Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Toy

There's a new toy in town that I am having a serious case of envy about.

In the olden days, if you wanted to sew something together, you punched a hole in the two pieces you wanted to join together, pushed some thin strip of string into the holes and tied them together. Then someone invented the needle which made the stringing easier, someone else invented an efficient way to make long, smooth thread and weaving made fabric an every day item so sewing really took off.

Then technology began to really make our lives easier. The invention of the mechanical loom made fabric even more accessible and the sewing machine let us turn out more than two or three garments a year for ourselves. Decorative stitching by hand became a way to make things unique so decorative stitches made their way onto our sewing machines and those specialty big honking embroidery machines began to take over our sewing rooms.
Hand piecing for quilts gave way way to machine piecing but hand quilting was still the norm for large quilts untilt those big long arm machines came out and another hand technique became an almost lost art.

Then Brother had the idea to look at other hand work and invented an attachment for one of their machines to imitate hand felting. Other manufacturers came up with dedicated machines and machine felting added a whole new dimension to the home sewers' repetoire.

Now Babylock has taken one of the most esoteric hand sewing techniques, Sashiko, and produced a machine that does an incredible job of imiating it.

I am completly blown away.

I saw one the other day at Humble Sewing Center (the 'H' in Humble is silent) and this machine does effectively reproduce a perfect imitation of a Sashiko stitch.

Like all hand sewing, Sashiko began without any firm rules and had very humble origins. It began as a way to quilt together fabrics for warmth in Japan. Over time rules developed that were very tough to master. One is that no stitches could touch each other at the corners of patterns. Another is that there should be three times as much thread showing on top as on the back of the quilted item. Sashiko threads tend to be thicker than regular hand sewing thread so that the stitched design can really stand out from the, generally, plain fabrics.

Here is scrap of a sample I saw the other day:
The Front showing how by doubling up on ordinary thread you get the impact of a thicker Sashiko thread:

The Back where a single layer of thread is visible:

The back is not traditional looking Sashiko but the front is incredible.

For more on Sashiko try Susan Briscoe, Nancy Shriber and an old post on some embroidery software available out there. The Purl Bee also has a pretty good tutorial as well.

Here's what I am thinking, even though Sashiko is very different from traditional American hand or quilting wouldn't it be wonderful to have a mechanized way to do big quilts with this quilting method? Like a big long arm quilting machine that can do Sashiko quilting using traditonal Japnese quilting templates?

How cool would that be?

I guess my wish list has another item on it ... as if it is not long enough already.

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