Recently I attended the Brisbane Stitches and Craft Fair (as a visitor) and as always, was 'like a kid in a candy store' and totally in my element being surrounded by all the different types of craft and creativity. I found it interesting to see and learn the new craft trends as well as the ones that have stood the test of time proving their popularity and also the crafts that have made a revival, albeit with a modern twist. What was particularly lovely to witness was the cross-section of ages attending reinforcing the fact that interest in craft will continue.
I noticed that there was quite a large representation of sewing machine companies showcasing the embroidery techniques of their latest machines and their capacities were nothing short of amazing and awe-inspiring. However, it got me to thinking .... how does machine embroidery compare and differ to hand embroidery?
Now, right from the outset, I want to make it quite clear that I do not wish to be controversial or state that one form of embroidery is better than the other. Having used both forms myself over the years it would be rather hypocritical of me to be that judgemental. I well remember purchasing my 'top of the range' Janome sewing machine in the early 1980's (and which I still own to this very day) capable of multiple embroidery stitches and which at the time was rather 'state of the art'. My children's clothes and bed linen were proudly and lovingly adorned with beautiful machine stitching, able to be washed easily and adapted as they quickly grew.
The way I see it, there seems to be a few advantages and disadvantages to both forms:
- Let's start with the time factor - obviously handstitching is a lot more time consuming than stitching by machine. Depending on the design and type of stitches used, the machine would power through the work in no time and depending on its purpose and the number of designs needing to be stitched, ending up being quite labour and cost-effective.
- However, the initial outlay of a sewing machine is costly whereas hand stitchers' basic requirements are relatively inexpensive.
- There is a limitation to the type of stitches machines can produce though giving hand-stitchers a wider range of choice and skills.
- Portability of hand embroidery is a real bonus for stitchers with the ability to carry work anywhere, anytime and pick it up and put it down as opposed to machine embroidery where that is not possible.
- Whilst there are a wide range of threads for both forms, hand embroidery gives the choice of multi-thread use useful for textured work and three dimensional effects.
- Certainly the issue of cleaning is a consideration - machine embroidered items can easily be put in the washing machine albeit on a gentle cycle whereas hand-embroidered work requires careful attention with gentle hand washing and drying, thus making it time consuming work.
For me though, I think what makes hand embroidery so appealing is the fact that it is a calming and relaxing pastime, skills are continuously honed and you finish with a unique, heirloom quality item and a real sense of accomplishment. Hand stitched items made with love and given as gifts are always appreciated also. Whilst smart technology makes machine stitching a realistic way of the future, hand stitching represents a link to the past spanning simply centuries.
Here are two baby blankets given to me when my children were born.
The first one was hand-stitched by a family friend and the fact that she took the time to choose fabric, ribbon, a design and stitch it with me and my new born daughter in mind, makes it very special.
This blanket, with its machine embroidered motif, was given to me by my dear aunt when my son was born.
Two blankets, two different forms, but both special heirlooms which I wouldn't part with for all the world.
I guess, like with everything else, it comes down to choice and I would be very interested to read comments and views on this subject.
'Seek first to understand, then to be understood'. - Dr. Stephen R. Covey