Hand work. When it comes to sewing by hand, it's kind of like opera; you either love it or you hate it. For those who love it, the words "Hand Made" take on a whole new meaning. For those who hate it, just the mention of those words brings a cringe. Those who hate it will try anything to avoid it, calling it the "H" word. Those who love it, when contemplating a new project, will conjure up visions of time spent in the comfort of their favorite sewing place, surrounded by all their favorite tools, spending time doing nothing else except stitching along while solving the problems of the universe in the back of their mind. One who loves it wonders how anyone could hate it.
I believe that it is the hatred of hand sewing that has brought the sewing machine to what it is today. Years ago sewing was viewed as a chore and it really was. Before the sewing machine, women made clothes for the whole family by hand. Imagine living on a homestead or even in a pre-industrial age town. No pavement anywhere. Every time you had to use the restroom you had to walk outside, down the dirt path. Daily chores required everyone to go out into the barn or field. Getting water required a walk to the well or river. The clothes you spent hours making for your children were sure to get filthy withing the first hour of being worn. All the women and girl's dresses were ankle length, dragging in the dirt all the time. Washing the clothes required a trip to the river or washtub, again, outdoors and washing by hand. It sounds like a thankless chore to me. No wonder the women made quilts with the leftovers. At least the hard work put in to a quilt stayed inside until they needed to be washed. I heard a poem written by a woman on the prarie fronteer that I wish I had written down. It spoke about the quilts she made with love to keep the children from freezing to death at night and the making of which that kept her from going mad. Can you imagine such a life?
How far sewing has come since then! Today sewing is a creative act that we do because we want to and can, not because we have to. Most only sew by hand if they actually want to because almost every sewing activity can be accomplished by machine today. Techniques for machine quilting, machine applique and machine embroidery are the news today. Some machine artists do not have hand skills at all and see no need to obtain them.
The art of sewing by hand would fade entirely were it not for those of us who love to pick up needle and thread and quitely stitch some heirloom piece fit to be handed down to our children, grandchildren, etc. Some of us were taught to sew by our mothers and grandmothers who still viewed hand sewing as a valuable skill. Is it romanticism to believe in hand sewing? I like to imagine what it was like to be a victorian lady. Their sewing skills made them important in their social circles. They chose projects that were challenging to show off their skills and were proud of the amount of time they had invested in them. Their handywork is what we seek as collectible today. I wonder how our skills would measure up to theirs. Would they look down on us or would they be intrigued and challenged by the machines we use today?
This photo is a photo of a quilt I finished in December of 2005.
It's a queen size Grandmother's Flower Garden I named "A Mother's Garden of Memories". I made this quilt entirely by hand for one of my daughters mostly out of fabric I salvaged from some of the clothing she wore as a child. Some of it was from dresses I made for her. I had carted that fabric around for 20+ years. It took me 3+ years to complete this quilt. I remember thinking I'd never finish it, but I did! I made that quilt during some of the most challenging years of my life...the years I had to raise 2 of my grandchildren, turning 50, my mother's death, my brother's death, 4 hurricanes (I live in Florida), becoming a Christian and much, much more. Making that quilt kept me from going mad, although some people said I was already mad for attempting to make it by hand. Quite literally, my blood, sweat and tears went into this quilt. That's why I named it what I did; it was full of my memories, both good and bad. When I finally finished it, it was very dirty. I was afraid that the stains wouldn't come out, but was surprised that they all did...all except the little blood stains where I'd pricked my finger while hand quilting. I didn't even know they were there until I washed it. When I pointed this out to my daughter she said that's what she loved about it the most!
If I had spent those 3+ years making quilts by machine, I would have made many more than just one quilt, but none of them would have been that quilt.