In September I attended a workshop on the finishing of embroidery projects.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from Carolyn Standing Webb as well as being in the company of my fellow EGA stitchers.  I took the time to practice what I learned on a piece my co-worker had produced during a demo.

Since this time, I have gone crazy making similar items for my grands.  They have turned out beautifully!  I think what I love the most is that I am taking two embroidery styles and meshing them together: machine embroidery and handwork!  During the monthly EGA meeting of the Fort Worth Chapter I showed off my work and there was a bit of a discussion about if machine embroidery really counted.  It was all in good fun of course but I found it a very good subject to look into.

Often you will hear those who do hand embroidery say using a machine is cheating. It is often because of the speed of the machine, the accuracy of the stitches, and the lack of attention used.  Is it really cheating?

Hand embroidery is an art that takes time to learn and do.  I know I have worked on a small project and within eight hours of stitching, I only accomplish an inch of work.  That is looking generously at the amount of work accomplished.  One of the reasons it takes so long is the process I go through as a  stitcher.  I must decide how long, tight, loose, etc… my stitches need to be, I have to make sure I am doing the stitches correctly, and I am happy with my work.  If anyone of these are not to my satisfaction, out comes the stitch ripper.

With a machine, there is a computer.  A computer is not smarter or more talented than a person, it is just a computer.  It has written rules that it follows and as long as it follows those rules it does a perfect job.  Because of this programming, the machine is able to finish a perfect job quickly.  This doesn’t make it any less in beauty or art.  It just makes the machine faster.  Granted the machine will not have a handwork look, but should it?

I believe there are a time and place for both styles of embroidery.  I believe they can both be used at the same time to make a piece better.  Granted my following example is going to be focused on how the next two pieces are finished and not on the actual embroidered parts.

I work for a sewing machine store that sells embroidery machines.  I am always trying to convince my boss to allow me to do a hand finishing class.  She never sees it my way.  However, she has finally decided I am right or just tired of hearing me harp on it.  I would like to think it is because of the photo below.

The ornament on the bottom gave my boss all sorts of “ooooh’s” and “wowzers” and she wanted me to teach a class on it.  I began telling her I would need to teach the cording and tassel as a hand finishing part.  She was not happy with this and told me I would have to do all of it, start to finish, by machine.  Well, except the tassel.

I took it very slow and did the best I could using the sewing machine.  It was a horrible experience for me.  The gathering foot wasn’t working how I thought it should and the guided foot followed the bumps and ridges I had after turning the circular piece.  She even took the piece and tried to “fix” the errors she felt I made.  Unfortunately, ornament on top didn’t look anything as good as the original.  She finally agreed to the class is an embroidery machine/hand finishing class.

In this case, hand embroidery/finishing was chosen as the best because it was the right tools for the job; a machine for the embroidery and hands for the finishing.

This is a gift.  I needed something quick, pretty and easy to do.  It was a sudden thing so I didn’t have a month to do the hand embroidery so I chose to use an embroidery machine.  I had to spend the time planning what would be on the fabric, hopping the fabric correctly, watching to make sure the threads were correct, and so on.  It was less time, but no less art.

There are a time and place for both types of embroidery so do not let anyone make you feel less of an artist one way or the other because being an artist is expressing how you feel and see things using anything and everything around you.


…  If you want to see some really great examples of hand vs machine embroidery and how they are both just amazing, please visit Urban Threads’ blog post.