How to Combine Hand and Machine Stitching

24 May 2011

Natalya Aikens combines hand and machine stitching to create different textures on her
art quilts.
Hand stitching or machine stitching, which do you prefer? If you ask me, the answer would depend on the day or the project. Hand stitching is meditative, tactile, and personal. Machine stitching is fast, even, easier on the hands, and less likely to be interrupted by certain four-legged friends.pokey bolton

We asked our friends on Facebook which they preferred, and got similar responses. But many people couldn't pick a favorite method and chose "Both!" as their reply.

In fact, I include both machine and hand stitching in many of my projects. And not just because I enjoy doing it; they complement each other.

Natalya Aikens is an artist who is adept at combining machine and hand stitching.

"When I combine hand and machine stitching, it is as though I am finding ways to marry the two different sides of my artistic soul," she says in Volume 3 of our interactive eMag In Stitches.

Here is some of her advice.

  • Fiber Artist Natalya Aikens
    Don't be afraid to overlap stitches
    , whether created by hand or machine. Lots of overlapped stitches add great texture and boldness.
  • If you have identified your design lines with bold machine strokes, don't take away from them by adding contrasting-thread hand stitches. Try a coordinating color or a soft variegated color thread to achieve the needed texture without excess boldness.
  • To avoid gathering and puckering during machine stitching, use tear-away stabilizer, especially with sheers. Just don't forget to tear it away before adding hand stitching. Instead of using tear-away stabilizer, you can use an embroidery hoop.

You can watch video of Natalya demonstrating her technique, zoom in on a gallery of her work, and read many more tips on the best ways to combine machine and hand stitching in In Stitches Volume 3, available now.

P.S. So, which do you prefer, hand or machine stitching, and why? Express your opinion in the comments section below.

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on 24 May 2011 4:55 AM

I prefer Hand Stitching for quilting. I have tried machine and feel that it is not "Quilting" bur "Sewing" even though the results are similar. I live in a grayless world of black and white and was taught to quilt by hand. So by definition, that is it for me.

bflint wrote
on 24 May 2011 6:31 AM

I prefer machine stitching but like to have hand stitching projects for riding in the car  or watching TV.

Lindy101 wrote
on 24 May 2011 8:19 AM

My machine and I are 'one' at this stage of my life, as thread painting is predominate in my current work.  BUT, for peacefulness, 'down time' that I don't want to 'waste', nothing says loving like hand work!

geraldinel54 wrote
on 25 May 2011 3:55 AM

I agree. I prefer machine stitching, faster,most of the time for larger projects.

But, I like to handstitch, especially when I'm hit with inspiration.

I like those little unexpected "surprises"

on 26 May 2011 9:43 PM

I actually like to combine the two different stitching techniques.  Any detailed areas or ones I want to stand out I use hand stitches.

Donna Ahonen wrote
on 31 May 2011 7:49 AM

I like both hand and machine.  I have way too many projects in both!  Hand projects like embroidery or applique come in handy when you are watching tv with family and are the safest thing to do while watching the Denver Broncos, win or lose!  I always tell people that hand work is the only safe alternative when watching your favorite team, it is otherwise like drinking and driving!

Donna Ahonen wrote
on 31 May 2011 7:52 AM

I like both because hand embroidery and applique are very relaxing and good to do while watching tv with family and the safest to do while watching the Denver Broncos, win or lose.  I always tell people that using my sewing machine while watching football is as unsafe for me as drinking and driving is for others!

on 1 Jun 2011 5:51 AM

Hand quilting is my first choice - a relaxing, contemplative process that gives me the quiet spot I need in a busy life.  However, I know that I won't be able to hand quilt forever - and am learning to machine quilt so that the creativity doesn't have to end.  

Beth Culbertson