Praying the Stitches is a means to quietly meditate on prayer while creating a small piece of art. One of Visual Faith's goals is to teach folks a variety of methods to help them focus on and remember their prayers. Did you learn to embroider or do counted cross stitch years ago? Do you quilt, sew, or mend and have lots of extra scraps of fabric? Do you have a limited amount of time and would like a quick project
that will help you focus on your prayers? Praying the Stitches will be a wonderful addition to your visual prayer practice. It is a grace-filled process that requires little skill. You can put perfection aside and just enjoy the process and the conversation with our loving God who hears our prayers. Psalm 65 reminds us that God does indeed hear our prayers and then gives us an excellent example of prayer. Frequently, I find myself praying a piece of scripture or singing a hymn as I stitch.
In my personal Praying the Stitches practice, I have a stash of fabric cut into 4–6-inch squares, a backing fabric of the same size, and several scraps of fabrics, trims, buttons, and other ephemera. If you do any sewing, you probably have a fabric stash to use. If you do not have fabric on hand, you can purchase small amounts (¼ yard or less) of a variety of fabrics (cotton, wool, silk, muslin, and linen are wonderful choices). Many fabric stores have clearance bins where you can find some great deals and a large variety of fabric. I use embroidery floss or Perle cotton thread #8 to do my sewing. You can use any type of thread or yarn though. Use a sharp needle with an eye that is the appropriate size for your thread.
I keep all my supplies in one bag so I can just pick it up at any time and sew. Sometimes I have squares pinned together and ready to stitch and other times I assemble them right before I decide to sew.
There is never a lack of prayer needs these days. St. Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6-7 to ‘not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ It can be easy to get distracted while praying but keeping your hands working while you are praying helps you focus your thoughts on prayer instead of everything else going on in your day. Thoughts may occasionally go to stitching but you will find yourself going right back to your prayer. After I finish a stitched piece, I also like to write out a summary of my prayer on a piece of card stock or paper and attach it to the back of the piece. It will be a permanent reminder of my prayer. After I have made several squares, I may frame them and give them as gifts. But in most cases, I stitch them into a homemade book of prayers. The note cards are tucked into pockets, and I can review the prayers at any time.
Here are a few examples of Praying the Stitches from a recent Visual Faith gathering. As you can see, each piece is unique. Some examples use a stamped image on muslin with stitched words and a variety of trims. Others use found objects such as sea shells. There are very few limits to the materials you choose. When it comes to using ephemera, it's always nice to use something that ties to your prayer to help you remember. This isn't necessary but is just a special touch.
If you do not enjoy hand stitching, you may use your sewing machine to make these little squares. I have seen some beautiful machine-stitched squares and you can certainly pray over them while stitching. I frequently sew two squares back-to-back around the edges of the sides and bottom. I then write my prayer on a small piece of paper and insert it between the stitched pieces. Alternatively, you may frame a piece individually or collage several prayer pieces together. I like to put mine in a fabric book with little notes of the prayer tucked between the squares.
Thinking through all these options and how best to make your square reflect your faith and prayers is time spent with God using the gifts and blessings He has given you. I believe, as Christians, we are blessed to bless others whether it be with our prayers, our art, our thoughtful words, or our acts of worship and service. May you be blessed in all you do for our Savior's sake.
Join the Tuesdays@8 Creative Haven Event August 30 and watch and learn directly from Ann!
Ann Gillaspie, VFM Coach