slow stitching
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Recently I’ve fallen in love with a new creative practice called slow stitching, and it fits so well with journal making I decided to start a whole new category here on Artjournalist just for textile arts.

If you’re new to the whole concept of slow stitching or maybe you’ve been eyeing up some lovely hand sewn projects, hopefully this post will help you get on the right track.

What is Slow Stitching? Definition & History

So, what is slow stitching? In a busy and chaotic world, sometimes it’s just nice to…well…slow down, relax, take a few deep breaths and not worry about creating a product, but enjoying a process. Slow stitching is one of those creative arts perfect for this!

I define slow stitching as a mindful needlework process that focuses on intention and the joy brought from creating – not so much the final result of the piece itself.

Does that sound familiar to my philosophy on what is art journaling? Of course it does…no wonder I love slow stitching so much!

Example of a Slow Stitch Journal Cover

The slow stitch movement was originally created by Mark Lipinksi, a well-known figure in the quilting industry. After some health issues he realized the need for slowing down – and the many benefits that can come from a mindful stitching practice.

Modeled after the slow food movement, the point of slow stitching isn’t to be perfect, or even to make a cohesive final piece {although many pieces are beautiful pieces of textile art!} – the intention is to enjoy the process one stitch at a time, to relax, and to not stress about all the things we might worry about if we were trying to make a perfect quilt or sewing project.

This is where I have to come in and say while I LOVE sewing…I am just not very talented at it. I can sew a straight stitch, and that’s about it! {Sometimes my stitching isn’t even straight!} But that’s what is great about slow stitching – if you love the process that’s enough to enjoy it!

My adventures in sewing other projects have not been so enjoyable. I’ve tried quilting several times over the past years. Cutting exact measurements, precision and those darn scant 1/4″ seams are all things you’ll never have to worry about again when you embrace slow stitching, which is why I think I like it so much!

The best part about slow stitching? You don’t necessarily need any expensive tools to get started. Some fabric scraps, a needle, and thread is all that’s really necessary – although there’s plenty of beautiful trims & embellishments that can be used to finish off a piece.

The Benefits of Slow Stitching

One of the best things about this mindful creative process is you don’t have to be perfect – not at meditation and not as sewing either!

Mindfulness looks differently to different people. For some, it might be sipping on an herbal tea and meditating, to others it might be just the and sewing along to some of your favorite podcasts or videos in the background.

For me, the art of slow stitching is all about just intuitively letting the creative process flow…I don’t worry about following a pattern, or having perfectly cut pieces, I even let raw unfinished edges hang loose.

Most of the time I just hum right along, being happy to just be in the moment without worrying or stressing about stuff going on in my life. And when I am stressed, needlework can definitely reduce that amount of stress, it’s a lot like mark making with fabric!

Here are some of the many benefits of why slow stitching is good for you:

No Fancy Supplies Required:

Sewing and Quilting supplies are expensive. I remember the first time I visited a fabric shop and was floored to realize everything I liked cost $20/yard. I understand the value of high quality fabric {and love to support small shops!} but unfortunately at the time the high cost made it impossible for me to even consider really getting into traditional quilting.

While you can certainly still buy new fabric, the thing I like about slow stitching is it really gets back to the roots of original quilting and patchwork using up scraps of different fabrics and materials.

There are all sorts of things you can use in slow stitching – much like I say when making junk journals – if you can glue it on, you can use it! In slow stitching, we just sew it on instead. 🙂

No Planning or Expected Outcome

Another thing I love about slow stitching is there really is no expected outcome in what you might create. You don’t have to plan meticulously like you would for a quilt. You don’t have to worry about sticking with a particular theme or motif {although I often do pick a motif just to narrow down my focus}.

You don’t know what you might make, other than some type of textile fabric art. Your finished piece might be a textile collage, a piece of embroidery, a journal cover – or it might be something totally unexpected that blurs the lines between what exactly it is – that’s okay!

You Can Embrace Your Imperfections

This is another slow stitch project perfect for a journal cover – this one is colorful with lots of wonky crazy stitches!

