I often hear people say, "quilting is my therapy" or "quilting is my happy place." I was recently reminded of a reality I know all to well; that sometimes quilting shows us we are hanging by a thread. Quilting can reveal to us, what we don't often admit to ourselves - life is throwing too much our way right now.
If we come to our quilting process with powerful feelings, whether we are aware of them or not, we will piece or quilt those feelings into our creations and process. They will either drive us to love or hate what we make because we will unconsciously quilt those emotions into our stitches.
When I put a quilt in the wash, I have their weird way of flashing back to powerful TV shows or movies I watched while making the quilt. My least favorite quilts were quilted during my least favorite times of life. Those feelings robbed me of seeing the colors or designs. They made me hurry or tense up when I was quilting and my work is not as fluid.
So, how do we overcome this? How do we create space to be mindful of our feelings before we being cutting, sewing, designing, or quilting?
Below is a short excerpt from my "Improve Your Practice: Free Motion Quilting" workbook. It is written specifically for quilting, but the tools also apply to every stage of the quilting process. Following some of these simple steps will help quilting be the happy place you need it to be, even on the darker days.
Stress will steal your ability to feel anything but fear. Fear is crippling when it comes to quilting. To make smooth fluid motions as we quilt, our bodies need to be relaxed, stable and certain. Once the machine is ready, it is time to prepare our minds and bodies. The following steps will help in this preparation.
(I am not a medical doctor, so do not consider this medical advice. With my own neurological disorder, I must be careful. Adjust these steps for your safety.) The purpose of these steps is to notice any areas of tension in your body that will continue to “tighten up” as your body works to quilt for longer periods of time.
Here are a few suggestions to try:
- Roll your shoulders 15-20 times from front to back slowly in a circular motion.
- Hold your arms out in front of you and stretch the fingers on one hand back lightly with the other hand, bending at the wrist. Repeat on the other hand.
- Drop your head front to back slowly five times. Repeat from side to side five times.
- Stand up and slowly rotate your torso and arms from left to right keeping your feet in place.
- Bend down and touch your toes a couple of times.
Breathing is more than just moving air in and out of your body. Be mindful of the following areas:
- Be mindful of your attitude. Are you feeling happy, tired, frustrated, angry? These feelings will show up in your quilting. If you are feeling out of sorts, rushed or angry, identify that feeling before you sit down at the machine. Jot down your emotions in a journal or call a friend so you can move past them before you quilt. Your favorite quilt top can become a quilt you hate if you allow yourself to quilt those negative emotions into it.
- Be mindful of your teeth. Are you clenching them? Does your jaw hurt from worrying that your quilting won’t be perfect? Open and close your mouth a couple times to stretch out your jaw and loosen up. Move your jaw from side to side.
- Be mindful of your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly until you don’t have to think about breathing. Try counting your breathing. Two breaths in and two breaths out. Once you are counting along with your breathing, you can slow down the counting to slow down and calm your breathing. Perhaps choose a favorite image or song that relaxes you to better control your breathing.
- Give yourself permission to put the rotary cutter down. If you need to feel creative at the moment, then search images on Pinterest for Pretty Quilts instead.
- Check in with your friends or quilt hive on social media.
- Take a walk before you start the next step of your quilt.
Most importantly, know that grace abounds even in quilting!
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