Sunday, 25 May 2008

Hand vs Machine

What is it that makes someone choose between stitching by hand and stitching by machine?

I spent a good hour or two this morning flitting on Flickr and it seems there are loads more quilters and sewers out there than hand embroiderers. I’m not claiming to have done any quantifiable research; it’s merely an observation based on the groups that are out there, the number of people belonging to each group, the vast difference between the number of views and comments about my own quilts and those of my embroideries, and the general interaction between Flickr folk via comments.

Knitting and crochet is a different story. I could find only a handful of tiny groups for machine knitters, but thousands belong to hand knitting groups. And I haven’t heard of a crocheting machine…

Either way, it made me wonder why you’d choose one over the other. And why if you enjoy knitting or crochet, you aren’t into hand embroidery, for example.

This then got me thinking about what it is that I enjoy about each of the fibre crafts I indulge in. And, as there’s a flipside to everything in life, what I don’t enjoy about them.


Hand embroidery is, without a doubt, the most rewarding. It takes an immense amount of time to finish a relatively small area and each stitch has to be made carefully in order for the whole to look good. The time factor can also be a deterrent, but it's easy enough to switch to a less demanding project (I normally have a few on the go at the same time). And no one can resist a neatly wound, colour-coded floss box. There is, however, a lack of “modern” designs out there, which can be frustrating. Although stitching your own designs brings a whole new level of satisfaction to the craft.


There’s a certain joie de vivre to quilting that you don’t really get from other fibre crafts. Pulling out yards of fabrics with gay abandon and arranging them in different combinations is a heady pastime. Then there’s the instant gratification factor, as you can piece a quilt top in a day. And if you’re a hand quilter, you get the best of both worlds: hand and machine. But stitching the same block 20 times can get a bit repetitive, which can be problematic if – like me – you love geometric quilts but don’t particularly enjoy sewing the same thing over and over again. I find using different fabrics for the same blocks helps alleviate this.


Crocheting is my craft of choice when I’m run down, stressed out or a bit on the tired side. It’s a soothing craft that doesn’t need your full attention and you can switch off and allow your mind to unwind while keeping your hands busy. Off course, this depends on how complicated an item you’re crocheting. I tend to stick to fairly simple items – probably because I’m drawn more to the action than the challenge of creating masterpieces out of wool. Crochet does, however, have the tendency to look a bit ou vrou (old-fashioned) or cheesy, so you have to be quite careful not to cross that line when selecting pattern, wool and stitch.

But the one thing that is universal – and I can only speak for the fibre crafts here, although I’m sure it’s the same for any creative endeavour – is that feeling you get when you finish something, knowing you made it with your own hands. From the original idea to picking out materials to slaving over your creation to standing back to admire your handiwork once the final stitch has been made. It’s a feeling I’d wish on everyone.

2 comments:

Cele said...

Beauitiful work so delicate :)

noricum said...

That beetle is lovely!