Let’s face it: None of us are perfect and we all have some inner critic who’s going to tell us we’re not good enough or our art is not up to snuff.

With slow stitching, you can embrace those imperfections and throw your inner critic to the curb, at least while you’re stitching anyways. {That critic always has a way to sneak back in on me…tsk, tsk, that pesky inner critic!}

I like to think of slow stitching as the “art journal” of the sewing world – it’s a great place to practice, explore, and experiment with different ideas and learn new techniques.

When we’re learning something new, sometimes we have to remember that the trying process…can be very trying indeed! With slow stitching, you can try those new techniques you’ve been thinking of, without necessarily having to worry about “ruining” anything.

It’s Portable

Another nice advantage of slow stitching is it’s portable and well suited for travel, especially if you’re sewing by hand. You can bring an English paper piecing project almost anywhere, and you can certainly embroider with minimal supplies in tow.

I’ve even been able to do a couple of slow stitching projects in bed. I set up a couple of bins, one with fabric and one with sewing supplies like needles and thread – and I can stitch away happily and easily clean up when I’m done.

While you don’t have to go all minimalist, it’s nice to know that you can escape from having to lug around a sewing machine just to meet up with friends to do a little sewing together. It’s also great for travel!

Slow Stitching is a Soulful Process

Lastly, the act of slow stitching can be very spiritually fulfilling, as it helps give your act of creating a deeper meaning. It allows you to turn within and really think about what you want to express – instead of just following current trends or ticking off projects off your to-do list.

With every piece I create, I’m always thinking of a story. Maybe it’s the story of “what’s going on now” or “how I feel today” but other pieces have been stories of people I’ve loved, like the peacock slow stitch project I made incorporating my grandmother’s necklace, which I also wore to my brother’s wedding.

Being able to work on a project so near and dear to my heart and to think of my grandmother and her two crazy peacocks named Oreo and Cookie with every stitch was just an amazing experience that made me love slow stitching all the more.

Some people call slow stitching soul stitching or therapeutic sewing, and with so many benefits, it’s easy to understand why!

Now that we’ve talked about what slow stitching is and it’s benefits, I hope you want to try it and would love to get started! Below is a simple tutorial that goes over the basic supplies and materials you’ll need, but of course keep in mind there really are no rules – you can do as you like!

How to Get Started in Slow Stitching

One of the things I love about slow stitching is it doesn’t have to be any specific sort of project or even a specific medium. You could quilt, embroider, knit, crochet – or perhaps even combine a bit of all your favorite needlework and textile arts.

Step 1: Gratitude for Supplies & Materials

You don’t need a lot of fancy supplies to get started – you can use some old fabric scraps or if you don’t have any fabric yet, a lot of shops sell fat quarters super cheap which is a great way to build a stash.

The important thing is you practice a little gratitude for those supplies and materials – they didn’t come from thin air! Someone designed a pattern and put all the work into creating the fabric you are working with. If you’ve ever spent some time weaving or spinning yarn, you know the time and talent involved!

For a basic project, gather some foundation fabric {cotton muslin or quilt batting works great for this!} and some favorite fabrics from your scrap pile. You only need little bits, so don’t worry if your pieces are small.

If you don’t yet have muslin fabric or quilt backing or much for sewing, here are some supplies I recommend:

Muslin Fabric By The Yard {Don’t go crazy buying a ton – 1 yard is plenty for several small projects!}

Cotton Quilt Batting – Again, one package is PLENTY for lots of projects! Either buy the muslin or the cotton quilt backing – you don’t need both!

Embroidery Thread – I like to use embroidery thread for nice big stitches, if you don’t have any yet you can buy a nice package of assorted colors like this one.

Fabric Scraps – It can be hard to find fabric scraps sometimes if you don’t have any. The first place is to check your closet – do you have old clothes you don’t wear anymore that could be repurposed? You can also find fabric bundles like this one at Amazon to start inexpensively.

Step 2: Become Aware of Your Surroundings & Intention

The next step is to become aware of your surroundings and make sure it’s a fun environment to work in. Do you have enough lighting? Do you feel comfortable where you’re set up?

