Imperfection in Needlework

An article in a 1903 issue of The Craftsman said

It is … desirable that the work retain its original, pleasing characteristics of slight irregularity and imperfection, – not to say carelessness, – were it only to avoid the appearance of machine-wrought embroidery.

This quote caught my eye because as stitchers we have different opinions about imperfection in needlework. Even more so the professional embroiderers of this period could easily produce perfect work, but instead chose to introduce imperfection in needlework as a virtue, showing it was, indeed, hand-made.

I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum myself. I got a model back once that was so perfectly stitched it could have been done by machine. Every stitch had the same tension, every one was untwisted. I knew that here was a perfection I could only wish to attain.

On the other hand I’ve seen, and stitched, plenty of sloppy work with missed stitches, uneven stitches and all.

As I’ve said in the past I greatly respect the work of our hands and don’t like the current acceptance of sloppy work for sale that we see so often.

The happy medium to me should be somewhere between machine-like perfection and sloppiness.

For myself I’m willing to live with some uneven tension, occasional twisted threads where it doesn’t make much difference and, now that my eyes aren’t as good, a skipped stitch or two.

So yes, I don’t mind imperfection in needlework and I agree with this quote.

How about you?


  1. Joyce Shannon says

    there was machine stitching in 1903? Anyways, since, as the Amish say, “Only God is perfect”, imperfections are not only acceptable, but necessary. I am stitching for my enjoyment. I’ve never enjoyed perfection.

  2. says

    I agree with the quote for sure and love the slight imperfections that come with a hand stitched piece. Nothing compares. Certainly, one does not want “carelessness” as the quote says, but having a wonky stitch, twisted thread, or asymmetry signifies that an actual human made those stitches, each and every one; while also reminding us that nothing is perfect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *