-embroidery stitches. I'm sure I made up some flimsy excuse as to why I didn't follow directions, but it didn't matter - I failed the project.
One of the women who taught me to knit was very spiritual. She impressed upon me the idea that knitting carries emotions - that whatever you're thinking about when you're knitting is woven into the fabric as you knit it. "Never knit while you're angry," she said "unless you're knitting something for your ex-husband!"
I thought of those words as I began to stitch up the side of the dress. A wave of guilt washed over me. I was making a dress for a little girl – a sweet little girl who will wear it while she runs through the yard or plays on the beach – and although the whole ‘incorporating emotions into your work’ thing might be a crock, I wanted to be sure my dress brought joy to someone’s life, not negative energy.
So, I relaxed and tried to enjoy the slip stitch. And a funny thing happened. I didn’t hear anything: no voices in my head reminding me of all of the things I had to do, no phones ringing, no new email reminders, nothing. It was peaceful and, for the first time in a very, very long time, I was relaxed. Not that ‘the minute I step out of this massage and shell over $70 my shoulders will tense up again’ or ‘yoga class was great but what the hell am I going to cook for dinner now’ relaxed – a very calming, inner peace kind of relaxation.
I don’t expect to trade in my sewing machine for an embroidery hoop anytime soon but it is nice to know that next time I might actually look forward to those few moments of hand-stitching.