Embroidery is the craft of decorating fabric or other materials using
a needle to apply thread or yarn.
Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as pearls, beads,
quills, and sequins. In modern days, embroidery is usually seen on
caps, hats, coats, blankets, dress shirts, denim, dresses, stockings,
and golf shirts.
Embroidery is available with a wide variety of thread
or yarn color.
Some of the basic techniques or stitches of the earliest embroidery
are chain stitch, buttonhole or blanket stitch, running stitch, satin
stitch, cross stitch. Those stitches remain the fundamental techniques
of hand embroidery today.
1.2 Historical applications and techniques
1.2.1 The Islamic world
7 See also
10 External links
Traditional embroidery in chain stitch on a Kazakh rug, contemporary.
The process used to tailor, patch, mend and reinforce cloth fostered
the development of sewing techniques, and the decorative possibilities
of sewing led to the art of embroidery. Indeed, the remarkable
stability of basic embroidery stitches has been noted:
It is a striking fact that in the development of embroidery ... there
are no changes of materials or techniques which can be felt or
interpreted as advances from a primitive to a later, more refined
stage. On the other hand, we often find in early works a technical
accomplishment and high standard of craftsmanship rarely attained in
The art of embroidery has been found worldwide and several early
examples have been found. Works in
China have been dated to the
Warring States period
Warring States period (5th–3rd century BC). In a garment from
Migration period Sweden, roughly 300–700 AD, the edges of bands of
trimming are reinforced with running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch,
tailor's buttonhole stitch, and whip-stitching, but it is uncertain
whether this work simply reinforced the seams or should be interpreted
as decorative embroidery.
Greek mythology has credited the goddess
Athena with passing
down the art of embroidery along with weaving, leading to the famed
competition between herself and the mortal Arachne.
Historical applications and techniques
Depending on time, location and materials available, embroidery could
be the domain of a few experts or a widespread, popular technique.
This flexibility led to a variety of works, from the royal to the
Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects, and household
items often were seen as a mark of wealth and status, as in the case
of Opus Anglicanum, a technique used by professional workshops and
guilds in medieval England. In 18th-century
England and its
colonies, samplers employing fine silks were produced by the daughters
of wealthy families.
Embroidery was a skill marking a girl's path into
womanhood as well as conveying rank and social standing.
Conversely, embroidery is also a folk art, using materials that were
accessible to nonprofessionals. Examples include
Norway, Merezhka from Ukraine,
Mountmellick embroidery from Ireland,
Nakshi kantha from
Bangladesh and West Bengal, and Brazilian
embroidery. Many techniques had a practical use such as
Japan, which was used as a way to reinforce clothing.
The Islamic world
Further information: Islamic embroidery
Morocco fly mask embroidery, 18th–19th century
Embroidery was an important art in the Medieval Islamic world. The
17th-century Turkish traveler
Evliya Çelebi called it the "craft of
the two hands". Because embroidery was a sign of high social status in
Muslim societies, it became widely popular. In cities such as
Cairo and Istanbul, embroidery was visible on handkerchiefs,
uniforms, flags, calligraphy, shoes, robes, tunics, horse trappings,
slippers, sheaths, pouches, covers, and even on leather belts.
Craftsmen embroidered items with gold and silver thread. Embroidery
cottage industries, some employing over 800 people, grew to supply
In the 16th century, in the reign of the
Mughal Emperor Akbar, his
Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak
Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak wrote in the famous Ain-i-Akbari:
"His majesty (Akbar) pays much attention to various stuffs; hence
Irani, Ottoman, and Mongolian articles of wear are in much abundance
especially textiles embroidered in the patterns of Nakshi, Saadi,
Chikhan, Ari, Zardozi, Wastli, Gota and Kohra. The imperial workshops
in the towns of Lahore, Agra, Fatehpur and
Ahmedabad turn out many
masterpieces of workmanship in fabrics, and the figures and patterns,
knots and variety of fashions which now prevail astonish even the most
experienced travelers. Taste for fine material has since become
general, and the drapery of embroidered fabrics used at feasts
surpasses every description."
Hand-made embroidery – Székely Land, 2014
The development of machine embroidery and its mass production came
about in stages in the Industrial Revolution. The earliest machine
embroidery used a combination of machine looms and teams of women
embroidering the textiles by hand. This was done in France by the
mid-1800s. The manufacture of machine-made embroideries in St.
Gallen in eastern Switzerland flourished in the latter half of the
Embroidered Easter eggs. Works by Inna Forostyuk, the folk master from
Luhansk region (Ukraine)
Japanese free embroidery in silk and metal threads, contemporary.
Hardanger, a whitework technique. Contemporary.
Embroidery can be classified according to what degree the design takes
into account the nature of the base material and by the relationship
of stitch placement to the fabric. The main categories are free or
surface embroidery, counted embroidery, and needlepoint or canvas
In free or surface embroidery, designs are applied without regard to
the weave of the underlying fabric. Examples include crewel and
traditional Chinese and Japanese embroidery.
