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5 methods of Hand Work that will Soothe Your Soul

I feel like before my mind realized I needed a slow down, my body already knew.

Prior to the end of 2016, I had already dabbled here and there in ‘slowing down’.  I had just not given it a name or thought very much of it.  I learned to do some needle work because of a project in particular.  I learned to crochet because I had an aging grandmother and it was HER favorite pastime and I didn’t want her life to end without teaching it to me.

But at the very end of 2016, I read something that put everything in a different perspective.  I can’t remember the who or where of the article.  I only remember the feeling it created in me.

As a country, I think that most of us are workaholics.  We kinda have to be to get all these bills paid.  Or so I justify.

This makes the days blur together.  This constant working or speeding through something.  Get it done, get it done, get it done.  It’s exhausting.  I don’t like come December to try and reflect on the past year and have nothing to say but the fact that my bills are paid and I’m still here, another year older.  I need something tiny each and every day.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work very much.  It’s the little moments in between I crave.  A refresher.  A reset.  A deliberate slow down of my mind.

I found that if I just take tiny moments to breathe, sip my tea, and maybe do some hand work, all is well again.  My soul is soothed.  Then, I’m ready to get back to doing all the things that I have to get to and when I do so, I do it with a much better attitude and much less stressed mind.

The younger version of me would have said, “Nonsense.  I just want to make a whole bunch of quilts.”  The current version of me however, thinks, “Sure, I can do that, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do this as well.”

The thing about hand work is this: 

  • something is actually getting accomplished (albeit incredibly slowly)
  • it doesn’t make me feel lazy like binge watching my favorite Netflix series (though I’m still guilty of this)
  • you can take this stuff anywhere (traveling, doctor offices, visiting relatives, etc.)

With all this in mind, I have put together a list of 5 different hand work methods to help you soothe your own soul.



#1 – English Paper Piecing

Never in any of my thoughts previous to 2017 did I think I’d give EPP a go.  Why would I?  What is the deal with all these people spending THAT much time on a single block.

Now I know better.  Y’all.  English paper piecing is the ultimate soul soother.  Get the thought of finishing out of your head.  Cast it away.  It’s gone.  That is not the point.  That’s not the idea.  Finishing doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that my hands are slowly moving.  They hold needle and thread, sometimes a glue stick and a pretty pair of scissors.  I sit comfy outside, listening to birds or in my grandma’s house listening to her stories.  It is a beautiful craft.  It teaches massive patience and there is not another option, but slowness.  Plus, some of the best quilts come of it.

Check this out for endless inspiration.

How I learned:

I was inspired to learn by the #EPPParty happening on IG last year.  It was hosted by Mr. Domestic and Pat Bravo.  They featured YouTube videos to get you started and to teach you every block.  It made it so simple to learn.  I had thought this would be something difficult, but it wasn’t.  It was incredibly easy to learn.  I could not believe how quickly I picked this up and I know you can too.

I finished my first block on a road trip while on vacation in Alberta.  I’m still tickled with it!

Learn how to EPP here.

Learn how to baste here (I preferred this method).

There is also a great class on Creative Bug here.

The pillow is my very first EPP project.
This is a quilt I finished with all very large Heather Ross hexagons.

#2 – Embroidery

Let me just go on and say that embroidery is my favorite of all the hand craft I know.  They are slow work, but I’ve chosen mostly small projects that get done just after a week or so (and only doing for just a bit each day).  I keep these little lovelies in their hoops and I’m hoping to have a whole wall of them some day, that is if I can keep from gifting them.  They make the best little gifts.

Embroidery also makes me feel like SUCH a great English lady.  Come on, you’ve read all the Jane Austen books, there always sitting about drinking tea and embroidering.

There’s more learning to this craft, due to all the different stitches, but that only adds to the whole thing.  I took my time learning.  I doubt I’ll ever finish.

Embroidery can be very simple or made very difficult.  It’s all up to you.  Start with a blank canvas or fabric or add to some pretty stitching to your favorite fabric print.

Click here for inspiration.

How I learned:

The basic stitches are very simple, but as you get better you can add more difficult details to your project.

I found this class to be everything I needed to begin and there’s a massive amount of stitches to get you on your way.  Also, this Etsy shop sells the BEST patterns and there are subscriptions you can purchase as well.


