Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hand vs Machine

I do my fiberwork by hand - knitting, crochet, spinning, cross-stitch, embroidery, and some others. I do have a sewing machine, but it's not used often. Mainly sewing the hems on blue jeans (until I found a tailor nearby who does it quickly and well). It's not that I hate machines - I spend the day on the computer, and I have a microwave and a PDA and other electronic toys and gizmos.

But for fiberwork, a machine doesn't feel right to me. I've seen absolutely gorgeous work done by people who really know how to use a sewing machine, but I'm not intrigued enough to try it myself. Using a machine, I always feel a bit out of control. Debi, on the JCrafts Yahoo email list wrote recently: "I hate to say it but the machine embroidery is too perfect for me and doesn't feel like I am doing anything but operating a machine...I think anyone can produce the same. If I hand make something, it is truely one of a kind."

That very much put in words what I've had trouble saying before. The machine is doing the work, I'm not. I like doing the work - sure, sometimes the work is a royal pain in the you-know-what, but it's something I physically did.

There's also a related (to me anyway) slippery slope from hand-made to machine made to sweat-shop. If I take the time to make 100 whatnots on a sewing machine as a hobby to give as gifts - that's my creative outlet. But a woman making the same 100 whatnots for an insanely low wage in a sweatshop in a 3rd world country - that's not a creative outlet? In both cases it's a person using a machine to make 100 whatnots. I'm doing it freely, so that's ok? But she's doing it as a job to support herself & family, that's not good? ( I'm not saying that the horrible working conditions that you hear about in sweatshops are ok - I'm talking JUST about the making of the 100 whatnots can be thought of as a creative outlet for one person but not for another.)

probably more to come on another day...

1 comment:

Abby Franquemont said...

Mmmmmm, I'm going to have to blog on this subject as well. I've been through SO many philosophical cycles about it over the years... such an interesting topic.