The Art of Embroidery: Then & Now
Embroidery is the art of embellishing fabric by using a needle and thread. There are lots of different styles and techniques including cross-stitching, outline embroidery, patchwork, and more! The art has been practiced for thousands of years and remains popular today. Read on for a brief history of the ancient art!
History and Origins
Ancient artifacts show us that embroidery has been practiced around the world.
Silk was weaved for the first time in China, and the domestication of the silkworm in the country led to widespread use of the material as long as 5000 years ago. The oldest piece of embroidery art that exists today is a silk cloth found in China, embellished with the design of a dragon and phoenix. The piece is believed to be over 2000 years old! Today, the art of embroidery is still popular in China—where they practice four distinct styles: Xiang, Shu, Yue, and Su embroidery.
There is also evidence of embroidery art found in paintings and carved images around the world. Paintings on ancient Egyptian tombs have shown that the art style was used on clothing, couch covers, and more. The artform is also depicted on ancient Greek vases from the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, which show embroidered quilts and armor.
In North America, prior to the arrival of Europeans, Native American tribes practiced a form of embroidery known as quillwork. Using the materials around them, they often embellished clothes made from animal hide with the dyed quills of porcupines. This form of embroidery is truly unique to the Native American culture.
Today, embroidery remains a popular fashion designing technique. The embroidered designs of creators like Kenzo Takada, Alexander McQueen, and more are continuing to rise in popularity, with consumers willing to pay a steep price tag for the most intricate of designs. Materials like pearls, beads, feathers, and crystals are often incorporated into the stitching – with floral embroidery patterns being particularly popular in the last few years.
In Arts & Crafts
Embroidery has historically been viewed as more of a craft, than an art. However, that has changed with more and more people creating pieces for display and décor purposes. Today, lots of crafters, artists, and hobbyists alike are looking to use the sewing technique to express their own creativity. With lots of products available to learn and make the process easier, it is not uncommon to see personalized items like pillows, towels, and more sold on online crafting websites. Sites for creators and hobbyists like Etsy, Shopify, and more are filled with listings for finished embroidery designs, and the materials to get started. It’s great to see this 2000-year-old art turned into a pastime for creatives around the world today.
Get started on your own embroidery project with the help of PrintWorks Vanishing Fabric Transfers. Just print your design, transfer onto the fabric of your choice, and begin creating! Find free printable designs to get started with here.
For more information on the history of embroidery, check out these resources:
Chinese Embroidery. A World of Fable and Color. New York: Kodansha International.
Embroidery: More and More Common in Contemporary Expression.
Quillwork – A Uniquely Native American Art.
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