Machine Song

I’ve been doing quite a bit of stitch-in-the-ditch sewing lately. For non-quilting readers, that’s sewing exactly at the intersection of a seam so the needle slides between the pieces of fabric. It is a precision skill and any deviation from the intended path is obvious as the stitches become visible instead of being hidden in the seam. As I concentrate, I am aware of the sounds my sewing machine sings to me. A crunching tearing sound with each stitch means I probably need a fresh needle. The motor whine varies with speed: three distinct notes at low speed, only two distinguishable at higher speed. I’ve chosen to make self-affirming mantras from the motor sounds. Three beats = “Yes I can.” and two beats = “I can.” If the sewing project under the machine is self-expressive, “I can.” becomes “I am.” This brief phrase lingers in my mind from a short film I viewed many years ago as an art major in college. The two words “I am.” was the summary of why a human makes art, or tools, or whatever tangible things outlive him. To me, it is the shortest possible sentence to define art.

close up view of sewing

stitching in the ditch


One response to “Machine Song

  1. I love the idea of a mantra as you work, timed with the rhythm of the machine. A couple years ago I read about using mantras as you walk, which I tried for a bit, but I found that I was too busy gawking at the flowers, birds, and insects to walk at a steady pace. So there went the mantra for me.

    These days I’m pulled to start trying to do something artistic, but I, too, find that I feel that anything I do needs to have a purpose. That feeling is a real “art killer,” at least for me. Some days I can put that feeling on hold and actually do something. One day I even played with basic art supplies and had a blast. But those days are few and far between.

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