I am sure you’ve noticed that there is a recent renewal of interest in embroidery and quilting by hand. I can appreciate this. I used to do a lot of it myself. It looks wonderful and can give the stitcher a sense of meditative happiness and quiet, plus you end up with a beautiful piece to quilt and/or put on the wall, make into a pillow, or frame for a gift. These are often small and exquisite little jewels that are a great pleasure to make and view.
As wonderful as these are, I am thinking that with today’s machines, specialty threads, specialty feet and attachments, plus a community of sewers and quilters who are constantly developing new techniques, it is possible to create equally exquisite little pieces by machine. Mind, I am not advocating giving up hand work, just using it as inspiration for some extraordinary stitching by machine, or using both together on a single piece. While this might enable one to make such a treasure in a shorter space of time, it may not be that much faster, but interestingly challenging in a different way. Machine work is especially nice if one is facing arthritic or injured hands that make doing the hand stitching difficult or painful. Yes, it will almost certainly look a little different, but the texture and beauty that can be accomplished may be equally extraordinary.
I have two sources of inspiration that has made me want to try this. Alex Anderson recently ran a free class on The Quilt Show and YouTube called Make It Your Own stitch along lessons. I watched it. I did not make one, but I found some of the results truly beautiful. Trying to make a similar piece by machine may be very interesting.
The second one is the Royal School of Needlework posts in Instagram. Their work is truly incredible. I am particularly fond of their gold work which is often a combination of couched on gold cord and padded embroidery. But I also love many of their other colored embroidery pieces. Can I approximate the looks of these pieces? Well, I don’t know, but it is worth a try. I do know that it is possible to do padded embroidery in-the-hoop, and I have done a lot of couched work on all three of my machines.
I will do a little experimenting first, and then demonstrate some of the techniques on my YouTube channel. What do you think? Would you enjoy that? This will take me months before I am ready to record the work, but I will keep you apprised here on my blog of my progress.
The first thing I need to do, and, in fact, am already doing, is to make myself an interesting “library” of stitches I can do on my machines using different threads, different settings, and including the default settings. This actually came about because I ended up with a small stack of sheets of fabric all prepared for testing decorative stitches that I had put together for a class that I never ran due to the pandemic. They are nice white on white quilting fabric backed with a stabilizer and I drew in lines and added a selection of needles up in the corner. I think I will add some darker fabrics and interesting designs that I can get from my Bernina 880 plus. Once I get this done, I will be better able to decide how to make some of my ideas and draw up instructions or a pattern. I tell you, it is almost equally as meditative and calming to me to stitch these library sheets as it would be by hand. I think the key is to not try to rush this project, but to sew at whatever speed it takes to get things to work right.
I am using all kinds of threads and weights I have in my stash, primarily from Wonderfil Threads (a relatively new passion of mine), but also from Superior Threads (which I developed a huge stash of over the years. It differs a bit from Wonderfil, so they work well together). I believe my thread stash is bigger than my fabric stash at the moment. When I finally get to the first project, I will give you a list of the threads I use so you can try them if you want.
In the process of putting together the right fabrics for these types of projects I thought you might like to know favorites that I’m sure you would love too that would make great fabrics for such projects (beyond our stand by of high quality quilting cotton). These include Kaufman Essex Linen, a wonderful linen/cotton blend good for a multitude of sewing projects, and Kaufman silk/cotton Radiance. Surprisingly, I also found that faux silk polyester dupioni (the 58 inch wide) makes a wonderful choice, but it needs to be backed with a lightweight iron on fusible such as Pellon SF101 iron on woven interfacing.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio.
2 thoughts on ““Hand Work” by Machine”
How interesting! I am about to embark on a hand work project myself. . . .only because I’m away from my machine for a couple of months! I look forward to the results of all the rich colors and textures of thread you showed in your post!
Thanks Terry. I look forward to seeing what you do with your hand work. Have fun.
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