Counted-thread embroidery patterns are created by making stitches over
a predetermined number of threads in the foundation fabric.
Counted-thread embroidery is more easily worked on an even-weave
foundation fabric such as embroidery canvas, aida cloth, or specially
woven cotton and linen fabrics . Examples include cross-stitch and
some forms of blackwork embroidery.
While similar to counted thread in regards to technique, in canvas
work or needlepoint, threads are stitched through a fabric mesh to
create a dense pattern that completely covers the foundation
fabric. Examples of canvas work include bargello and Berlin wool
Embroidery can also be classified by the similarity of appearance. In
drawn thread work and cutwork, the foundation fabric is deformed or
cut away to create holes that are then embellished with embroidery,
often with thread in the same color as the foundation fabric. When
created with white thread on white linen or cotton, this work is
collectively referred to as whitework. However, whitework can
either be counted or free.
Hardanger embroidery is a counted
embroidery and the designs are often geometric. Conversely, styles
Broderie anglaise are similar to free embroidery, with floral
or abstract designs that are not dependent on the weave of the
Tea-cloth, Hungary, mid-20th century
Phulkari from the
Punjab region of India.
Phulkari embroidery, popular
since at least the 15th century, is traditionally done on hand-spun
cotton cloth with simple darning stitches using silk floss.
Laid threads, a surface technique in wool on linen. The Bayeux
Tapestry, 11th century.
The fabrics and yarns used in traditional embroidery vary from place
to place. Wool, linen, and silk have been in use for thousands of
years for both fabric and yarn. Today, embroidery thread is
manufactured in cotton, rayon, and novelty yarns as well as in
traditional wool, linen, and silk.
Ribbon embroidery uses narrow
ribbon in silk or silk/organza blend ribbon, most commonly to create
Surface embroidery techniques such as chain stitch and couching or
laid-work are the most economical of expensive yarns; couching is
generally used for goldwork.
Canvas work techniques, in which large
amounts of yarn are buried on the back of the work, use more materials
but provide a sturdier and more substantial finished textile.
In both canvas work and surface embroidery an embroidery hoop or frame
can be used to stretch the material and ensure even stitching tension
that prevents pattern distortion. Modern canvas work tends to follow
symmetrical counted stitching patterns with designs emerging from the
repetition of one or just a few similar stitches in a variety of hues.
In contrast, many forms of surface embroidery make use of a wide range
of stitching patterns in a single piece of work.
Commercial machine embroidery in chain stitch on a voile curtain,
China, early 21st century.
Contemporary embroidery is stitched with a computerized embroidery
machine using patterns digitized with embroidery software. In machine
embroidery, different types of "fills" add texture and design to the
Machine embroidery is used to add logos and monograms
to business shirts or jackets, gifts, and team apparel as well as to
decorate household linens, draperies, and decorator fabrics that mimic
the elaborate hand embroidery of the past.
There has also been a development in free hand machine embroidery, new
machines have been designed that allow for the user to create
free-motion embroidery which has its place in textile arts, quilting,
dressmaking, home furnishings and more.
City and Guilds qualification in
Embroidery allows embroiderers to
become recognized for their skill. This qualification also gives them
the credibility to teach. For example, the notable textiles artist,
Kathleen Laurel Sage, began her teaching career by getting the
City and Guilds
Embroidery 1 and 2 qualifications. She has now gone on
to write a book on the subject.
Detail of embroidered silk gauze ritual garment. Rows of even, round
chain stitch used for outline and color. 4th century BC, Zhou tomb at
Mashan, Hubei, China.
English cope, late 15th or early 16th century.
Silk velvet embroidered
with silk and gold threads, closely laid and couched. Contemporary Art
Institute of Chicago textile collection.
Extremely fine underlay of
St. Gallen Embroidery
Traditional Turkish embroidery. Izmir Ethnography Museum, Turkey.
Traditional Croatian embroidery.
Brightly coloured Korean embroidery.
Uzbekistan embroidery on a traditional women's parandja robe.
Traditional Peruvian embroidered floral motifs.
Woman wearing a traditional embroidered Kalash headdress, Pakistan.
Decorative embroidery on a tefillin bag in Jerusalem, Israel.
Bookmark of black fabric with multicolored
Bedouin embroidery and
tassel of embroidery floss
Chain-stitch embroidery from
England circa 1775
Traditional Bulgarian Floral embrodery from Sofia and Trun.
