Beki from Artsy-Crafty Babe fell in love with hand sewing a few years ago; we asked her to join our series and tell us a little about Slow Sewing and what it means to her. Beki goes way back here at Sew Mama Sew, with this popular tutorial for Full Bust Alterations and her pretty Liberty Pillow last year.
Tell us what you think about sewing by hand. Does it fuel your creative life? Do you love to sit and relax in the evening with a project in hand? Have you checked out all of our Hand Sewing tutorials?
Sewing by hand is one of the first crafts I can remember doing when I was a child. There were always sewing supplies and scraps of fabric available (or maybe not so available… I liked to snoop!). My favorite thing to do was to simply sew scraps together. Little did I know that I’d rediscover this craft years later and fall completely in love with it all over again.
My life is beyond full at the moment. I’m a mom to four from teen to toddler and I work full time outside the home. When I’m not working or shuttling kids, the cooking, dishes and laundry are always waiting. Why in the world would I want to go the slow sewing route by sew something by hand? The reason is because I need it.
I learned long ago that I creating is an essential part of me. When life gets too busy for me to make something with my hands, I get out of sorts. It turns out that hand sewing small projects fits perfectly in my busy life… It’s portable and satisfies my need to create on many levels. It doesn’t bother me one bit that I’ve gotten many looks over the years while sewing at ball games, on airplanes and sitting in waiting rooms.
I spend the majority of my days behind a computer screen dealing with uninteresting, intangible things, which further fuels my desire to make with my hands. I like how sewing by hand feels; it feels good! It connects me physically. After a stressful day, the rhythm of pushing the needle in and out of the fabric calms me like nothing else.
No, it’s not practical, but in a world filled with mass produced everything, creating something unique that takes time and effort is very satisfying. Every imperfect stitch adds to the personality. Generally, I only hand sew things that are special, such as gifts for friends or things for my kids. I like to imagine my love and well wishes permeating every stitch.
Over the years I’ve sewn a variety of projects by hand. It all started with Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Chanin book. It seemed crazy to me to sew clothing by hand, but everyone was doing it, so I followed along. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Sewing knits by hand was a totally new experience for me. I loved every aspect of it from the stenciling to the construction. After making a few of her skirts (my favorite), I ventured out on my own, making my own stencils, then my own patterns. As much as I loved making the clothing, I found that I didn’t wear the pieces. This led me to stenciling and reverse appliqueing pillows and accessories.
As a bag maker at heart, my next step was to applique on bags. At the time I was in love with vintage linens, so that’s where I took it. I used some of the techniques I learned from Alabama Chanin and applied it to my bags– bags constructed from vintage linens with hand appliqued vintage linen designs. Again, my favorite part was the slow sewing.
When my fourth child came along I went back to hand sewing knits in the form of hand appliquing blank clothing with outgrown clothing. I couldn’t bear to pass along certain outfits, so I cut them up to use on t-shirts and onesies. I also started making knit “blocks” to assemble into a memory quilt for her one day. The outgrown clothing I appliqued has been stashed away. I haven’t worked on this project in a while, but it’s sitting in a box under my bed waiting for me.
Today my love of slow sewing is still going strong in the form of mini quilts. One day I decided to applique a Dresden Plate that was hand sewn by my grandmother. It eventually evolved into a mini quilt. I fell hard for the feeling of hand quilting, but the thought of hand quilting an entire full size quilt is daunting. Mini quilts are perfect for me right now. This summer I’ve been working on two mini quilts as gifts for dear friends who both made big moves across the country. As I’m making these I feel like I’m giving them a little part of me. It has been such a pleasure!
My favorite time and place to work on hand sewing is in the evening after the kids go to bed, sitting on my sofa watching TV with my husband. With our crazy busy lives, evenings are the only time we get to spend together. My sewing used to take me away from him during this time, as I’d retreat to my sewing room to fit in a little creating; once I fell in love with slow sewing, that was over.
I keep a large basket filled with my favorite fabric scraps and my current project, along with anything else I may need at the moment (needles, straight pins, small scissors, thread). It has a handle for easy carrying from room to room. If I get the chance, I also like to sew in my favorite chair in the kitchen early in the morning or in my bed right before I go to sleep. When I’m on the go I throw a zipper pouch filled with thread, embroidery scissors and a small needle book into my purse (this is why I love a roomy bag!), along with my project. I like having a project with me at all times; you never know when you’ll get the chance to fit in some stitches!
There was a time when I couldn’t imagine sewing anything by hand, but now I can’t live with out it. As old fashioned and inefficient as it seems, it has fit into my busy life more perfectly than I ever could have dreamed. If you’ve ever thought about it, or think it’s completely nuts, I urge you to slow down, pick up that needle and thread and enjoy the stitches!