Hand-stitched vs. Machine-stitched

Hand-stitched vs. Machine-stitched
Throughout human history women have usually been the everyday sewers who clothe themselves, their families, and their abodes - in the process producing works of great beauty, functionality and embedding their cultural traditions into fiber and cloth - often with superb craftsmanship. The discovery of precious textiles from times past, and the cataloging, maintaining, displaying these gems of human endeavor, enrich and educate us today.

Producing a garment stitched by hand (manus) vs. one stitched by machine (machina) alludes to a tension as to which is the best method for elevating the construction process in clothing the human form from pure function (think fast-fashion) to aesthetically awe-inspiring artful design (as in couture). If speed of sewing and resultant time savings were not considerations which would be preferred? It would all depend on what the finished structure, form or function of what a garment or item is expected to be.

Hand stitching a garment gives precise control over the manipulation of seams, building flexible structure and support within unseen underlining, encasing beautiful button openings, and controlling seam edges from fraying with no-show-through overcast stitches. Fabric edges can be turned and hemmed nearly invisibly. Adding delicate surface design elements can be exquisitely applied using hand stitches. Hand stitching allows for the sewer to apply those artistic elements infused with highly personalized creativity.

Machine stitches are unmatched for producing over and over equidistant stitch lengths and width. Stitching draperies, bed linens or any item with lengthy rows of seaming benefits from machine stitching by producing the straightest lines of stitching possible. Machine stitching alleviates the sheer monotony of producing many doubled or multiple parallel rows of endless lines of stitches.

From the time of the beginning proliferation of home sewing machines in the mid 1800's alongside the Industrial Revolution's mass production of clothing and textiles to today’s awe-inspiring 3-D printing and computerized generation of fast fashion - the hand and machine as creative tools are evident. It is easy to see, by examining surviving garments from the past juxtaposed onto today's imagination-infused futuristic 3-D printed sculptural clothing how traditional fiber and threads, and a few basic stitches, can truly be counted as art for the ages. Consider the art of couture or bespoke made garments, the utility of fast fashion and the original space suites worn by astronauts as evidence of a unique combination of art, form and function. The construction as well as the fibers of our clothing endure as telling artifacts of our times.

The global smorgasbord of countries that have found the history and beauty of textiles and their resultant clothing and artifacts to be worthy of preserving and proudly displaying as fit to reside in museum collections is testament to the value of the sewer’s art. With every stitch, whether by hand or machine, the sewer infuses a bit of culture and tradition into the cloth. Together the sewer’s stitch and the weaver’s cloth results in more than the sum of its parts; culture is passed on, traditions preserved, a body protected from the elements and the sewer’s skills remain intact.

Textiles and their manipulation by the sewer, or by extension, the human controlled computer, tell the story of the ages and reveal the very real and beautiful fabric of our lives.


Sew happy, sew inspired.





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This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.