Stitching as therapy?

With all of the many wonderful ways to express yourself visually, I am often drawn back to sewing and stitching.

Maybe that sounds strange, and I don’t know of many art therapists who use sewing or stitching in their professional practice — though I do know a young art therapist in Los Angeles who set up a sewing studio in her residential treatment center and did incredible work with troubled young women and those Singer machines — but it’s fascinating to consider why sewing has captivated us as a therapeutic activity for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Beyond the fact that women were long relegated to stitching as their only form of creative expression, and that some  claim a meditative or mindfulness element to those repetitive, soothing stitching motions, there can be quite a lot of meaning in the practice of sewing.

Just think of all of the cutting apart and joining together, the using up of scraps and leftovers, the alterations and the undoing. Think of the weaving and joining and binding and measuring. The stuffing full and stitching shut and sorting and reusing. These words all have parallel psychological purposes, don’t they? On any given day, we may “pick up the pieces and put them back together,” create beauty out of function, work at something until it fits, etc.

There is a nice online community of people who are not only stitching but also using their stitches as self-expression and self-exploration. Here are a few examples.

Miss Stitch Therapy

From Miss Stitch Therapy:

It holds a story; something about a journey from darkness and an inability to see, towards a light and a knowing. Again I want to take the unwanted, decayed and fragile then mend it and piece it all together. Seams normally hidden are revealed so I can hear the narrative of the under-side. Fabric is pieced together in the way I try to piece together fragments of time that have been forgotten or misunderstood.

I’m trying to find meaning and connection.


This image from "Judy's Journal" 6/6/12

From Judy’s Journal:

Over the years, in my practice as an artist, I find myself un-doing.
I’ll make something beautiful, then cut it up, take stitches out
start again…

It’s a metaphor

Jude Hill‘s incredible blog, Spirit Cloth, is a daily journal of sorts that traces her work with fabric, dyes, stitching, and patterns. It’s lovely and soul-searching and poetic. She has asked that her images not be used or pinned elsewhere, but I do hope you will check out her writings.

An example from mrXstitch, created by "katie cupcake"

For the younger, brasher set, there is always MrXStitch. This is a curated site of work done by many different artists. As a warning, there are many stitched pieces on MrXStitch which are NOT SAFE FOR WORK (or for younger or innocent eyes), but if you are into that kind of thing, it’s pretty fun.

The piece above was created by an artist named Katie Cupcake. Her blog is here. Yes, of course, if she were to jot down that thought with pencil on real notebook paper, it would look quite similar and be finished more quickly. But, the fact that she took the time to stitch it out, taking hours and hours to focus on one thing — one thought — lends a certain weight to the thought. It is embedded deeper somehow.

Both the artist and art therapist in me hope that you will not overlook stitching, quilting, sewing, or other fiber and fabric arts as you search for ways to express yourself and explore your heart and mind.

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