You might be working on the hem of a dress and you begin to think how it was with your ex-husband and you want to write about it. Your hands are busy sewing . . . — Natalie Goldberg

When I think of rest these days, I imagine my hands around a small hoop with fabric stretched through and around it. My right hand pulls a need up, through, and down – over and over again, as tiny crosses and satin stitches draw pictures without words.

Some people want to split wood or run marathons when they need a break from their mental space. I just want to sew.

In the fall and winter, it’s yarn I want draped over my lap. The weight and warmth covering me. But as summer approaches, my hands crave the minuteness of stitch and thread.

Embroidery floss becomes my indoor garden.

I sit evenings in my mother’s nest, now turned into my own with skeins of color draped about my great-grandmother’s blanket trunk. I lay back, lift my feet, and sew into designs that I do not create. My mind rests from the laying out of pattern.

When I see the samplers and embroidered art that woman of history have woven with their fingers, I imagine how much of their mind they have poured onto that canvas when so much of it had to be stifled, silent in a world where men spoke for all.

Now, sometimes, when I tell people I sew, they tilt their heads just a bit. Maybe it seems odd that I do this – with all my independence and liberal sympathies, with all my talk of equality and work toward that end – maybe it seems odd that I turn to something so traditionally “womanly.”

The best cross-stitcher I know was a man. He designed plays during the day, and at night, he created these gorgeous pieces from Irish linen and silk thread.

So much of sewing is like writing. One stitch, one word at a time. How could I not love it?