Embroidery is the ancient art of embellishing textiles with needle and thread. Used to create opulence to garments, furnishings or artworks in their own right.
Almost every country can claim an embroidery style and there are many variations around the world
but it is thought that embroidery originated in China and some of the oldest surviving pieces are from this region dating as far back as the 5th century BC.
The medium used was mostly silk thread and was often combined with threads of silver and gold in opulent pieces for nobility.
Today, there are many types of thread in a vast array of colours offering limitless combinations and finishes.
Embroidery is one of the crafts that has largely remained unchanged over the centuries and has rarely been improved by time. Some of the most stunning and intricate pieces are among those dating up to the end of the medieval period.
Modern technology has seen the development of embroidery machines which can create complex designs in minutes opening this beautiful art up to many more people. In fact machine embroidery has become an art medium in it’s own right.
Hand embroidery still remains the king of textile embellishment due to the many intricacies it allows in dimension and stitch variability.
Embroidery techniques today can be broken down into seven main techniques:
Blackwork – Traditionally worked in black thread on a light background.
Canvaswork – Uses a variety of threads on open weave canvas.
Goldwork – Embroidery using metallic thread, sometimes made from precious metals.
Jacobean Crewelwork – A range of stitches and techniques using crewel wool on linen.
Silk Shading – Silk threads are used to “paint” with a needle and thread.
Stumpwork – Variety of techniques used to create three dimensional works.
Whitework – A wide range of techniques using white thread on white background.
Maire Curtis offer embroidery and Irish lace courses in the Cumbrian Lake District
To find out more about embroidery visit the Royal School of Needlework website