Broderie de Fontenoy-le-Château
Embroidery of India
Mary Ann Beinecke Decorative Art Collection
Sachet (scented bag)
^ Gillow and Bryan 1999, p. 12
^ Marie Schuette and Sigrid Muller-Christensen, The Art of Embroidery
translated by Donald King, Thames and Hudson, 1964, quoted in
Netherton and Owen-Crocker 2005, p. 2
^ Gillow and Bryan 1999, p. 178
^ Coatsworth, Elizabeth: "Stitches in Time: Establishing a History of
Anglo-Saxon Embroidery", in Netherton and Owen-Crocker 2005, p. 2
^ Synge, Lanto (2001). Art of Embroidery: History of Style and
Technique. Woodbridge, England: Antique Collectors' Club. p. 32.
^ Levey and King 1993, p. 12
^ Power, Lisa (27 March 2015). "NGV embroidery exhibition: imagine a
12-year-old spending two years on this..." The Sydney Morning Herald.
Retrieved 30 May 2015.
^ "Handa City
Sashiko Program at the Society for Contemporary Craft".
Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania. 7 Oct 2016. Archived from the
original on July 5, 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
Sashiko Seamwork Magazine". www.seamwork.com. Retrieved
^ "Saudi Aramco World :The Skill of the Two Hands".
^ "Saudi Aramco World :Mughal Maal".
^ Knight, Charles (1858). Pictorial Gallery of Arts. England.
^ Röllin, Peter. Stickerei-Zeit, Kultur und Kunst in St. Gallen
1870–1930. VGS Verlagsgemeinschaft,
St. Gallen 1989,
ISBN 3-7291-1052-7 (in German)
^ Corbet, Mary (October 3, 2016). "
Needlework Terminology: Surface
Embroidery". Retrieved November 1, 2016.
^ Gillow and Bryan 1999, p. 198
^ Readers Digest 1979, pp. 74–91
^ Yvette Stanton. Early Style Hardanger. Vetty Creations.
^ Catherine Amoroso Leslie (1 January 2007).
History: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 34,
226, 58. ISBN 978-0-313-33548-8. Retrieved 13 September
^ van Niekerk 2006
^ Readers Digest 1979, pp. 112–115
^ Readers Digest 1979, pp. 1–19, 112–117
^ "Using logo embroidery". Oekaki Renaissance. Retrieved 10 November
^ "A Little About Me". Kathleen Laurel Sage.
^ The Zen Cart® Team; et al. "Embroidered Soldered and Heat Zapped
Surfaces by Kathleen Laurel Sage".
Berman, Pat (2000). "Berlin Work". American
Caulfeild, S.F.A.; B.C. Saward (1885). The Dictionary of
Crummy, Andrew (2010). The Prestonpans
Tapestry 1745. Burke's Peerage
& Gentry, for
Battle of Prestonpans
Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust.
Embroiderers' Guild Practical Study Group (1984).
QED Publishers. ISBN 0-89009-785-2.
Gillow, John; Bryan Sentance (1999). World Textiles. Bulfinch
Press/Little, Brown. ISBN 0-8212-2621-5.
Lemon, Jane (2004). Metal Thread Embroidery. Sterling.
Levey, S. M.; D. King (1993). The Victoria and Albert Museum's Textile
Collection Vol. 3:
Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750. Victoria
and Albert Museum. ISBN 1-85177-126-3.
Netherton, Robin, and Gale R. Owen-Crocker, editors, (2005). Medieval
Clothing and Textiles, Volume 1. Boydell Press.
ISBN 1-84383-123-6. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list
Quinault, Marie-Jo (2003). Filet Lace, Introduction to the Linen
Stitch. Trafford Publishing.
ISBN 1-4120-1549-9. [self-published source?]
Readers Digest (1979). Complete Guide to Needlework. Readers Digest.
van Niekerk, Di (2006). A Perfect World in
Stumpwork. ISBN 1-84448-231-6.
Vogelsang, Gillian; Willem Vogelsang, editors (2015). TRC Needles. The
TRC Digital Encyclopaedia of Decorative Needlework.
Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors
Wilson, David M. (1985). The Bayeux Tapestry. Thames and Hudson.
Media related to
Embroidery at Wikimedia Commons
Celtic cross stitch
Drawn thread work
Couching and laid work
Chinese (Cantonese, Xiang)
Magna Carta (An Embroidery)
Margaret Layton's jacket
New World Tapestry
Fragments of a
Cope with the Seven Sacraments
Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty
Charles Germain de Saint Aubin
Mary Elizabeth Turner
Dimitri Vlachos - Castano
Embroiderers' Guild (UK)
Embroiderer's Guild of America
Embroidery Software Protection Coalition
Needlework Development Scheme
Royal School of Needlework
Chung Young Yang
Han Sang Soo
Fabric tube turning
List of sewing stitches
Grommet / Eyelet
Hook and loop fastener
Yarn / Thread
Textiles / Fabrics
List of sewing machine brands
List of sewing machine brands and companies
Frister & Rossmann
Sewing Machine Company
Viking / Husqvarna
Glossary of sewing terms
Decorative arts and handicrafts
Pressed flower craft