Mending is about the journey travelled, not reinstating the impossible perfection of the new.”

― Jessica Smulders-Cohen, TOAST

I’ve recently finished mending our bed quilt again. I began making this quilt in 1996 when I first discovered quilting in Southern California. I finished making it in 2002 a few years after I had moved to Scotland.

In 2017, the fabric at the top where we pull it up around our necks at night began to wear through from many, many nights of sleeping beneath it. At that time, I made some repairs using my sewing machine.

This year I noticed some tears in the fabric on the underside of the quilt. Since last summer I have been teaching, and discovering, slow stich so I decided to make the next round of repairs by hand.

I was inspired by Boro patchwork. Boro is derived from the Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired. 

Traditional boro kimono | Image via Gerrie Congdon

Boro refers to the practice of reworking and repairing textiles (often clothes or bedding) through piecing, patching and stitching, in order to extend their use.  This accidental art form was born of necessity in Northern Japan. Peasants started making Boro repairs during the Edo period (1603-1868).

I cut and stitched together squares and triangles of fabric and turned their edges under with an iron. As I slowly stitched each piece over the damaged fabric, I reflected on how much I love Home and the comfort of my bedroom and the many thousands of hours that I have sheltered and cuddled beneath this quilt.

I have been on such a long jouney since 1996, both in my textile art making and in the making of my life. This quilt has been with me through moves to two different countries and seven different abodes.

Devon, 2006

Now when I lie beneath it I can feel the textured stitches from my recent mends. They remind me that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect. As a person with tendencies toward impossible perfection, there is such comfort to be found in this concept.

little & often

Since I began co-tutoring an online Slow Stitch for Wellbeing course last June, I have re-discovered the joy and pleasure of hand sewing.

As a textile artist, most of my work over the past 25 or so years has been by machine. Which I love, but there is something special about slowing down and picking up a needle and thread. I did crewel embroidery kits as a young girl, then had a brief foray into cross stitch in my mid-20s. Since then, I didn’t do much sewing at all by hand.

During our 6 session course, each week, I speak about a different topic such as the History and Manifesto of the Slow Stitch Movement, wabi-sabi (the Japanese aesthetic of embracing imperfection), the Psychology of Colour and using Stitch as a Meditative Practice. My teaching partner demonstrates some stitches and we all sew together for the remainder of the session. At the end of the course, we show how to sew all of our sampler pieces of fabric into a Book of Stitches.

I find that when I teach, I don’t always have the time to actually do the coursework, but I think that after nearly a year of teaching Slow Stitch I may just have enough fabric pages to assemble a book!

In January I chose ‘pause‘ for my word for 2021.

My current manta is ‘little and often’. This counteracts my tendency to be ‘All of Nothing’ which uses up tons of energy and often sets me up for failure.

My fabric ‘page’ shows Threaded Running & Whip Stitch, Fly Stitch, Straight Stitch, Satin Stitch, Feather Stitch, French Knot, Couching, Back Stitch & Bullion Stitch.

I would also like to apply this practice of ‘little and <more> often’ to writing blog posts. 🙂


I read an article on pandemic fatigue which talked about how our days can become a blur.

In this portrait l began what l intended to be rows of neat cross stitch. The stitches rapidly became very freewheeling and turned into a net surrounding and holding me up.

This net is strong and flexible.

Without routines and schedules my task is to weave my own.