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First sewing project from the #kitenge I picked up in Rwanda. Bomber jacket, McCall’s 7100.

Most of you know that sewing is a hobby of mine. What you may not know is that it is also a spiritual discipline for me. I felt like sharing what makes sewing an excellent spiritual discipline and what spiritual and practical lessons my practice has taught me over the years.

 

1. Trust the Process. If I’ve never made a particular kind of garment before, I rely heavily on the pattern. Sometimes the next step doesn’t make sense or seems like it’s unnecessary, and the temptation is strong to skip it. Many times that leads to disaster (or at least frustration). Trust the process, no matter how insignificant or confounding your next step may be. Doing so saves headaches down the road.

2. Trust yourself. On the flip-side of #1, because patterns are human-made things, they (like polity and other processes) often have flaws. Sometimes measurements don’t add up or the methods in the instructions are cumbersome or convoluted. Over time and with experience, you will realize there are better ways of accomplishing things than what the pattern is telling you to do. There’s a quicker way to insert that zipper or finish that seam. Sewing teaches me that positive deviation is often necessary, but it’s wisdom cultivated through practice that helps us understand when a different way is the better way.

3. Mistakes are our teachers. It’s absolutely devastating to get far along in a project and have it significantly mired or even ruined by a silly mistake. And because it’s so devastating, rarely do I make the same mistake in the future! Sometimes we learn more by learning what not to do. There is pedagogy in disappointment.

4. Start small and build capacity. Community organizing teaches us that when building and organization it’s best to start with goals that are small and within reach. It’s the small wins that build capacity and lead to bigger wins in the future. My first sewing project 30 years ago was a pillow. By contrast, I just did two suits a few months ago.

5. Flaws don’t obscure beauty. Every garment I’ve ever made has at least one flaw I can point out. A seam I didn’t finish properly. Lining that wasn’t very secure. Size adjustments that weren’t quite right. Yet that still doesn’t stop the compliments from friends. It doesn’t change the fact that I feel amazing wearing something I had a hand in making. And it doesn’t change the fact that each garment is made with intense care and attention.

6. It’s a matter of justice. When you make a pair of pants, you know how involved the process is, and you start to question how a major retailer can sell them for such a low price. Then you realize that the low price is made possible by a low wage for the person who made them. When you know a craft, you value the craft and the craftsperson more. Your interactions are (hopefully) more just because you more appropriately value what others bring to the world.

7. You are always “still learning.” I’ve been sewing for most of my life, and I still wouldn’t call myself an expert. There’s a lot I’ve yet to learn, and the reason I know that is because I spend time with people who know more than me, people who have made far more intricate works than I have. They help me be better. When we’re regularly the “smartest” person in the room, we’re in trouble!

What hobbies of yours are also spiritual practices for you? What have they taught you?


Denise Anderson bomber jacketDenise Anderson is a Presbyterian Church (USA) Teaching Elder and Co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly of the PCUSA (along with another RevGal, Jan Edmiston). Denise blogs at Soula Scriptura and is among the contributors to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).


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8 thoughts on “Our Spiritual Disciplines: Sewing

  1. My grandmother worked in a sewing factory all her life, having been widowed at a young age. When she came home, she sewed for her 11 grandchildren: every year we received a new flannel nightgown, she made my prom dresses, and Barbie doll clothes. This was her way if expressing love. I am astonished, now, that she would spend all day at a sewing machine and come home and sew some more. Perhaps this was her spiritual discipline, even as she chain smoked and drank highballs while doing it….

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  2. If I were a better sewer, it would be my discipline. Right now I am majouring in the “mistakes are our teachers.” LOL
    I do like your point that it is a matter of justice. I never thought of it that way before.

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