Ellie, better known online as Petalplum, embraces the art of slow stitching. It is one aspect of her slow living approach to life. Slow living and slow crafting can help us heal and connect more with ourselves and others. In this two-part interview, Ellie shares how slow stitching enhances her quality of life.
Introduction from The Maker
I’m Ellie, a textile artist, creative maker, and writer. I’m also a photographer, creative teacher, and advocate for slow simple living. Plus I’m a mama to three beautiful, creative, often noisy children.
I go under the name of Petalplum, my online ‘persona’ that I started many years ago (before Instagram). My online world is where I share my slow living ethos. More importantly, it’s where I share my imperfect way of approaching my craft and my art. I share my photos, words, and thoughts through my Instagram (@petalplum
) and my blog (petalplum.com.au
). I also have my regular Slow Living newsletter,
which often includes writing that I don’t share anywhere else.
I love sharing the how-tos and behind-the-scenes of crafting. Moreover, I love showing people how they can find their own voices within a craft.
Through my online conversations, courses, and in-person workshops, I show people how to seek the internal quiet self, rather than always looking outside to find the answer.
The quietness inside, finding our own center and working from that, means that we are able to use craft as a way to express ourselves, but also to discover ourselves, heal ourselves, and listen to the hidden secrets that are waiting to tell themselves to us.
I live in the rainforest, in Northern NSW, Australia. I work from home, alongside my creative husband, where nature, the birds, the trees, and the sky become my inspiration for my creative work. They also help me slow down and breathe in the moments. I feel immensely lucky to live here, and love that I have somewhere (online) to share this aspect of life with the busier world.
What Does Slow Living Mean To You?
Slow living is a whole combination of things really. It can be hard to pin it down to one simple meaning. Slow and simple living, to me, isn’t about having the right perfect linen outfit, or a whole pantry of matching bulk food jars, or living in a minimalist home.
What it really means, in my personal sense, is to find a way to bring those small moments of quietness, the gentle pockets that happen or that we create, into all aspects of a whole day.
It’s more a feeling, I guess, than a ‘thing’.
- It’s stopping for a minute longer than might seem necessary to really notice the light shaft through the trees or a building.
- Or noticing the way that our tea or coffee actually tastes, rather than sipping it in a distracted state while we scroll our phones.
- It’s not having music or podcasts or noise around us all the time, but to allow the quietness of our self a space to open up, to talk, to hear ourselves.
Slow Living is Saying No So You Can Say Yes
Slow living sometimes feels like saying no to a lot of things. No to mindless shopping every weekend or coffee dates for no real reason. No to doing things out of habit and not from intention.
Saying no to buying new things actually means that we are saying yes to a lot of things. Yes to more time at home, being content with ‘doing nothing’ or spending real time with our family and loved ones. Yes to more money to spend on things that have a deeper meaning, rather than throwaway fashion or more craft items to add to our stash.
For me, it means that I have more time to sit and craft, to simply enjoy a weekend at home with my stitching or weaving, and not spend my whole life scurrying from here to there and back again.
I do live in the extremely privileged position of being in a beautiful home, with nourishing surroundings. However, I do truly believe that if people want to imbue their lives with more slow and simple moments, they can do it wherever and however they currently live.
It’s about focusing on the pure moments in front of us and delighting in the simple things – holding hands with our children, collecting leaves from the garden or footpath, standing with the sun on our faces for a minute while we hang the wash on the line, and finding the meditation in the washing up.
What is Slow Stitching?
Slow crafting and mindful stitching
are ways that we can use our crafting and creative moments as a step into a meditation. While we would all benefit immensely from an hour or more, per day, on a meditation cushion, that isn’t the reality, not for me nor many people I know. Slow crafting is a way to tap into the mindfulness that helps us to quiet our breath, slow our busy crazy minds, and truly BE where we are.
The act of having something in our hands means that we’re not scrolling our phones. Instead, we are connecting our heads and hearts with purpose.
Not so many years ago our ancestors would sit each night, by fire or candlelight and mend their things – clothes, bedding, fishing nets, or other tools. After a long, tiring day of catching, growing, and tending to food, children, and land, sitting and using our hands in a purposeful way gives our minds a chance to slow down, to catch themselves, before we sleep. It gives us a way to converse with others, in a gentle way, or sit in the pleasant silence together.
Slow crafting can be anything that feels right for you. However, it’s nice to aim for something that is in the balance of not too challenging and not too easy. It’s crafting where you can slip into a meditative state, without having to worry about losing stitches or making mistakes on patterns.
This is why I love hand stitching or loom weaving best. For me, both of these are instinctual. Plus, it doesn’t matter if I have to put them down to tend children or dinner, because I can pick them up again wherever I am in the day. I often take stitching with me when I go out, in a little pouch in my handbag, and bring it out if I’m waiting at school, at the doctor, even sitting with friends and chatting.
Those small moments throughout the day keep bringing me back to the slow steady stitch through fabric. The actual sound of needle and thread pulling through fabric feels like a breath to me. I can see the quality of my stitches changing as my breathing softens and slows.
What Are the Benefits of Slow Stitching and Slow Living?
They remind me to breathe, to keep coming back to myself, to my center. In the busy scurry of a school morning, I’ll step outside and watch the trees. I’ll take a deep slow inhale and exhale.
The intentional exhalation allows me to expel any stress in my body, to soften my belly. With a soft belly, it’s hard to hold as much anxiety or tension, and you can’t yell at others or grit your teeth with a soft belly. These little moments are an endless journey, a reminder for me for my every day – the challenges as a mother to teenagers and a toddler, the difficulties I face as a small business owner, even simply the busy hour at a supermarket.
By continuing to come back to my crafting – the gentle conversations I have with myself at my weaving loom, or the quietness of stitching or dyeing with nature or gathering flowers and leaves – I am constantly reminding my body and my mind how good it feels to be in the quietness. It’s a way that I keep actively reminding myself of when I’m in the depths of the turmoil that inevitably comes up in life.
I’ve also found that a lot of my creative work and crafting help to heal me. By sitting with myself and not having anywhere to escape, many hours spent at my weaving loom have helped thoughts to evolve. Those hours have helped me work through emotions, sadness, and fears. Just being with myself and not ignoring it. I believe that for me, facing up to my weaknesses and my imperfections in my creative work allows me to better face up to those things in my daily life.