Like millions of other people around the world, we’ve been inspired by the Slow Food Movement and have spent more time thinking about where our food comes from. We’re appreciating the process of preparing great meals with simple ingredients, being more selective about what we put into our bodies, and reflecting more on the significance of where, when and with whom we consume our daily bread.

We wondered what it would be like to take a similar approach to sewing, so we’re launching a new series called Slow Sewing. Author and designer Carolyn Friedlander’s Savor Each Stitch philosophy fits right in with this idea to slow down and appreciate the sewing process, so we asked her to kick off the series with her thoughts. We’ll hear from more talented sewists and designers in the months ahead.

Carolyn’s latest book is Savor Each Stitch: Studio Quilting with Mindful Design. It includes eight quilts with a variety of options for changing the look of the designs, and includes important discussions about design concepts (line, contrast, scale, emphasis, color, volume and texture) and various material elements.

Why (do I) slow sew?

We all have plenty of choices, and for that reason I think that we are all very lucky.

These days it is pretty easy (and it can often be surprisingly affordable) to buy almost anything that we need as well as tons of stuff that we don’t need. And, we don’t even need to leave our house to do it (thanks to the internet). Alternatively, we can also do like many before us have done and make the things we need and want. We have a choice.

To me, making is an important choice, and I like being an active participant in the things that I need and use, whether I’m cooking, working on my 91 year old house or making my own clothes.

There’s something about working with your hands that just feels real. Unlike our grandparents’ generation, the world we live in today is increasingly being delivered to us on some type of screen. A lot of us spend a good chunk of our day at the computer, and I think that many of us come to quilting and sewing because it gives us a much-needed break from all of that. It gives us a non-tech, real opportunity to work with our hands.

Photography © Alexis Wharem, Greenprint Photography reprinted by permission by Lucky Spool Media, LLC.

We also lead busy lives and have tons of stuff vying for our attention at almost any given time. Personally, I feel like sewing combats a lot of that and helps keep me sane. When things are tense and I’ve got a lot going on, or especially if I’ve been sitting at the computer all day, any sewing— but especially slow, hand sewing— has this wonderful way of calming me back down. I’m able to reflect on what’s going on in my life and feel so much better. Because of all of this, it became a growing need of mine to make a conscious effort to slow down and unplug, and I knew that I wasn’t alone in feeling that way.

Photography © Alexis Wharem, Greenprint Photography reprinted by permission by Lucky Spool Media, LLC.

In early 2013, I launched a special division in my pattern company that I called my Slow Sewing Studio with the mantra “savor each stitch.” My Slow Sewing Studio is not only a group of patterns to celebrate the idea of really working with your hands, but also a means to formally express just how important the decision to make is to me. It was that same mantra and the idea of capturing a more mindful approach to making that eventually also became the title of my new book, Savor Each Stitch: Studio Quilting with Mindful Design.

Photography © Alexis Wharem, Greenprint Photography reprinted by permission by Lucky Spool Media, LLC.

Why make when you don’t have to? I love that question, because to me the answer is really powerful. Making is not accepting something that is just given to you. It’s about taking an active lead and becoming engaged in a process where you can better determine the outcome. Sewing is a fantastic process that I think can really be used to explore these ideas. I love that each thing we make is a reflection of the maker. We are making choices that will result in us leaving marks that are truly ours and no one else’s.

I put together this next project so that you can try your hand at big stitch quilting— one of my new favorite finishing techniques. I love the added texture and color of the big threads and stitches. There’s no need to worry about perfection, as each stitch will help make it your very own.

Big Stitch Coasters

Supplies + Materials (to make four coasters):

  • Roughly 70” of 1” bias tape for binding (Or cut 1 7/8” strips on the bias and use 25mm bias tape maker to create your own.)

  • Four 5” x 5” fabric squares for front
  • Four 6” x 6” fabric squares for back
  • Four 6” x 6” squares of batting
  • Perle cotton thread in a variety of colors (I use sizes no. 12 and no. 8)
  • Big Stitch quilting needles
  • Thimble
  • Circle template

1. Fold and press coaster fronts in half and in half again. Align circle template with folds, mark arc and cut along line.

2. Layer coaster front (RIGHT side UP), batting (in the middle), and coaster back (RIGHT side DOWN) and baste together. Using perle cotton thread and big stitch needle, stitch through all layers. (Note: I simply followed the fold lines, but you can get as creative or decorative as you want with it!)

3. Repeat for remaining coasters.

4. Trim excess batting and backing, and bind all edges.

Enjoy!