Practiced since at least the 3rd century BC, the art of embroidery has been passed down through many cultures. For example, the Chinese, Egyptians, Turks and Native Americans all incorporated some form of embroidery into their daily lives. Some of the most famous textile work, styles and techniques that we know are best documented from the 16th century. Today, embroidery serves not only as an intricate art form for tapestries, blankets and other decorative pieces, but also a highly coveted skill for making durable, functional clothing items. Embroidery can be done using thread, yarn, ribbon or a combination of the former materials. Although wool, silk and linen were the traditional choices for thread, modern embroidery also incorporates different types of fabrics and threads, including cotton and rayon. It's important to note that some materials are better suited for certain projects than others, so don't forget to fully plan out the design before purchasing supplies.
There are two primary types of hand embroidery that are used today. The first is a technique that only applies the stitching to the superficial part of the fabric. For example, cross stitching is a surface application; so is the running stitch. Often, this type of embroidery is used when there are costly materials involved, like expensive novelty yarn or gold thread. In other words, it is intended for decorative purposes and does not enhance the functionality of a garment. On the other hand, the second type of embroidery passes through the base fabric entirely, weaving in and out, which creates a very durable end product. This method is typically more time consuming, and uses more materials in the process. An example of this type of embroidery is the blanket stitch.
In addition to hand embroidery, there is also machine embroidery, which is used in commercial applications. Jeans, golf shirts and baseball caps are good examples of clothing items that use some form of machine embroidery. Although machine stitching follows the same basic stitches, it does not compare to the level of detail that hand stitching can obtain. The most common uses for machine embroidery are applying patches to fabric and creating logos. An embroidered logo on a shirt is significantly more durable than an iron-on patch, which has given embroidery a new rise in popularity. This is done using a special type of sewing machine. A design or pattern is uploaded to the computer, and the machine takes care of the rest.
The traditional embroidery stitches include the following: chain stitch, buttonhole stitch, satin stitch and cross stitch. Of the four, the chain stitch is used most frequently. Prior to the ability to print a pattern onto the fabric, embroidery was done by counting threads in the canvas or base material. Now, an image is directly applied to the fabric to make the process easier; however, some people do still enjoy counting threads, too. Once mastered, a combination of the basic stitches can be used to create intricate patterns on garments, linen, blankets and even toys. The limit is only the artist's imagination and skill level.
Embroidery Tools & Materials
Buttonhole Stitch or Blanket Stitch