I often think about the craft of Embroidery that I enjoy doing so much when it would have originated. How has it evolved from old age to this day? History of Embroidery must have some exciting stories at its roots.
Embroidery has been a part of human culture and tradition since the world started the use of fabric, which gradually turned out to become a luxury and lifestyle.
If you love embroidery, then you should probably be aware of the roots of your craft. Learning embroidery and how it originated may lead to innovation today.
Embroidery was a basic form of income and art practiced by our ancestors and is still to this day. Small-scale workplaces have turned into an enormous embroidery industry today.
This guide will help you and give you an idea about the history and how far we have managed to take the craft till today.
What is Embroidery?
Embroidery is the art and craft of decorative detail done on fabric using only needle, thread, or yarn. Some customize it using pearls and beads. Embroidery gives texture and dimension to the product. The skill is simple yet is acquired and mastered by those who practice it.
Embroidery is designed with basic stitches such as running stitch, backstitch, and many others. These stitches are made collectively into diversely colored patterns.
Purpose Of Embroidery
Embroidery soon became to be known as a sign of luxury and a statement for the upper class since the economic growth.
It was taught to the rich as time passed and trained to the poor as a means of earning money. Not only did it have economic importance but also historical significance.
For example, the famous Bayeux Tapestry boasted stem stitch and double couching embroidery on unbleached linen. The 231 feet long tapestry was made in honor of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The popularity of embroidered work increased with the demand and was traded to many corners of the world. Bead embroidery could be found on mats, clothes, baskets, court dresses, home furnishings, textiles, household, and many other items.
In the latter half of the 19th Century, the manufacture of machine-made embroideries was a benchmark in the flourishing concept of Embroidery. This evolution started in St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland.
Some other examples of Embroidery used include dining clothes, household items, rugs, carpets, draperies, and decorator fabrics.
Types of Embroidery
Hand embroidery is the purest form of embroidery. You can just start up with a needle and thread; however, new accessories were created to aid and give a beautiful finish.
Though it is time-consuming, and some might agree that it gets exhausting if your orders are lining up, embroidery by hand is thought to be the most reliable.
With the changes in the world and the technological revolution, the domain of embroidery was also affected. So what is an embroidery machine, and how did it influence the craft? Let’s discuss the different types of machines.
- Manual Machines
Even though traditional hand embroidery was practiced for ages and even to this day, the invention of the embroidery machine 200 years back was applauded by many people.
Although it threatened the integrity of the hand embroiders, the invention was discouraged by some. Few of the many far-sighted people demanded to purchase the machine to build large-scale industries.
Machine embroidery led to mass production during the Industrial Revolution. It ranges from surface embroidery to counted embroidery along with needlepoint or canvas work.
- Automatic/Electronic Machines
Groebli’s oldest son followed in his father’s footsteps and aimed to invent the automatic model of the Schiffli machine. This was another milestone in embroidery history.
The automatic machine was designed to generate embroidery designs on its own and produced the exact same reliable results as hand embroidery.
There are even separate machines made for selected items such as bags, gloves, and hat embroidery Machines. You can never compete with machines. This advancement gave quick results, many times faster than handwork, and overcame the impossibilities of human abilities.
- Branded Machines
The Singer Sewing Company was established in 1911 and is known to produce embroidery machines for home businesses.
It introduces the first multi-head embroidery sewing machine, which consisted of six heads and a panto-graph attachment. Other brands such as Brother, Kenmore, etc. are competitors, producing both reasonable and cheap machines.
This gives them all the reasons to fix tiny inconvenient features and strive to produce their best results. This is not the end of the list yet. Computerized machines are also sold in the market today.
These machines use digital patterns by using special embroidery software. Various models exist with different features depending on the rate. You can either choose the designs yourself by using a USB or select already installed ones. Some have the option to preview the designs on the LCD screen.
Just start the machine, sit back, and relax while the machine does all the work quicker than you can ever do by hand. Today in 2023, you can easily order a new machine online while sitting at home or call a company technician to fix your machine right away.
Main Factors That Influence Embroidery Work
Design Of The Embroidery
Embroidery was celebrated in many cultures, which reflected their traditions and techniques. These include the Japanese, Chinese, Ottoman Empire, etc. Some of the famous designs are named Brazilian Embroidery, blackwork, crazy quilting, chicken scratch, etc.
- Japanese Embroidery
The secret language of Japanese Embroidery has great significance in their history. It is natively known as Nihon Shishu.
Japanese Embroidery originated in the Kofun Period 1,600 years ago. Their technique involves the use of intricate patterning, silk threads, and motifs illustrating symbols on beautiful silk fabrics.
It is used to embellish decorating items and produce kimonos that are worn in special Japanese ceremonies. Botanical symbolism is very famous in the region as each flower represents a relevant message based on its physical attributes.
For example, the cherry blossom represents beauty, pine trees express a sense of longevity and peonies show bravery.
