Sabbath Stitching

I did not – and do not – intend for this to be a “food blog.” Although I do a fair amount of food-related things. Today, instead, is all about handwork. Embroidery, quilting, knitting, etc. And how to turn those into Sabbath Stitching.

I grew up in a tiny Christian Reformed Church. We went to both services most Sundays. And during those periods when Dad was a deacon and had to stay after the service to count the offering, we sometimes even had dinner with another family in between – we lived far enough away that going all the way home was a chore.

Observant though we were, Grandma was a whole ‘nother level. She wouldn’t crochet on Sundays, because that constituted “work.”

This was one of the areas in which I never quite “got” my Grandmother. It wasn’t as if she considered needlework a chore. And her projects were never necessities. Doilies, tablecloths, bedspreads, and other dainties were her usual fodder. Far from being an obligation, they were a way to keep her hands busy and calm her soul.

THAT part, I understand. And that’s why a typical part of my Sunday is a little time to spend with some sort of handwork. Sabbath stitching. It’s calming, meditative, and easy to work on while listening to music or even a podcast. Well, mostly. I’ve worked on the occasional project that was so complicated that quiet was required for concentration. But for the most part, like my grandmother, it’s something to keep my hands busy while my mind often wanders elsewhere.

And for me, it can be any one of a number of handcrafts. Sewing, mending, applique, hand piecing a quilt, cross stitch, embroidery, knitting, crochet. As with everything else in our branded and motto-infested world, you can even get shirts, tote bags, or other gear that says “Sewing mends the soul.” I don’t care to bother with the T-shirt. But I embrace the sentiment.

Now, I admit it is not relaxing to be feverishly trying to finish a handmade gift. Or otherwise make something I NEED to finish. I’d much rather sit and work on something that I just enjoy. Especially if I have pretty things to use while I do it.

The gentle arts lend themselves to quieting the mind, musing on things spiritual, sacred, reverent, or just nostalgic. I find myself even gravitating toward patterns and books with quiet, calm projects to work on. My lastest find is the books published by Acufactum, in Germany. The photos are lovely, the projects range from simple knitted pieces, delicate cross stitch scenes, and sewn accents. The Google Translate app has a camera function that allows me to manage the instructions without much trouble.

My latest cross stich project is from a Russian designer, whose business is called Owl Forest. She created the design, and hand dyes the flosses and threads for it. I chose it because the color palette and the design call to mind the plans I have for our Swedish farm house and the orchard and gardens I’d like to plant around it.

Now, one of the things I think about while I’m stitching is the current situation in the world that preclude me currently buying any more kits from the same designer. She’s managed to provide .pdf charts, but there is no way to get her exquisitely dyed floss. Her business and her livelihood are but another bit of collateral damage. Tiny lives disrupted by massive political forces that pay them no more mind than ants.

People being people, her social media attracted a few trolls who expressed a desire to see her fail – viewing this as concomittant with support of Ukraine. Which is what happens when one thoughtlessly stampedes along the polished trails of opinion – without stopping to think.

Far better, instead, to take the time to consider all the people, on both sides of the conflict, who are injured by it in one way or another. Perhaps you’ll choose to purchase a pattern from a Ukrainian designer. I did. But perhaps you’ll also realize that you can support the Ukrainian ex-pat without wishing doom and destruction on her Russian peers.

Slowing down to make tiny stitches provides the time to stop and think about the details. Count five stitches over. Count your blessings. Cast off a pair of socks. Cast off your worries onto He who can hold them all. Mend the tear in the hem. Think about your mother doing the same thing when you were young and mend the place in your heart that is still raw with her loss. You’ll always know it’s been mended, but the rip won’t get any deeper.

It’s not “mindfulness” – which is the modern replacement for “trancendental meditation,” itself an attempt at replacing prayer. Sometimes it is prayer. And sometimes it isn’t. But it is a stop. A slow down. A Sabbath rest. The better to face the world renewed on Monday morning. Maybe then, I’ll work on a new pair of shorts for my youngest – I bought the fabric this weekend. Or piece a few more blocks on my Farmer’s Wife quilt. But those are projects for which the physical output is the goal. That doesn’t have to be the purpose of everything you turn your hand to.

I’m going to even commit to a little bit of Sabbath stitching every Sunday. And I’ll post a photo to Instagram, starting next week. I invite you to join me.

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  1. Ahh, I love this. I’m a restless sort who feels I must be productive all the time. I feel better if I take a Sabbath rest, but my hands need to be busy. I’m working on some needlework now too, not just on Sabbath but on most days, if only for a few minutes. These forgotten skills are so good to learn!

    1. Even back in college, a bunch of the girls on my floor would get together with our cross stitch for a “stitch and b***h” session once a week. I think we underestimate how good for us it is to do some sort of handwork.

      Next project – finding a basket to use to keep all my mending, so I can easily find it when I want to “stitch for just a minute” on something.

  2. I love that you found an activity to add restful refreshment to your Sundays! Looking forward to seeing the photos on Instagram. ūüôā

    1. I stopped off today at my local needlework store for a few skeins of floss.

      And came home with a pattern for a knitted gnome and miniskeins to make him. So I’m currently rolling skeins into balls. ūüėČ

      So there will either be a gnome, or an embroidered piece on Sunday. Not sure yet.

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