Stitching History Together

Embroidery is defined as the art of decorating fabric or other materials with a needle and thread. You can also embroider with pearls, beads and sequins. Interestingly enough, the development of hand embroidery has not changed much as far as techniques and materials are concerned. The Industrial Revolution,  the invention of the sewing machine and large sewing machinery in factories allowed for faster production and accurately measured design patterns. Many at the time — and many still today — prefer the look and feel of hand embroidery over machine embroidery.

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Meadow Foliage Curtain Panel

Embroidery Around the World

Early samples were found in Ancient Egypt, Northern Europe and parts of Asia. In China, during the Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 256 BC), silk fabrics with a simple chain stitch embroidery was common.

Embroidery also marked a sign for high society in the Islam world during Medieval times. It was characteristic on detailed rugs, flags, shoes and other clothing.

Taking Shape

Embroidered designs required extra effort and were a mark of quality and accomplishment. This led to the use of embroidery in artwork and, due to the breathtaking imagery that was being produced, many artists in Europe began to take notice.

Soon, the religious culture of Europe took interest in this unique art form as well. In turn, we see this time period marked by embroidered cloaks, religious flags and other church decor produced with similar embroidered designs.

The Journey Continues

Some researchers say that embroidery came about due to the need to patch and mend worn clothing before it was used as a symbol of wealth in decorative form. You may be familiar with Norwegian or Swedish patterns that are embroidered on winter coats or collectible doll clothing from parts of Scandinavia. This furthered the idea that embroidery came from a need, rather than a want. Eventually this instilled a desire for people to make more creative designs.

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Types of Embroidery

As with stitching, knitting, crocheting and other forms of needlework, embroidery can be created in a number of different ways. Wool, linen and silk threads used throughout history are still used today with the addition of cotton, rayon or ribbon.

It is important to note that there is a difference between counted stitch or surface embroidery and free form embroidery. Surface embroidery is constructed through a series of counted threads and pre-determined locations on the base fabric. Free form embroidery, on the other hand, is typically woven within the fabric, as opposed to on top of it.

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