Embroidery is a sub-genre of Needlecraft. It is broadly defined as the art of decorating fabric or similar materials with a needle and thread (or yarn).
The applications of embroidery are as wide as imagination allows. It has been and still is widely used to decorate all manner of clothing, from wedding gowns to hats. Embroidery is used to make rugs, adorn quilts or even to make pictures out of.
Embroidery first found its roots in ancient China, around 500-300BCE. The need for stitches to mend, tailor and reinforce cloth led to the development of many new sewing techniques. The decorative potential of these stitches was quickly realised, and soon the art form of embroidery was born. Each culture has its own history, tradition and style of embroidery, each as beautiful and captivating as the next.
Today, machine embroidery has lessened the prevalence of hand embroidery, but there are still many individuals who practise it, both as hobbyists and professionals. Here on deviantART, we have many individuals who share this ancient technique with us.
Let's take a closer look.
Canvaswork is the medium with which most of us are familiar. As the name suggests, it is any form of decorative stitching on a canvas. It may be used to display various patterns or techniques, or to create pictures. Early canvaswork predominately used tent stitch (small, diagonal stitches), though modern canvas work has incorporated crewel and many of the other embroidery stitches to the art.
Intersecting somewhat with canvaswork is counted thread. It is considered any method of stitching in which the stitches are worked over a counted number of warp and weft threads. It is primarily associated with cross stitch.
Patterns are printed on a graph or chart, which the stitcher follows to achieve the pattern or picture. This does not include designs that are printed onto the canvas, as often seen in store-bought embroidery kits. It is impossible to print an exactly aligned design onto natural fibres, and so it cannot be considered counted work [in those instances, the stitcher tends to follow the printing rather than counting stitches].
Cross stitch is my personal favourite and is the form of embroidery I have the biggest soft spot for. It is the first thing I tried as a child and quickly fell in love with. Cross stitch appears simple to the untrained eye, however, as with most embroidery, experience reveals the difference between a beginner's work and that of an experienced hand.
It is a slow process, creating a picture from cross stitch. Much like pixel art, only with a needle and thread. Development of large, complex images is slow and requires an incredible amount of patience. Many large pieces take years to complete and require buckets full of patience and persistence.
Appliqué and Raised Work
Appliqué is one of the oldest forms of embroidery, dating back to 700-300BCE. It involves the application of small pieces of fabric onto a background fabric with a needle and thread, creating a two dimensional embroidery. It began as a means to cover or strengthen worn cloth, but has since developed into a means of artistic expression.
Whether for decorating clothing or creating a picture, our fellow deviants have it all.
Patchwork and Quilting
Patchwork, or pieced-work as it is occasionally called, has been in existence for centuries. Born out of necessity, it is another sub genre that has more recently developed an artist flair. However, I'm going to leave this one at a mere mention, as =Magical525 has a comprehensive set of quilting articles coming up for you later this month.
Smocking is a form of embroidery that is as much decorative as it is functional. It involves the gathering of material into regular folds to provide elasticity to the garment. It's typically used around the chest and forearm region of clothing and traditionally uses thread of the same colour as the cloth, giving a gorgeous but subtle flair.
Silk, Metal Thread and Bead Embroidery
Both silk and metal thread are used in embroidery to give the embroidery a richness that can't be achieved with regular thread. Both require different application techniques. Metal thread embroidery is usually only a surface embroidery: the threads are laid over the fabric, or other threads, and then couched into place.
Bead embroidery has historically used a large array of materials to embellish embroidered designs, including but not limited to seeds, shells, porcupine and feather quills, moulded clay, stones and crystals. Today, we typically use beads made from glass, plastic or porcelain.
Modern technology has allowed embroidery to develop many new possibilities. Computers in particular facilitate the development of patterns for counted thread work. There are many programs, particularly for cross-stitch, that will generate a pattern from a photograph. The amount of work and tinkering that goes into developing the pattern depends on the program and especially depends on the skill level of the artist, but either way they have allowed many stitchers access to patterns that aren't commercially sold at exorbitant prices.
Some deviants have used this ability to express their love for a fandom.
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There are enormous parts of the embroidery world I haven't even come close to touching yet. It is a wide sub-genre packed to the brim with different techniques and inspiring creativity at every turn. If this has piqued your interest, be sure to have a browse of the Cross Stitch and Embroidery gallery to see all of that dA's artisans have to offer.