Feel free to pour yourself a cup of tea, light some candles or diffuse your favorite essential oils to set the space for mindful stitching. You don’t have to have the perfect setup or even a studio – the important thing is you are comfortable and can be intentional in the stitching process.

I’ve been able to successfully set up slow stitching on my couch in the living room and in my bed, even if the bed isn’t the most ideal place to work!

Speaking of setting an intention, this is where it can be fun to decide why you’re slow stitching in the first place.

This is a slow-stitch textile collage I made called Grandma’s Peacocks in memory of my grandmother and all the fun times spent at her farm.

In my slow-stitched peacock textile collage shown above, I was inspired by a fabric I saw at Walmart with peacocks that reminded me of my grandma and her two crazy peacocks Oreo and Cookie. This set my intention to focus on all the good memories I had of her and times spent at her farm as a kid.

Other times, I don’t think about anyone or anything specifically, I just focus on the stitching. And don’t think this has to be limited to just sewing – you could always adopt the same practice for crochet, knitting, weaving, and more!

Another thing you can do is get intentional about something you’ve been thinking about lately. For example, I’ve been thinking about opening up my own shop to sell journals and inspiration kits for slow stitching. What better way to stay focused on that than while actually stitching?

You can also set an intention of trying something different or new. Maybe you’ve never added embellishments to a quilt before, or maybe you want to practice fine-tuning your embroidery skills. You could set the intention to practice and try out new techniques.

Step 3: Start Stitching!

Slow stitched Peacock Collage close-up with the addition of beads, and a Zentangle tag.

Lastly, you’re ready to just start stitching! Whatever your medium may be, you can focus on your intention and enjoy the slow and creative process of making your project.

I usually start by cutting out my fabrics first and making sure they’re all going to fit on the backing, much like I would with a regular paper collage. Next, I begin stitching these pieces in place.

I use what is called a running stitch, also known as a straight stitch. It’s the most basic of all stitches, but of course you can use other stitches if you want to try some more advanced embroidery techniques.

Of course, this process of sewing everything on by hand is slow…but this is a great time as a creator to remember you enjoy the act of creating – certainly we wouldn’t spend all the time we do on projects if we didn’t!

Step 4: Finish and Enjoy!

It’s really up to you when a piece is finished, and once your fabric pieces are stitched down you can choose to embellish your slow stitch project with other things as well!

Here are some things I’ve added to my slow stitch projects:

  • Buttons
  • Ribbons
  • Decorative Fabric Trims
  • Embroidered Patches
  • Jewelry Bits
  • Pins
  • Charms

The possibilities are endless for things you can add to a project. If you can sew it down, you can add it to your final piece. Like I said, this process is so much like art journaling, just with fabric instead!

There are also so many options for what you might do with your final project. Some ideas:

  • Bind into a fabric journal
  • Hang as wall art {you could even frame it!}
  • Wrap onto a wooden spinning wheel yarn spool
  • Place in a keepsake box of small projects to go through everytime you need some creative inspiration and a smile!

Now that we’ve talked about what slow stitching is and how to get started, let’s go over some common questions I’ve been asked the past couple of weeks since I’ve become hopefully addicted to slow stitching.

Common Questions & Answers About Slow Stitching

Do I have to sew everything by hand?

Of course not! You can still use your sewing machine. The important thing is to practice gratitude and set that intention and focus on the creative process more than the final result. I have had a lot of fun “slow stitching” on my Vintage 1947 Singer Sewing machine!

Am I Never Allowed to Buy Anything Again?

While the commercialism of the crafting industry can get tiresome, you are still allowed to buy stuff for your projects. The main thing is you USE those supplies more than you just buy and collect them!

You can buy beautiful luxury fabrics if you have the means to do – the important thing is you reflect a little bit on the source of that fabric. Sometimes cheap is not always good for the environment or maybe a company doesn’t align with the same values as you do. Maybe you don’t have a supply stash from decades and in that case it certainly justifies buying new fabrics.