- Chinese Embroidery
Chinese Embroidery came into existence in the Neolithic age and was practiced mostly in silk due to the abundance of silk in China. It is still alive in the southern part of China today.
Yue Xiu/Guang Xiu (粤绣/广绣) is another major style that focuses on bright colors, symmetrical patterns, and a well-defined weave.
Materials Used For Embroidery
Embroidery tools such as threads, needles, scissors, hoops, and soluble pens are used for ease of use and professional results.
Embroidery hoops were made to fix the fabric rightly in place. If the fabric were too long, the large hoops would keep the fabric taut, and the straight posture would prevent the seamstress from getting exhausted.
The introduction of soluble pens made it easy to teach young learners, eradicate mistakes, and encourage them to get better.
Fabric selection is not really a problem. You can be washed, dried, and ironed before you start your work on it. The fabric should not be so weak that it breaks upon needlework. The needle should also be according to the strength of the fabric.
Embroidery is basically performed by two basic stitches that are the running stitch and the backstitch. But there are so many stitches and techniques for creating a masterpiece every time. Just follow your passion for creating the most unique one.
It’s nonetheless a wonderland that you can explore at various levels. There are hundreds and thousands of hand embroidery techniques that you can follow to give the most creative, unique, and customized looks to your project.
Openwork, outline work, counted thread work, void work, and then the colored work and regional-specific embroidery work to help you paint the picture that you want to draw with thread.
Furthermore, they are then mixed, combined crossed, or joined together to make spectacular embroidery designs with a personal touch.
Most Famous Embroidery Techniques
- Needle weaving
- Candlewicking Embroidery
- Phulkari work
- Passementerie work
- Chancay Open Weave Darning
- Punched Embroidery
- Tapestry Needlework
- Shadow work
- Dotting work
- Fish scale embroidery
- Pattern Darning
- Pulled thread work
- Cross stitch embroidery
- Drawn thread work
- Chicken scratch embroidery
- Canvas work/needlepoint
- Laid work embroidery
- Badla work
History of Embroidery
Origination Of Embroidery
The etymology of the word embroidery is taken from the French word ‘broderie,’ meaning embellishment. This further means to decorate.
Archaeologists have found remains of hand-stitched embroidery materials such as clothing, boots, hats, gloves, etc. These findings have led them to believe that the practice of Embroidery dates back as far as Cro-Magnon days, 30,000 BC.
In other regions such as Siberia, fossilized embroidery handicrafts from 5000 to 6000 BC were found. Further along in China, Embroidery over silk has existed from 3500 BC and the warring states period in the 5th to 3rd Century.
The father of the embroidery machine was Josue Heilmann of Mulhouse, who lived in France in 1828. Just some years later, in 1863, a new type of embroidery machine with better features was created by Isaac Groebli in Switzerland. It was named the Schiffli machine.
Innovation In Embroidery
Since many human civilizations have practiced the art of embroidery, our ancestors reinforced creativity. The findings discovered from the 1100s to 1500s were embroidery done with seeds and pearls.
Since the period of the 1700s, embroidery had spread far and wide into many regions of the world. Like ancient Persia, China, Japan, India, the Byzantium empire, Baroque Europe, and Arabia.
Since it became a mark of wealth and status in many cultures, the demand and supply ratio increased. This resulted in an expansion of workshops in central areas such as Vietnam, Mexico, and even Eastern Europe.
The 1800s was known as the machine age period, and the Revolution resulted in the birth of Art needlework and Berlin wool-work. The Berlin wool-work and canvas thread embroidery received success through the 1870s only.
However, the success did not remain for long and was replaced by the counted cross-stitch in the 1880s. It made use of square meshed canvas and stitch-by-stitch thread designs. In the 18th Century, it became a tradition for young girls to learn embroidery, which was a part of their road to womanhood.
Various embroidery patterns soon gained particular importance. Each had its meaning, such as tapestries illustrating history. Tribes, communities, states, and cities made their mark with embroidered symbols on their flags.
Embroidery In the United States of America
In the 18th Century, girls in America were taught the art of embroidery and sewing as a part of being a homemaker. As girls were eventually to be married, it was thought that embroidery makes a girl patient and skillful.
Later on, this practice died, but the society of decorative arts was made, which brought it back to life. Today America imports most of the embroidery items from other countries. However, it is also practiced by some art lovers on a smaller scale.
The embroidery history and existence are proven by the paintings, sculptures, and drawings done by ancient civilizations. They clearly illustrate the use of embroidery on their materials.
Suppose the craft and the narrative of embroidery are passed down from one generation to another and told to us as stories by our grandmothers or by reading the history in books.
Then this form of art will stay alive for centuries ahead. Looking back at the history of embroidery, it has come a long way and remains accessible to this day.
If you haven’t learned how to do Embroidery yet, then what are you waiting for? Start now by reading about how to Embroider and what would you need to stock in your embroidery kits for beginners.