Yesterday, I spent a quiet ten minutes pressing some vintage flannel cloths, bought at the antiques fair a few weeks ago. When I am stressed, overwhelmed by so much to do and by a head full of whirling thoughts the simple act of ironing slows me down. I don’t enjoy ironing clothes. I certainly don’t iron sheets. But I do love ironing cloth.
It is one of those tasks that keep you busy and feels productive even though it doesn’t actually need doing right now.
But it is useful.
It is practical.
Above all it is calming.
The smoothness of ironed cloth.
The warm, sheepy smell of steamed wool.
The satisfaction in the removal of wrinkles.
The repetitive action of unfold, press, move, press, fold. Finished.
A task completed.
A clean slate.
Definition of Pressing (adjective): Requiring quick or immediate action or attention.
Pressing cloth implies quite the opposite. Unhurried, meditative passing of a hot iron over wrinkled cloth. Making it smooth. Making it whole. Undoing the damage of washing. Pressing cloth to mitigate the stress of other overwhelmingly pressing tasks.
Ironing as therapy.
People often tell me how patient I am to hand stitch my work. I often counter that I am only patient with sewing, not with anything else (although that’s not really true*). We can all be patient doing something we love. It doesn’t require patience to get to the end of a good book as you are enjoying the act of reading. In the same way, I enjoy the act of sewing:
- the feel of the needle pulling a thread through cloth
- the patterns it makes
- the textures thread makes in the cloth
- the quietness
- the slowness
- the connection with the cloth, the thread, the needle
- the feeling of putting a bit of myself into my sewing
It isn’t about patience, it is about enjoying the process.
I was asked last week about why I sew by hand rather than by machine. I find this an odd question as my work wouldn’t be my work if I made it by machine. I couldn’t make it by machine. It would be completely different work. It wouldn’t be me.
Today, out walking, I figured out the perfect way to explain this:
It is like choosing to walk on a footpath rather than to drive on a road through the countryside.
Just because there are sewing machines, and faster techniques, doesn’t mean I have to use them. Life isn’t about doing the most in the time available, it is about enjoying the process. I am not a machine. I refuse to confine my creativity within bounds of commercial productivity and speed. I like slow.
*mostly my lack of patience occurs when people make statements about my personality or lifestyle based on the needle in my hand. I am actually a pretty patient person. Maybe that’s because I love slow sewing.
Learning to love where I am.