For those of us that see and use advanced sewing and embroidery machines on a regular basis, it’s easy to forget the humble beginnings from which the craft began. Here at Sweet Pea we spend a considerable amount of time on our computers digitizing complex designs, before using our embroidery machines to complete these designs. I think it is important however to know the history of any subject you’re passionate about, and therefore to know how modern machine embroidery has become what it is.
Start of the Thread
To talk about the beginning of machine embroidery we must touch on a much broader subject, the creation of textiles and clothing. It’s estimated that we’ve been wearing some form of clothing for at least 100 000 years, and we’ve been making textiles for at least 6000. It goes without saying that once we learned to stitch clothes together, we learned to repair those same clothes with stitching which is where embroidery finds its roots. Using stitches to repair clothing that had been worn past usefulness could have been enough, but people are creatures of aesthetics and soon enough this became more than just practicality. Stitching techniques were formed that not only repaired an item but made it look even better. All across the world, there are instances of different cultures using varied embroidery styles to accomplish this task throughout history. Over time the practical aspect of embroidery took a back seat to the desire to make beautiful designs. It became less and less common to use embroidery for repair and more common to simply embroider for its own sake.
Eventually, as the popularity of garment design over function grew in different cultures, clothing became a way for people to show off in public. In some cultures everyone embroidered their clothes, but the most well off could afford the time and practice it took to create the best designs. Similarly in other cultures where embroidery was the task of a skilled artisan, the more affluent members of society could afford the more expensive and higher quality clothing.
Machines have been used in embroidery for thousands of years in the form of the loom. However it wasn’t until the beginning of the industrial revolution that machines really took over as the predominant form of textile production. This is unsurprising as textiles were the dominant industry during this time, were the first to make use of machinery and the factory system and essentially became the driving force behind this revolution. In this period the earliest forms of the sewing machine were patented and created, while a blueprint of what would become the modern embroidery machine was being tested in factories. These machines have evolved over the modern era to make creating beautiful designs quicker and easier than ever before. They have integrated computers and can use the internet to really allow designers to have as much control as possible over the finished outcome. Meanwhile embroidery itself has evolved and expanded. Just about anything you want from your clothes, quilts or decorations can be accomplished through machine embroidery. From frilly and silly to po-mo, from wedding designs to in-the-hoop toys for the little ones.
At Sweet Pea we use modern machine embroidery to create articles completely in the hoop. Including bags, mug rugs, stuffed toys, quilts and more! Here are some examples of what you can do with an embroidery machine today.