I personally like to use upcycled fabrics from thrifted finds because not only are they are much more affordable that way, but also because it helps reduce landfill waste.

But you can certainly buy new fabrics, which I do sometimes do myself because…well, when you love a fabric, you love it, and that’s the end of the story. If a material resonates with your intention, it makes sense to just buy it and be done with it!

What if I Don’t Like Meditation & Mindfulness But Love the Finished Look?

I get it, the whole mindfulness and meditation stuff is not for everyone, heck it’s not even for me some days lol…and in that case I think it’s important to just remember it’s about process not final product…let your creative self flow and get into it…you might be surprised at the results! And of course, practicing gratitude is always a nice habit to get into. See my post on gratitude journal prompts. 🙂

I hope this guide to slow stitching is helpful for you, and of course if you have any questions in getting started, please just let me know in the comments below – I’m happy to answer any questions you might have! And if you make any slow stitched projects I of course would LOVE to see them – you can share them in our Artjournalist Facebook Community Group.

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  1. Thank you for this post! I had forgotten how much fun I used to have (essentially not having any idea what I was doing) sewing on fabric…I even made a teeny tiny little purse once with an awesome piece of tapestry fabric and an ancient button 🙂

  2. Thank you for this great article. I’ve been seeing article about slow stitching and was wanting to find out what it was all about. I’m hooked on trying this out.

  3. Happy to have come across this! I need to start 2021 with something of my own…something just by me for me! 2020 was just draining! Everybody had new rules and restrictions and every day some distressing new story about unrest or politics or death! I’m a ‘rule’ follower by nature so I got on board with masks and distancing and all that but everybody has a breaking point and I’m about broken!
    I know just the fabrics and trinkets I will start with in my stash! I’ve been setting aside memories for years and I can’t wait to start creating!
    Thank you!

  4. I’ve just recently seen this term “slow stitching.” I was intrigued and found your blog. I think I can safely say that I completed a kind of “slow stitching” project on plastic canvas. I had no particular design in mind…just started stitching at random from my bag of small balls of yarn. I filled a whole sheet of plastic canvas. I like the finished project, and I plan to frame it. Perhaps I’ll try a fabric piece next! I loved the memories and meditation that came with stitching my project during this pandemic. Thank you for fleshing out the definition of “Slow stitching” in your blog! Happy stitching.

  5. I’m so glad I found this post! I brushed up on my embroidery skills this Summer – I hadn’t done it since I was a child, and I rediscovered my love for it! One of the things I love is how portable it is; I can even do it while we’re camping. Long story short, as I googled more embroidery kits, I came across an ad for a slow stitch kit, and in my investigation of what slow stitch is, I really had trouble finding good explanations and/or suggestions for beginners. Your post is the best one yet. I’m looking forward to putting my love for fabrics and stitching together in a new way, and taking it camping. Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks Marilyn! You can see the necklace in the peacock photo – I didn’t make the necklace – it was my grandmother’s, which I think was probably a Woolworth’s find lol. But it still has special meaning to me and makes the piece all that much more special. I have it hanging on my wall now!

  6. Love your post, Chelle. I never stitched anything but would like to try. Here is a Question for you: “ How do you keep the pieces from separating when using large stitches as seen in some pieces?”

    1. Hi Ilse, there’s a couple of different things you can use. A simple regular old glue stick can help with keeping the fabric in place while you are sewing. The large stitches are called “basting stitches” – if you were doing a more specific hand pieced sewing project {like applique} – you would probably remove the basting stitches. I personally rather like them and they keep the fabric in place just fine!

  7. I appreciate so much your well expressed explanation of Slow Stitching, it really is hard to tell people what it is. I’ve saved your article so that I can do that. I have joined a Facebook group. Thanks

  8. Thank you for sharing your thoughts to inspire all of us! Your phrases instill freedom and flowing creativity, underlined with encouragement! How’s that for a mouthful?! But it’s true! And I plan to begin gathering together a ‘kit’ for a not-far-future project. Hubby begins chemo treatments soon and this will be my go-to release of pent up emotion. Again, thank you for this warm, friendly, and quietly loving push forward that I needed.