#3 – Crochet

Crochet is a beautiful hand craft.  It’s done with hook instead of a needle.  But what I love the most about it is that I get to play with yarn.  And yarn, is AAAAAmazing!  Walk down an aisle where the yarn is and give it a touch and tell me that you are not smitten.

My grandmother taught me to crochet.  Her mother taught her.  Once you get over the fumbling of that hook, you’ll find your rhythm and get, well, hooked. 🙂

I always have a crochet project going, sometimes many at a time.  I leave them for long stretches of time untouched, and then eventually find my way back to them.

I’ve made scarves, hats, doilies, afghans, shawls, mittens, and footies.  I love granny squares the most because they are to die for pretty and this is what my grandma first showed me how to make.

Think of this craft as not how long it will take you to finish a project, but more of just a simple task like one granny square a day.  It’s about the journey of making instead of a whole afghan.  Eventually, you will finish and think very fondly of the two years you spent crocheting one blanket (or so that’s how it went with me).  Smaller projects like the hat I made only took me a few hours in all, but I broke it up into just a handful of stitches each day.

Get inspired here.

How I learned:

Like I mentioned, my grandma taught me the basics, but I kept forgetting things in the beginning, so I used this video from Creative Bug when I wasn’t around my grandma.


#4 – Needle turn Applique

I’ve got a long way to go before my needle turn applique skills are great, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it.  The possibilities this opens up for your quilts and other projects are endless!  It’s so nice and tidy compared to the raw edge methods I use more often.  Plus, I feel super fancy while doing it.  All the best hand craft ladies know how to do it and there’s no reason why you can’t join the ranks.

Click here for inspiration.

This is probably my least used of my hand crafting skills, but I mean to use it more in the future for smaller projects.  I would also say that for me, it was the most difficult to master (not that I’ve mastered it).  I had to watch how to videos repeatedly.  Still, I can’t get enough of looking at the work of other ladies.

How I learned:

This class from Sarah Fielke was simply the best I have found.  She makes it easy for you.  Also, Carolyn’s class on Creative Bug is great too.


#5 – Hand Quilting

Now this one, hand quilting, I could go on for days.  If you are reading this, you are probably a fan of quilts, and well, what goes better with quilts than some hand quilting.

I need more hours in the day!  I’d love to make a quilt with nothing but hand quilting. So far all I’ve managed is ‘some’ hand stitches to a few projects. But more is coming. I feel it.

The texture gets crazy rich and you just want to pet it over and over again.

Click here for inspiration.

I want to get right into the nitty gritty here:  Do not worry about what your stitches look like.  Big stitches are very trendy right now.  Mine are wonky and uneven, always.  I love them just as they are and you should love yours.  Push the thought of things not being perfect out of your mind and embrace your stitch ‘flaws’.  Those uneven lines some call flaws, I call beautiful.  I want my stitches to look like my human hands put them there.  That’s the whole point.

How I learned:

I first learned from this Carolyn Friedlander video and then later learned the big stitches from this one as well. Both are great classes.  The second one teaches more about embracing YOUR stitches.

Lately, I’ve been playing with a mix of the quilting from those classes and some ‘Kantha’ inspired methods.  One that I am extremely in love with is instead of burying your threads, you simply tie them on top of your quilt.  It’s less fussy and has a lovely bohemian look to it.  I’m more than just a little smitten with the look.

 


So there you have it.  If all you have is 15 minutes a day, take it.  Put your mind at rest, let you fingers move over the hand craft of your choosing, and feel the soothing slowness of these methods.  It’s okay to move slowly.  It’s okay to be still.


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8 Comments

  1. I absolutely love this article. I try to include some sort of handwork in every day. It is what “fills” me when I am low. I love that young women are finding this truth as well.

  2. This article really struck a chord with me! You articulated so well the feelings I’m sure many of us have. Thank you for reminding us that it’s okay to get off the wheel once in awhile! Also, appreciate the many helpful resources.

  3. I so enjoyed this post! My dear grandmother taught me crochet and sewing many years ago — I learned to sew on her old treadle machine (which is now mine). The handwork is absolutely essential for me, and I try to do this daily! Thanks for a beautiful post!

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