“Soft Hands” in Quiltmaking

My Uncle Reese and son Stosh, circa 1988

My Uncle Reese and son Stosh, circa 1988

The words “soft hands” have been running through my mind like a mantra. It all started when I had a girlfriend tell me about how tight her neck and shoulders would feel as she was machine quilting. I didn’t have a solution for her – except to tell her to stop doing whatever makes you hurt. But I kept thinking about it.

Then one day I was listening to a podcast and heard a well-known quilter say, “If it’s not fun, you shouldn’t be doing it.” It was then that I made the connection. My friend wasn’t having fun. Your shoulders don’t tense up and you don’t hunch over your sewing machine when you are having a rip-roaring good time!

And then another thought came to mind, “soft hands”. When I was a young teen I was lucky enough to have a horse. And not just any horse, but a stock seat and hunt seat trained liver-chestnut Quarter Horse named Takue Bar Wind. Wow. Thanks, Dad! You’re awesome!

Anyway, I was just a tiny little thing, not strong, not athletic, and not really very brave. It was during my weekly riding lesson that I first heard about “soft hands”. I couldn’t control my horse through brute force, and I understood that even if I could that it wouldn’t be very pleasant for the horse. I learned that I could communicate through those reins to my horse’s very sensitive mouth. If my hands were tense and “hard” then my horse would be feeling that tension and anxiety. If my hands were “soft” and confident, then my horse would feel that everything was under control and there was no need to worry.

I have taken that riding lesson into my quiltmaking. I breathe slowly, confidently, peacefully. I soften my eyes. I soften my hands. And through concentrating on softening those three things – my breath, my eyes, my hands – my whole body learns that everything is okay, this is fun, this brings me peace not anxiety.

Try “soft hands”.

“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


~ by Kimberly Mason on August 6, 2008.

3 Responses to ““Soft Hands” in Quiltmaking”

  1. Loved the ‘soft hands’ analogy! I have been a rider most of my life and completely know what you are talking about. Not only will it work with quilting, I actually found myself relaxing as I read your post! THANKS!

  2. Oh I agree about soft hands and if you aren’t having fun don’t do it or find another way to do it. Quilting is so relaxing to me (especially the hand quilting). I often remind students to breathe while they are sewing.
    Thanks for your note.

  3. Yes, soft hands in riding and in quilting! Makes the horse and the quilter both very happy. Thanks for the great analogy!
    The Quiltwhinny

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