Skill Investigation: Hand and Machine Sewing
Made by Lena Vlahakis
Investigating the benefits and challenges of hand sewing vs. machine sewing with a complex, 3D pattern.
Created: February 17th, 2018
I choose to explore applications of my sewing techniques to creating more complex 3-dimensional shapes and following patterns. My goal was to take my existing sewing skills and challenge myself to make something that is robust and well-constructed enough to be wearable, and to be consistent enough to be reproducible. I also wanted to gain more practice and experience with a sewing machine, to learn the different challenges and benefits of machine sewing vs. hand sewing. I choose a glove because it had both straight and curved edges, multiple pieces to construct, and would be small enough to finish in time, even sewing by hand.
Materials: Fleecy fabric, Brother sewing machine, simple pattern, sewing needle, thread, pins
I began with a pattern that I downloaded and cut out for shape reference, although I adjusted the size to fit my own hand when I cut the pattern pieces out of the fabric. I then began sewing the pieces together inside-out, to hide the stitching.
I initially used the sewing machine for the long straight pieces along the sides of each finger. Though the process was very fast, I had some trouble with the fabric bunching up or running off of the edges, given the thickness of the fleece and the small seam allowance that I had between the fingers. For the rest of the shapes, like the rounded fingertips and thumb, I decided to hand-sew, even though it took much longer. It was much easier to follow the contours of the fabric and I had much more control over my work, especially in areas that were at an angle, or where I had to join three different pieces together.
When I finished the inside, I turned the piece to the outside again and added the thumb and the cuff with a running stitch. This was the easiest way to connect these pieces, and although it meant the stitches were visible from the outside, I think it makes the glove look a bit more visually interesting and different from a standard store-bought glove.
This project was really helpful for me to explore the benefits and limitations of using a sewing machine. I have made small projects in the past by hand, like sewing on a button or making simple doll clothing, but I had thought that to use patterns or make wearable items, I’d need to learn to use a sewing machine. However, while the stitches from the machine made for a much stronger seam and were faster and more uniform, I overall had better success with hand-stitching my glove. I was able to adjust my sewing as I went along to make sure the pieces fit each individual finger, and I even went back and fixed some areas where I had machine-sewed to close to the edge of the fabric and the seam had come apart. Ultimately, the machine made sewing straight, long seams very easy, which would be useful in making large projects that can be sewn mostly flat, like a t-shirt or pants. But for small, more complex shapes, I can still follow a pattern by hand and get a wearable result.
For future exploration, I would like to try incorporating simple electronics into my work. I had the idea of adding an LED to one of the fingers, which you could use as a little flashlight to find something inside a dark bag or pocket - or, for more interactivity, a glove that lights up when you make a certain gesture, like a thumbs-up. I would also like to try to make my own patterns so that I can have more freedom with the shape and form of my pieces.