    1. I am so glad it inspired you Michelle and thank you for your kind words! I will keep you and your hubby in my thoughts + prayers!

  9. I never heard of slow stitching before but so glad I stumbled on this post! You basically described me when you said you love sewing but not that good at it. I think I’m best at knowing great textiles when I see them. I want to get into textile designing and this seems so awesome to try. I have so many scraps and
    Embellishments sitting around that I can use. This is truly a great find!! And the meditation and mindfulness is me all over! Thank you so much. Can’t wait to show you what I create!

  10. I just love your explanation of slow stitching, not everybody gets it but I love it. At my sewing group we do quilting and patchwork and learn different techniques but not all of them understand slow stitching.
    My sister lost her husband on Xmas day and I have been trying to get her interest back to sewing but we’ve come up with a little shop on Folksy Uk selling slow stitch kits and we are enjoying cutting up our many fabrics, ribbon lace buttons , you name it it goes in the box.
    We called it sew therapeutic bylin . We want to spread the word. Thank you once again for your blog

  11. mizm

    I just found your article on “SLOW STITCHING’ and realize I have loads of the items needed to get started on a project —after sewing for over50 years my collection is bursting at the seams! Can’t wait to start my first project (and organize my sewing room) !!! Wish me luck!!!

  12. great article – our American Sewing Guild chapter is going to use this topic as our education event in the fall – can’t wait

  13. Thank you so much for explaining the definition of “slow stitching.” I just saw the term for the first time while browsing Etsy.

    Perfection and comparison–My biggest hangups. I’m already in love with slow stitching and haven’t even started yet. But I will!

  14. Can you incorporate paper into a slow stiches project? If so how? Glue or maybe piercing the paper or what? I have several doodle type pieces of work that might be fun with various pieces of fabric and notions as part of the project.

    1. You can definitely incorporate paper! The only thing to think about with paper is the more holes it has in it the more likely it will be perforated + might tear away from the fabric so if you do stitch it in you want to space the stitches farther apart. Glue is a great option, though usually you will need something a little more heavy duty to keep in attached and it may have a tendency to wrinkle. If you have doodles on paper you want to use, there’s also always the option of photographing/scanning them and then printing them out on a heavy duty cardstock or even on fabric directly. Hope that helps and I’d love to see what you create with paper + stitching!

  15. Thank you for your explanation. It helps a lot. I enjoy sewing but like you I can barely sew straight lines. I like to make seasonal pillow cases for my kids. I recently gave away a huge bag of fabric that included a lot of scraps to a friend who makes quilts to raffle off for the local VFW. A worthy cause, but now I wish I still had some of those scraps! This reminds me of crazy quilting. I have a few treasured panels made by my grandmother that includes pieces of her wedding dress and trousseau fabrics made on her treadle sewing machine which I now own.

  16. I love ‘crafting’ and do a lot of up-cycling and am fascinated by new crafts. Slow stitching sounds wonderful and I have an art room just full of all manner of materials. This is something new I am so looking forward to doing. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  17. I’ve been collecting tiny scraps,buttons,ribbon,fibersan any lil trinket I can use….I’ve never done this an your article gave me hope I can,an enjoy it at the same time…. I read every word an saving so I can use a reference.Thank you ..Sandie

  18. I’ve done a little slow stitching some years back..
    Just quite small pieces,that I made into Bookmarks…..but I’m now in a position where I’m wanting ter Slow Stich again,maybe making a couple of placemats…..I will look in my Craft room see if I can find something suitable for the backing,n some scraps I definitely know I have those ….let’s see where it takes me ..

  19. I throughly enjoyed your lesson on slow stitching. I have been curious and really want to try mindful stitching. I need to recharge my batteries and begin anew. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kim! Ironing definitely will help them sort of stick to each other in place – I just use a glue stick usually but they also make fusible interfacing you can use that is really popular in the collage quilting community too to help keep things in place. I would experiment and see what you like and what works for you because it definitely seems to be one of those things that just depends on what you like and how you work!

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