Though I love my sewing machine (It was under the first Christmas tree I put up as a married woman some 40 years ago – my husband bought it for me with money he won in a radio contest.), I prefer hand stitching.


I love the way the fabric ripples up into ridges. How the feel of the cloth changes as I go. I love having an image in mind, then fiddling and grappling to create it in cloth.


Decades ago, I would’ve been horrified for you to see my knots, embarrassed at rows of stitches that go the way of handwriting on a sheet of unlined paper. But now? I swat the air with my hand and say a hearty Pffffft.

Stitching by hand is yoga for my mind.


I don’t know how many quilts my grandmother made. I’m currently tracking them down, photographing them, building a catalog of her work. She used her Singer treadle machine to make pieced quilts from patterns. I remember the whirr, the up and down of the treadle, the look on her face as she fed colorful scraps under the needle.


I wonder if she preferred the machine for its speed. She was busy from sunup to sundown, and she moved like a rabbit – she had to to get everything done. Or maybe, it occurs to me since my husband retired, the sound of the machine formed a wall around her, giving her space to call her own the only way she could get it.