CharacteristicsMachine embroidery began as an imitation of hand embroidery and lace. In hand stitching the fabric is still and you move the needle. In machine embroidery the needle is still and you move the fabric. HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MACHINE AND HAND EMBROIDERY Evenness and consistency of stitching Stitches are all connected forming a continuous line Bobbin thread noticeable at the back of work Consistent and repetitive thread carry-overs at back of work Threads generally finer Starting and finishing techniques.
In 1755, Charles Weisenthal patented a double pointed needle which potentially could be applied to mechanical sewing. However, the development of mechanical sewing machines appears to have started in earnest in the early 1800s. Elias Howe invented a two-thread lockstitch machine in 1845 and in 1851 Isaac Singer patented the first sewing machine intended for home use.
The Singer Sewing Machine Company did a great deal to develop and popularise machine embroidery in the late 19th and early 20th C. The Singer London Embroidery Department (the Singer Workroom) was established in 1889 to pioneer machine embroidery. Until 1913, the Workroom used mainly domestic straight stitch treadle machines. Embroidery was worked on clothes, lingerie, and household items such as cushions, curtains and table linen. Workroom staff became highly skilled at producing intricate embroidery using only straight stitch.
In 1950 a large embroidery exhibition titled ‘An Experiment in Embroidery Design’ was held in the UK in conjunction with the Arts Council. The exhibition included both hand and machine embroidery. Machine embroidery exhibits included curtains, evening bags, table mats and pictures. The exhibition was very successful and signalled the acceptance of machine embroidery as a legitimate form of artistic expression.
The development in the 1980s and 1990s of electronic and computerised machines has seen the potential of machine embroidery increase yet again. Modern machines have dozens of programmed stitches and automatic patterns that enable complex designs to be executed with little skill on the part of the embroiderer. Elaborate designs can be scanned and programmed into computerised machines making the possibilities endless. However, much creative machine embroidery requires only straight and zigzag stitches. The rest relies on the imagination and an eye for design.