Hand vs Machine Embroidery

Do you buy embroidered apparel? Would you check if it is hand embroidered or machine embroidered before buying? Do you know how to tell the difference? I will try to point out some differences between hand and machine embroidery that should make it easier to go out and shop confidently without the worry of remorse or regret later on.

Let's start by asking why there are duplicates of hand embroidered apparel in the market in the first place. Well, for the simple reason that machine embroidery costs much less when compared to hand embroidery as it uses a machine to do the embroidery work and can earn larger profits if sold as handmade.


When seeing for the first time, it may be quite hard (or even impossible) to tell the difference between hand embroidery and machine embroidery. Take a look at the pictures of two similar shawls above and try to figure out which one is Hand Embroidered and which one is Machine Embroidered?

Not sure? Here are a few tests that should be able to help make out what is what. Before going ahead I would also like to point out a price comparison between hand embroidered and machine embroidered items in similar pattern embroidery:

Product name Hand Embroidery cost (US$) Comparable Machine Embroidery cost (US$)
Jacket 125-150 30-40
Shawl 145-165 40-50
Coat 175-210 50-60
Poncho 45-60 15-18
Dressing gown 120-140 40-50

As you can see the price difference is enormous. A machine embroidered jacket costs around 25% of its hand embroidered counterpart, but will sell comparatively higher because it was advertised as a hand embroidered jacket.

Other topics:
Kashmiri Embroidery Types

How to spot the differences:

A LOOK AT THE REVERSE SIDE: This is helpful only for items which don't have a lining (shawls, sarees, salwar kameez, kurtas). A first look at the reverse side of the garment will reveal clearly if the item is embroidered by hand or machine. Machine embroidery is a continuous stitching process and employs multi-colored thread for embroidery. It therefore has continuity in stitches with very few breaks. Hand-stitch on the contrary employs single-color threads for embroidery and the craftsman from time to time breaks off the earlier thread (color) to start a new thread (color) leaving behind a trail of threads hanging on the reverse side of the fabric.

Hand embroidery leaves a lot of threads hanging on the reverse side.

Machine embroidery leaves very few threads hanging on the reverse side.

A LOOK AT THE FRONT: This test requires one to have a good understanding regarding familiarity with hand-stitch and machine-stitch.

Hand embroidery is tidy with good variety of colors.

Machine embroidery overlaps.

Notice the ascending shoot (brown color) with its curves imparted by skilled hands.

The shoot (brown color) here is more of a straight line type and overlapping onto the leaves (green color).


Shah Nawaz
Shah Nawaz

July 27, 2020

Hi James, Thanks for taking time out and sharing your experience.
We really appreciate it.

james Craig
james Craig

July 27, 2020

Wow…!! Thanks for sharing this awesome info with us I enjoyed every bit of this article. Very informative article.

Tabassum mir
Tabassum mir

July 22, 2019

Price for traditional phrea/kurtar

Shehnaz Naik
Shehnaz Naik

July 22, 2019

So, which one (hand embroidery or machine embroidery)is best and why?

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