Monday, August 6, 2012

of two minds...

we've been having a very hot summer this year, with temperatures in the upper 90's day after day. then, unexpectedly, we had one day of mid-60's temps and rain showers. it was a wondrous day...and now safely tucked away in memory as the temps have climbed back into the stifling upper 90's once again. but this dichotomy in the weather brought to mind another dichotomy, only in a different arena.

my style has changed drastically over the years. i have listened, and even participated in, many discussions as to the superiority of hand stitching vs. machine stitching in art cloth. i have seen countless examples supporting either argument. digested thousands of explanations for each. have even found myself sharing one side's...then the other's point of view. then this odd shift in weather got me to thinking... is there truly any reason why the two can not exist in harmony together?

yes, the majority of my cloth work these days have been generated in "traditional" slow-cloth the result of innumerable hours of painstaking hand-stitching, with only occasional dips into the guilt-ridden use of  one of my sewing machines to cobble together long seams more quickly. and while it is true that i really like the extra texture and element of a hand-stitched seam in much of my work, there really is no reason why i can't slough off the guilt of incorporating machine driven stitches into my cloth. after all, most of the fabrics that have been harvested for my creations have been machine loomed in a factory somewhere. machine sewn to create garments. many of these salvaged machine-made seams and elements find their way into my art cloths.  so why am i so hesitant to form my own machine-made stitches? guilt? most likely....but guilt over what? it seems silly and naive to feel guilt for using a tool at my disposal. would i feel guilt for using a vacuum to clean my floors rather than the time-honored tradition of gathering fallen branches and sweeping what dirt i can from my floors with twigs? of course not!

one of my new focus points in cloth-making is now going to include being mindful of the tools that i use in their creation. this includes the sewing machine! this being said, i am still more likely to use the machine more often for long, tedious seams and so forth as i truly love handmade stitches. but i am going to not hide machine made stitches as though they were the work of some evil entity attempting to corrupt the purity of my art!

besides, it is not as though i don't have a variety of machines to choose from, including everything from a treadle and a hand crank machine on up to a newfangled computerized machine that does everything for me but brew my morning coffee! granted, my passion for the past and the history of things leads me more often than not to the treadle machine in my studio...or out under a shady branch with my hand crank singer than to the computerized pfaff purchased in a fit of machine envy back in my days of working in quilt shops...but i am in need of finding myself being more present in the choices of my tools. more present...and less judgmental... and hope that this might inspire others to look more closely at irrational beliefs they might be holding close to heart and find peace in their dissolution...



  1. I so enjoyed listening to your perspective and hearing your thoughts.
    I agree with you about those tedious, ridiculously long seams... why not use the tools we have? I for one would rather focus on the fun stuff. The part of the project that is the "icing on the cake". The part I can do by hand easily.
    Sounds like you have quite the collection of tools : )
    I would love to hear your thoughts about the treadle machine?
    For a while I went through a phase where I was really wanting one.

    1. exactly my thoughts! i'll address the treadle machine in my post later tonight! :)

  2. I am working out this problem for myself right now. I like working large and doing all of the construction aspects would take an eternity if I stuck with hand stitching. Even incorporating hand stitching in large work is proving's a matter of scale. You can see my work from across the room but stitching doesn't become evident until you get within a few steps. Looking for the balance of matters/doesn't matter

    1. hmmmm...have you thought of working with larger needles and heavier thread to make the stitches stand out more? just a random thought... of course, there's always using a machine to do those long seams that don't benefit from hand work and then allow the mystery and beauty of the handwork to unveil themselves as one moves closer to the it many levels and depth...

  3. i always use both...the sewing machine for the long, straight pieces. no sense in not using the tools we have at our disposal. loved hearing all your musings.

  4. I use both, too. More hand sewing now than before. But that may be as much driven by the desire to watch movies while I work as it is by a new-found love of the texture of hand-stitched surfaces. Your post reminds me that it may be time to re-read 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' - with a view toward respecting, honoring, tending my machines in the way they are meant to be respected, honored tended (not that I neglect them, mind you!)

    I like the next post too... it's important not to feel oppressed by our projects!!!!