Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Slow Cloth Movement"

Have you ever heard of this? Slow Cloth Movement? I think it is something that describes the fact that more and more people are becoming interested in and discovering the joys of working with one's hands. Knitting, crocheting, woodworking, crafting, and quilting are being discovered anew, and more and more people are interesting in learning how to do things by hand. Someone e-mailed me a link to Elaine Lipson's blog (no longer available) about this topic. I think it is appropriate to discuss this concept while I finish the leaf appliques for Star Crystal by hand. You may want to read Elaine's original post and see what ideas it provokes for you. Basically, Elaine discusses the benefits of crafting something by hand. It is not about the amount of time it takes to produce something. The pride, joy, and pleasure of making something with one's hands is in the process, not necessarily the product. To summarize, her 10 main points are these:
Slow Cloth movement: It is not about the 15 minutes it takes, or hand vs machine, but the lack of thought and content in making something quickly, that this movement is rebelling against.
Elaine's 10 Qualities of Slow Cloth
Slow Cloth has the possibility of joy in the process. In other words, the journey matters as much as the destination.
Slow Cloth offers the quality of meditation or contemplation in the process.
Slow Cloth involves skill and has the possibility of mastery.
Slow Cloth acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art.
Slow Cloth honors its teachers and lineage even in its most contemporary expressions.
Slow Cloth is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source.
Slow Cloth artists, designers, crafters and artisans want to make things that last and are well-made.
It's in the eye of the beholder, yes, but it's in our nature to reach for beauty and create it where we can.
Slow Cloth supports community by sharing knowledge and respecting relationships.
Slow Cloth is expressive of individuals and/or cultures. The human creative force is reflected and evident in the work.
When I was in 4-H, I remember spending summer evenings working on a hand-hemstitched table cloth. It was tedious, but I stuck with it, and finished it in time for the county fair. I found that the meditative nature of repetitive stitching freed my mind to dream of what my life would be like as I grew older. I loved watching the table cloth become more and more beautiful with each stitch. Hand quilting is a process like that for me. When people view my bed-sized hand-quilted quilts, one of the most common questions asked is, "How long did it take you to do that?" I don't know. (And frankly, I don't care, either!) I don't want to waste my time counting the hours it takes to make a quilt. If I enjoyed those hours, what does it matter? I generally find that when I finish a hand-made quilt, I am lost for awhile, almost like I am missing my long-time friendship with this quilt. If is finished, it is not there to keep me company in the evenings. It is almost like grieving for the loss of a relationship. It always takes me a little while to get going on something new. But I seem to find new things that challenge me, and I move on. What do you think about this discussion? Is faster better? It seems that Fast, Fun, Easy and Quick are words in every book title, and magazine article. Do these kinds of things really appeal to the large majority of consumers? Why? Or why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic while I am taking time to finish the hand applique part of my next quilt.


  1. I can't wait to meet you next week in Arkansas. We sound like kindred spirits. I started out making my quilts by hand and it's still my favorite way to work. I love being able to take my quilting anywhere and not being tied to an electric cord. I love sitting on the couch in the evening watching TV with my husband of 38 years and quilt my way through whatever we are "watching". I never know what to answer when I am asked how long it took to make a particular quilt. I rarely work on just one quilt from start to finish, so I have quilts that have taken as long as 10 years to finish just because I get side-tracked with some new project. I have made some quilt tops on the machine, but now I just have a larger stack of tops waiting to be quilted. I prefer hand-quilting, but have machine-quilted a few tops. I always feel like I'm "fighting" the quilt instead of being comforted by it like when I'm hand-quilting.

    You are right about everything being touted as "fast," "quick," "easy." I think we should reserve those words for working in the kitchen so we can get back to our quilting.

  2. YES! I agree. I am looking forward to meeting you, too. I will be very distracted by everything, so make sure you introduce yourself, and tell me you're Claudia who reads my blogs! (String quilts, the workshop I'm teaching at Fort Smith, are some of those "Fast, Quick Easy" quilts. There is a time and place for them, too.)