I have been knitting a LONG time and many of those years it has been as part of my job. One of the things I personally struggle with is remembering to take the time to pause and focus on what is going on around me. With so many deadlines and ideas running around it can be so hard to take a moment to breathe and really see what is happening around me.
Katelyn brought to my attention meditative stitching through a class that Olive and Two Ewe is teaching. Since neither of us could make it to the live class we asked Michelle to be a guest on the blog and show us that we can get meditation benefits while doing the things we already are. Meditation doesn’t have to be a big scary thing and it isn’t as complicated as you might think. Join us in the virtual mini-class.
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When I was asked to write a guest post for Marly Bird on Meditative Stitching, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to share this exciting technique. Meditation isn’t new and of course, neither is knitting and crochet. But the fusion of the two to create a practice of mindfulness is a unique partnership that lends itself well to those on a creative journey and offers many positive benefits for both the body and soul.
How I found meditative stitching:
I happened upon meditative stitching when my son announced he was going to be an over-the-road truck driver and I had to find a way to manage my anxiety regarding his safety. He needed a cap for warmth as he was beginning in the midst of winter and lived in Texas. So I found some beautiful yarn in his favorite colors and began stitching. Soon, I found myself praying with each stitch; prayers for safety, wisdom, and success. As the project progressed, nothing else mattered and deep inside, I felt that if I could get that cap on him before he hit the road, he would be safe. There was nothing magical about it, but I had injected my prayers and love into that project and to me (and I was pleased to learn, to him,) that meant something.
Crafters everywhere are always looking for new ways to use their skills, whether it’s charity knitting, creating gifts for family and friends, or developing new methods to create fresh pieces. Meditative Stitching answers the call by offering an innovative way to elevate knitting and crochet to a place of personal grace and growth and offers us a peaceful retreat in the midst of crazy busy lives. Who doesn’t want that?
What is meditation:
Though we often conjure up images of orange-clad monks or yoga gurus sitting cross-legged on a thatch floor when we think of meditation, it’s really much more inclusive than that. Meditation is simply the practice of focused thought or contemplation. That’s really all it is and it’s accessible to everyone, without investment in pricey equipment or special clothing. In fact, you may have already experienced meditative moments while stitching. The gentle rhythm of the needles and stitches can often lull us into a place of calm and peacefulness before we know it. Consider for a moment; isn’t that why many of us knit or crochet in the first place? Because it relaxes us, brings us joy (ok, maybe NOT when we suddenly get so frustrated with a project that we have to toss it in the “time out” bin,) and offers us a sense of peace?
Most of us lead busy lives and find our moments torn between family responsibilities, career commitments, keeping up with friends, the draw of social media, and the constant noise and clutter of modern life. Finding moments of peace and calm in the midst of it all is so crucial for striking balance and for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Studies have suggested that knitting can help to lower blood pressure and improve our health in multiple ways. Similar studies have demonstrated that meditation has positive effects on health as well. Put the two of them together to create a meditative stitching practice and you might just have a recipe for better health on the boil!
Before staring your journey:
Before setting out to carve out a meditative stitching practice for yourself, it’s helpful to consider a few questions:
- Are you a process or project stitcher?
Process and project knitters alike can enjoy and reap the benefits of a meditative stitching practice. Falling into meditation comes a bit easier if you’re a process stitcher, but project knitters can can enjoy the knowledge that their projects will become a gift of encouragement and light to either themselves or a dear family member or friend.
- Are you an organized or free-form crafter?
Organized stitchers may prefer to schedule time for their practice and carefully choose projects while free-form crafters may stitch meditatively in snippets of time and let their needles or hook take them where they please.
- Are you a budget or investment shopper?
Choosing materials that bring you joy is important to meditative stitching. The feel of the needles or hook in your hand, the texture of the yarn you’re using, and the sound of the stitch markers as they slide across your needles all weave together to create a practice that is either soothing or distracting. When considering materials, ask the question, “does this bring me joy?”
A few last details to consider and you’ll be set for stitching nirvana in no time!
There are three main “thought directions” that are useful for this quiet practice: prayer, gratitude, and affirmation.
Prayer allows us to connect with our higher power on behalf of ourself or others. Gratitude allows us time to focus on positive thoughts and what we are most thankful for in our lives. And affirmation is helpful for growth and building up our self-esteem. Each has its own path and purpose for including in our practice.
Begin with a simple, easily memorized project so you needn’t be constantly consulting a pattern for that next step. This allows focus on the stitching process, your thoughts, and breathing.
Once you’ve gathered your materials, decided upon your thought direction, and carved out a bit of time, start by sitting comfortably and taking a few deep breaths. Allow your mind to clear. Be as comfortable as possible so that your surroundings are not distracting. Once you begin to stitch, focus on your breathing and on each stitch you make. This helps to focus your mind and remain in the present.
Next, begin your thought direction: praying for the needs of yourself or others, remembering those things for which you are grateful in life, or whispering quiet affirmations of strength and worth to yourself. It’s ok to be repetitive here. Every thought or idea mustn’t be original as each repetition can move you further into a place of peace and focus.
Once your project is completed, and filled with prayers, thoughts of gratitude, or affirmations, it’s likely it will hold special meaning for you and, if you’re gifting it, for the person for whom it’s intended. You can wear that beautiful shawl filled with affirmations to your next job interview or other situation where you could use some reminding of your value and worth. Donating those preemie caps to a children’s hospital will now be a gift beyond a tangible object as they are filled with your prayers for healing and strength. You get the idea. Meditative stitching results in projects that transcend the value of their materials.
Why practice meditative stitching:
Meditative stitching is a simple way to enrich our lives through an activity we already love and enjoy. Embracing the peaceful calm of our craft, and building upon that foundation with intentional practices offers physical and spiritual benefits beyond measure. My son still wears his cap filled with my prayers and it brings us both great joy.
What and how will you create as you begin your intentional stitching journey?
Want to learn more? Michelle and her business partner Carolyn Edgar own Olive & Two Ewe Studios, a small-batch, artisan crafted indie-dyed yarn and fiber craft accessories company.
Follow them on Facebook to be kept in the loop about Michelle’s upcoming book on meditative stitching, classes and more!
The next live class on Meditative Stitching will be offered at Little Thimble Craft in Celebration, Florida on October 12th.
The Two Ewe appear at fiber shows, teach classes and produce their video podcast, The Traveling Two Ewe Knit. They also find time to organize quarterly Yarn Lounge events which feature local yarn.