Joining in and dropping out: Hand-stitching in spaces of social interaction | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-4689
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4697



The scale and pace of hand-stitching match those of the body, grounding cognitive and emotional experiences of solitude or sociality in a tangible process. The hand–eye–mind coordination required cultivates a distinctive form of attention to the self. On the one hand, as a private, contemplative activity, the slow rhythms of hand-stitching allow an individual to carve out time and space for introspective reflection. A collective stitching practice on the other hand, with fragmented tasks of short duration and frequent changes of colour, structures a very different space. In this article I draw on my experiences of joining an embroidery group to explore the simultaneity of social, cultural and physical processes in stitching practices, speech patterns and group dynamics. Finding that embodied knowledge of the craft includes patterns of social and physical interaction – or separation, I propose that hand-stitching practices can suggest alternative ways of thinking about how we create and occupy personal and social spaces.


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