Monday, April 13, 2009

The meditative quality of hand quilting

Currently, I'm quilting a small wall piece called "Mérida Remix." I hand quilt all my work because I like the look of hand quilting better than machine quilting and because of the almost meditative state into which it puts me. This feels like the work I was born to do. In his Winter, 1997 article, "On Zen Work," for Turning Wheel, the Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Norman Fischer says just that,"Work is something deep and dignified—it's what we are born to do and what we feel most fulfilled in doing...Work as meditation happens when the work you are doing is very simple and repetitive... "

When I sit down in the living room and take up my hoop and quilting needle, my husband will often say, "Why don't you relax?" His work is of the mind and necessitates hours hunched over the computer or dealing with personnel issues in the office. No wonder he must flee his study and office to watch an old movie or listen to music to find relief. I often wish he could find the calm I realize in these familiar movements of needle and thread through cloth. My mind is quiet, my breathing is regular, and I'm sure my heart rate and blood pressure drop. Norman Fischer again: "When you can enter into this timing and flow with it[the work], you can work very efficiently and at the same time be very relaxed."

The piecing together of fabric has long been a Buddhist tradition.  Monks would slowly make the Buddha's Robe (worn to take bodhisattva vows) by collecting scraps of material that were sewn together in a rice field design and eventually made into robes. Sewing the Buddha's Robe is a strong tradition in the Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi American lineage. Click over to the Buddha's Robe is Sewn site for more information. You have to hold to your heart a religion that reveres patchwork and sewing.


Dolores said...

It's so nice to hear that someone else hand quilts. It may take more time than machine quilting but it really does look a lot nicer.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely, thoughtful post, and what a beautiful quilt! Thank you for sharing it all! (Links too!)