A teaser for you

So I have a little teaser for you...

Have a look at the photos of work below. Which one do you think has the digital stitch and which one the freehand quilting?

OK, that was sneaky of me, they are both digitally stitched with some infill done freehand!

I was mulling over a comment left on my previous post, (by the way, thanks so much to anyone who takes the time to leave a comment here, I love reading them all). The comment raised the question of why you would want to watch a machine stitch something out automatically when the process of stitching by hand/freehand was so enjoyable.

I think inevitably, digital stitch isn't going to be for everyone, just as with everything in life we all have our preferences and I'm certainly not going to suggest that any approach is superior to another. But it set me thinking about how method and process applies to my practise as an artist.

Time matters to me. I don't have time to do everything that I want to do in a day. Those who live with me will tell you I get grumpy and frustrated by this. I have decided that life is too short for lots of things. So yes, if I can design something on screen, send it to my machine to stitch it out automatically while I do something else, that feels great. I'm being doubly productive and the time that my machine is working on its own frees me to perhaps do some hand stitch if I want to, something which I rarely find I can devote any daylight hours to.

That said, does designing on screen and setting the machine to stitch save any time? Well for me, maybe not. I don't tend to repeat stitch any designs. I'm not into mass production so the time invested in making the design isn't a saving necessarily. I just enjoy the challenge of working in a different way. I can focus purely on design, the scale of motifs, their relationship to each other, the quality of stitched line, thread choices, and so on and so on.

So why this interest in digital? Well here's the truth. I'm bored with freehand quilting. I've made lots of quilts, too many to bother counting. Most of them were freehand quilted. I'm not saying my machine quilting is perfect, but to a certain extent I feel like I've been there, done that. I get bored very easily and while I love starting a new quilt, deciding how I'll quilt it, and that first initial session of stitching, very quickly my mind is onto the next and finishing the quilting is just a job, and dare I say it, a tedious one.

Don't get me wrong. I love the effect of quilting, I love that I make quilts, but they require so much stitch for me to feel they are done that this becomes a slow process, one that's too slow for me. I need something that will keep my work fresh and the answer lies in new techniques and speed of execution.

I still love hand stitching. I nearly always piece by hand, but these activities are reserved for my evenings when I'm making things to have around the home. Those projects are clearly divided in my mind from my 'work'.

Of course the answer is simple, instead of my obsessional approach to everything, a healthy balance is what's required. By making use of digital stitch and exploring all the creative potential that that offers will give me a rest from working freehand and I'm sure before long, I'll be back to it...maybe.

If you've got to the end of this rambling post, thanks for reading!
Back soon,


  1. Thanks for explaining your thoughts about this, Laura. I am always so inspired by your work and this definitely makes me appreciate digital in a different way. Keep posting those beautiful close-ups of your quilts. Happy weekend

  2. Makes a lot of sense to me!

  3. Laura, I think so much of what you say is true in other media as well. I do a lot of Photoshop "art" and many argue that an image is not art if done on the computer. But I think art is whatever the maker decides it is, and whatever tools she wants to use is up to her. A hundred years ago no one had acrylic paint, yet now it is an accepted medium. Times change and tools change with it and if one is creating that is all that matters...Janet in Tennessee

  4. It is all talent! And you have that talent...to even come up with a design to stitch by machine is more than I could ever think of doing! Kudo's to you!!! And you're still an inspiration to us all (as is your mother).

  5. Oh, I get it. I've started calling certain parts of the process "grunt work" - because it primarily requires technical skill that many can do after the designing part is done. And while I used to enjoy the repetitive nature of some of this, I'm at a point in my life where I see the limit of the time I have left. The thought of machine quilting a large quilt, for instance, is wearying, while the designing of it is not. I am finally understanding those artists who turn over (with detailed instructions) the finishing, including the quilting, of their textile art to another. I used to think it a cop-out not to complete every part of the process with one's own hands. I'm rethinking that now. Designing is the exciting part for me, working through technical challenges still engaging, but sitting at the machine stitching endlessly the same general motif? I feel there must be better use of my time.

  6. Thanks Laura, this is a great post and really illuminates your thinking. I fully agree that we need to move forwards in our practice and just keeping on keeping on won't do that. One of the things that really impresses me about your work is your seemingly tireless capacity to take risks and to change and adapt your process so that new and unexpected ideas emerge. I am amazed by the way at how much time you and Linda put in to DMTV. I was convinced that the Kemshall's must have a 'pause' button for time. More power to your creativity!

  7. Time! Don't even begin to get me started. As any of you who follow my own blog will know, I have 'the day job'. Now I love my day job, it is quite creative in its own way, but as a consequence I have limited time for my art. And as one of my day job colleagues commented quite recently, I'm a bit 'driven' when it comes to my art.

    I was late coming to art so feel that I may be up against it on the '3 Score Years and 10' front and feel that there is so much work just bursting to get out of me. And if I could have an army of little elves helping me get that art out, then I'd set them on the repetitive tasks like the freehand quilting.

    But sadly I don't, so if someone offered me a nifty bit of kit like this embroidery machine, I think I would jump at it. For me it's just an elf, albeit an electronic one. Ok I might not have sat there and actually moved the textile under the needle, but if I told the machine what to do, then I think that is ok.

    After all, this is the 21st century and painters don't beat themselves up because they don't grind and mix their own pigment like the great masters of the Renaissance did. They buy it all ready missed in tubes and tins and things. Isn't this just a textile 21st C version of the same thing?

    By the way, I cannot afford such a machine so unless my lottery ticket comes up, I have to keep dreaming of the elves.

    But you crack on, Laura, and I, for one, look forward to seeing more work.

    H xxx

    1. Hah - elves! Yes, Hilary, that would do the trick. I'd even have a place to store little workers like that. lol Good point about the move by painters away from grinding and mixing their own pigments, although some still do. Good for them if it fulfills a need but better for the majority of us if we can skip that part to concentrate on what fills our particular need. Wishing you luck on the lottery ticket win. ;-)

  8. This is such a good post. Life IS change and embracing that idea is what keeps us engaged and enthused and moving forward. I thinks folks get concerned that new ways, methods and ideas somehow erode or devalue what has gone before but this is not true, there is room for every way of working. We all like to fall back to our comfort zone but being in it too much is just as bad for us as always needing to have the next new thing, just because it is new. We need to embrace and enjoy the best of the new while keeping the best of the old with us, in my opinion. Knowing what is right for you is the most important issue here.

    1. Good points. I think finding balance is the key to most things in our lives, and perhaps especially in the creative things. I think I need to tack that last sentence up in my studio: "Know what is right for you."

  9. well I love how you've used digital stitch and because you've designed the stitch it's just as valid in my opinion and is just another 'tool' in your toll box. It's also made me think as I'm getting ready for a new machine and would like to be able to do some things differently so I'm very grateful that you've shared this way with us all.


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