Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thoughts on Sewing by Hand...

When I was a little girl my mother instilled in me that I "could not use her sewing machine until I could sew like I wanted to by hand."  This was a source of frustration to me because of course as anyone knows who has sewn with a machine and by hand, the former is faster.  I also associated it with looking "more professional" and being sturdier.  Now while the latter may be true I was thinking about the former more closely as I sat on the couch working to finish my latest creation by hand (since my sewing machine is on strike again.)

The concept of it being "more professional" implies that it can only be done "right" if it's done with a machine.  Really though, that's a ridiculous notion as any artist or crafter who knows their art can be considered a professional at it and many, including myself, would rather resent the implication that because it was handmade it wasn't professional.

What really is the look you receive is "manufactured".  A machine isn't supposed to make errors, it's consistent, and so long as it's built/programmed correctly it remains that way.  Wear and tear after awhile can cause issues, but they are less fallible than people are.  Looking at my stitches I notice the line is not straight, and the space between stitches are uneven, but that's the human part of the equation coming through.  It doesn't mean it's poorly made, as that can happen with a machine just as easily.  It just doesn't look the same, and the "look" to duplicate what a machine does is highly inefficient when done solely by hand.  (That is the closeness and double-sidedness of the stitching, and other "complicated" techniques.)

But to defend all that is handmade, there is a certain quaintness to it.  An air that can never be duplicated by something the mass makes the same thing over and over again.  Things that are handmade are often "imperfect" and thereby unique.  There are little quirks in the design that came through it's construction.  For those who want to blend and be like everyone else mass manufactured has it's appeal.  Nowadays it's a status symbol to have stuff made like that.  But once long ago, pre-Industrial Revolution (eg before the 18th century), things were made by hand solely.  Tools, as with knitting and weaving, were used, but not the complex monstrosities that exist in factories today.  Things were expensive by even that times' standards because many things took large amount of effort and time on behalf of the artist or crafter.  Materials were much more limited in availability and design and took more effort and money to get.  There were also more limitations on what you could get - color and what something was made of - depending on your resources, area, and means.  But don't get me wrong, industrialization isn't all bad, it's afforded us a great many conveniences that most of us would be quite lost without.  However the trade up is that we seem to have lost appreciation for what we are buying and what it took to provide it.  I would certainly be curious to know the difference in cost between a silk shirt made pre-Industrial Revolution and one made nowadays; as well as the difference in construction/means of production and geographical availability. many things, sew little thyme for ewe and eye...

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