Fibre Therapy and Mindfulness


Just a few weeks ago,

I had a friend come by my place and ask me to help her make her first quilt. She’s a nurse and has a fairly stressful job at times, so she wanted something that she could do to help her relax on off days.
She was a complete newbie, had never really even looked at quilt books, magazines or stepped foot in a quilt store. It was pretty exciting to help out someone like this, but I also realized that I had to be careful to let her be the one to decide the path she wanted to take.
There are so many options, applique, hand, machine, modern, traditional, etc., not mention the art side of textiles! So we talked about what she liked and what she imagined she would work on. She wanted to use the machine and my first thought was: great a quick quilt. Let’s pick a couple of fabrics from my stash, a pattern and we can crank this sucker out in a day.
But she had a different need in mind. She asked if she could come and look through my stash to find fabrics, and we settled on a fairly simple 25 patch block set with lattice. She wanted blue and white. After spending 3 hours playing with my fabric (I have a large stash of small pieces I inherited from my mother that I will never use – but that’s another story!) she ended up selecting more than 60 fabrics. “I just can’t give any of them up, I have a relationship with all of them now.”

It made me pause and realize how important this process is

We have tools that make things faster and easier. We even have pre-cut fabric, jellyrolls, and patterns to suit, kits that are ready to assemble and machines that sew without us with the touch of a button.
What is this doing for our connection to the craft? Historically, women have gravitated to textiles for practical reasons, but have also contributed to an art and expression that has been woven deeply into our cultures. I believe it’s why we still reach for needlecrafts and textiles. In quilting, there was often a story to the fabrics used – old clothes, a quilting bee, creating a legacy handed down through generations.
Today we are finding new ways to explore these crafts, but I think we need to pause.

Being Mindful with the Craft

Mindful Fibre Art, Slow Craft, Slow Makers and Slow Textiles: these terms all represent a movement – a cultural narrative that really resonates with me.
This movement gives permission to take the time, celebrate details and revel in techniques that give you the opportunity to focus and relax while connecting your hands and mind to the moment. I have written about the concept of a fibreshed or the 100 Mile Fibre diet in another post.
There is an environmental component, recognition of where the materials come from, what the ecological impact is of these and making conscious choices along the way. There is also a social context, connecting with and creating a community around the traditional crafts. Now don’t get me wrong. I am all for technology, I am, after all a free motion machine embroiderer and quilter.
But it’s about slowing down and enjoying the process, appreciating the steps and having a connection with each and every part of what it takes to make these beautiful works of art. Part of the mindful textile movement is to create space to consider the rhythm of the process, slowing down, making conscious decisions to enjoy each fabric, each colour, each thread, each stitch. I think we can adopt the concept even with machine work, it’s more about being mindful, giving ourselves permission to appreciate the process and honour the tradition of the craft.

It feeds the soul, its fibre therapy and I need it.

Apparently, so did my friend.

Does anyone else need a little fibre therapy? I love to go into a fabric store just to look at the bolts of fabric all lined up in colour gradients, or take out some fabric and iron it – just to smell it…when I’ve had a rough day, it totally takes the edge off.