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Why embroider in this modern age?

May 03, 2016 Megan Eckman

A resurgence in old technology is sweeping the nation. Here in Portland, people are bringing their typewriters to coffee shops and sewing their entire wardrobe just for the fun of it. You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you that I wrote the first two drafts of this on my great-grandfather's typewriter but it's true. The reason why I used an eighty-year-old machine to write an email and the reason why people are flocking back to embroidery is the same: we're trying to regain something we've lost.

For the last decade or two, we have exchanged tangible objects for intangible ones. We sit at work all day long typing into forms that don't actually exist in paper form. We talk to people through text messages and emojis on our phones instead of writing something with our hands. Students turn in their homework online and nursing home residents throw virtual bowling balls at their communal Wii after early-bird dinner. All of this untouchable technology has permeated our lives. Is it any wonder then that in our free time we stray back to objects from our past? In doing so we are remembering the joy of knitting something we can actually wrap around ourselves and rediscovering our ability to embellish ordinary cloth with beautiful images. In these acts of utilizing 'antique' technology, we are gaining back a piece of our former selves. We are remembering how to create in the physical world.

After I tell people I design embroidery kits for a living, they ask me how long this wave of handmade fever will last. Honestly, I think it is here to stay for some time. As long as we are forced to spend most of our day in front of lit-up screens or attending virtual conferences, there will be a need to sink our hands into something we can actually touch, be it clay or wool or thread. Not only do we gain a sense of relaxation and pride but we feel in control for those few hours. There is no internet black hole to drag us in, no endless scroll to seek the bottom of, and no pings to say that someone wants to tell us nothing of importance. It is simply us and the material. Creativity, it is said, happens while performing ordinary tasks, so why not find inspiration and beauty in the ordinary tasks of our parents and grandparents?

One thing I truly love about this return to the old is that, thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to learn an old craft. There are blogs, forums, pattern shops, videos, and how-to articles for everything from embroidering to knitting with cat fur.

So embrace your urge to pick up something that your grandparents used. It may be your best bet at regaining a little bit of sanity and control in this mad, intangible world that we have created.



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