One of the secrets of happiness is having a host of activities that we can enjoy when we are alone…
When we use our skills for self-nourishment and to foster deeper connections with people…loneliness transforms into solitude.
- Mary Pipher, Women Rowing North
My mother also sewed, a lot - both practical things for the house like curtains and placemats, but also dressmaker-level apparel for all of us. Her favorite saying was “There’s a difference between homemade and handmade.” If my mother made it, it was handmade. I learned a lot about sewing from her, mostly by osmosis, as it didn’t interest me very much while she was still living.
After my mom’s death, sewing became one of the ways I felt most in contact with her, and I learned just how much I had absorbed from watching her all those years.
My machine is mostly idle now unless I’m sewing for the house - I haven’t really made the time to sew for myself for a very long time. I’m excited to pull out all those dress patterns I cut out and never put together. I also brought home some beautiful cottons and silk blends from India that I want to put to good use. Voila! There is time. Lots of time.
Like many people all over the US, I started back into it this week by making masks for my extended family. It’s been a real treat to see all the beautiful variety of cloth that people are sewing so generously for others on social media. I know there are a lot of frustrated first-time sewers out there, but I’d encourage you to stick with it. It’s very self-nourishing to produce something tangibly beautiful, and then to share that with others. I hope we see the start of a home-sewing revival.
Whatever your method of creative expression, take the time now to nourish yourself by doing it.
Awareness in Activity
Working on a craft, playing music, even working on a computer or your phone can be a powerful stimulus. We find ourselves drawn to what we are immersed in - both mentally and physically. Our heads go down to meet our work. Later, we discover we have a stiff neck, sore shoulders, or eye strain, and we wonder why.
In Alexander Technique, we learn to bring our awareness to our work by observing in the moment what we are doing. For an example - I’m sewing my face masks. My machine runs out of thread, and I have to rethread my needle. I have a couple of choices here:
- I can scrunch my face down as close as I can get to the needle and still have room for my fingers to put the thread through, tightening my neck and my back in the process.
- I can remain upright and allow myself to see the needle without going towards it. I envision the thread going easily into the needle as I see the whole space around where I am working with my hands. It threads quickly and easily.
- I can do what my mother did and use a magnifying glass to see the needle more clearly from a distance, then follow choice 2.
When you are doing your favorite activity this week, take some time to pause and be aware of how you’re doing what you’re doing. See what happens.