Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Handiwork -or - what I've been thinking about a lot lately...

Handiwork is becoming increasingly important to me in my creative pursuits/missions.  More and more I feel the need to learn/value/pass on this skill set that WAS so commonplace that in quilting/sewing patterns and books from eras gone by, there aren't even descriptions or explanations of the process of sewing by hand (how to hold the needle, fabric and thread, etc.).

So what images come to mind when I say "handiwork".  Blue hair, shawls, hot tea and cats?  Umm, I hope not - not that any of those things are bad!  But that's mostly what came to my mind for a long time - because I didn't really know more than one or two people my age doing the kinds of "crafts" I was doing.  What is handiwork anyway?  Webster's II defines it as "1. Work done by hand. 2. Something accomplished by a single person's efforts. 3. The product of a person's work or actions."  Well, that's a pretty broad definition - I associate handiwork with anything fabric+thread+needle related that is done by hand. 

Please don't misunderstand me, I am not anti-sewing machine.  I LOVE my machine.  I just happen to LOVE hand sewing more.  It's portable, quiet, precise (I can sew on the machine, but am much less likely to screw something up if I sew it by hand) ;), s l o w e r (see precise) and there is just something special about sitting down with a needle and thread and all the love that goes into the finished product.  Natalie Chanin's books are great resources for hand sewists and a new hand sewing book Sewn By Hand by Susan Wasinger is out, which I have not seen yet, but would love to!  While patterns and books might not be specifically labeled for hand sewing, there is no reason they can't be used that way!  I've heard a lot of people who come to my booth at the craft shows say things like, "Oh, I wish I could sew, but I don't have a machine".  I try to tell them that they don't need one!  It seems that the slowness and "make do attitude" is just not part of our society anymore.

This is where some huge role models for my handiwork cause come in - Natalie Chanin (of Alabama Chanin - I spoke about her here), Anna Maria Horner and Susan of Plays With Needles.  

Hand sewing is what Natalie and her company are all about (and producing items slowly and locally using sustainable methods and talented sewers right here in the states).  

Recently, Anna Maria has talked about the importance of hand sewing and I believe she does quite a bit of it herself.  She talked about the dynamic of having a business and handsewing/making and whether the two together are possible.  As small as Sunrise Folk is, it's something I think about a lot, too.  I am increasingly inclined to take the plunge and go mostly, if not all, hand sewn in the shop.  Anna Maria also posted a video (courtesy of Etsy) that discusses a dying art and it really got me thinking about how important it is to keep these art forms alive.  

Then, Susan had a wonderful post about the time it takes to do handiwork - how most people don't understand why we do this, but how important the work is (and in her case the work is amazing ARTwork!).   

For quilters out there, I am quite sure you all know who Jinny Beyer is (I didn't know until a few weeks ago!).  If you don't know, she is a prolific hand quilter - she pieces and quilts every one of her quilts by hand.  And they are AMAZING!  She's written several books, has a website stocked with info and free patterns, has a fabric line and even has handy quilting tools for sale.  I recently purchased Quiltmaking By Hand and I'm SO glad I did!  It is a treasure trove of information, not just about hand quilting, but color selection, pattern drafting, hand sewing and skill building.  One thing I am incredibly impressed with about Jinny is how 'free' she is in her instructions/sewing philosophy.  She never says "you must do it this way or you are wrong".  Quite the opposite, she says there is NO wrong way.  *Love!*

Do any of you do hand sewing/hand quilting/hand embroidering/etc.?  Please let me know if you do, I would love to hear from you and try to round up a group of us!


  1. Nope, but count me in if you ever start a class! :)

  2. I do indeed. And I totally agree with you - Something about hand sewing is just... better! I think for me it's the fact you can do it while curled up in a big comfy chair - Perfect!