Simply speaking, the art of embroidery is to use some thread and a needle to create patterns on another material, which in most cases is another piece of fabric. However, embroidery can also be done on other materials like leather and plastic. While embroidery almost always uses some yarn, there can also be elements of other kinds of material that are used. These include beads, sequins, pearls and even metal.
The history of embroidery cannot be dated back to a specific age. It has been around for as far as we know. Some of the Chinese chain stitch made from silk yarn has been known to date as far back as the 5th century BC. The art of embroidery was a significant part of the medieval Islam world. The Turkish traveller Evliya Celebi created some of the best embroidery of the times and he called it 'the craft of two hands'. Embroidery was seen on handkerchiefs, flags, uniforms, shoes, dresses, caps and tunics in cities such as Istanbul, Cairo and Damascus.
There are different ways in which embroidery can be classified. Some base the classification on whether the design is stitched on top of the fabric or through the fabric. Examples of free embroidery include crewel embroidery and traditional Chinese and Japanese embroidery. This is a form of embroidery that is decorative and one that uses wool as the main thread. It is considered to be at least a thousand years old. Some of the common stitches used in crewel embroidery include the stem stitch, the chain stitch and the split stitch. Satin stitch is used to create flat patches of color. French knots and seed stitches are other interesting styles of crewel embroidery.
Counted thread embroidery is a form that depends on counting the number of stitches to create a pattern. This kind of embroidery needs an even weave or an aida cloth to work on. Cross stitch is the most common type of this kind of embroidery. Bargello is another form of counted stitch embroidery that is done on a canvas.
Drawn thread work or cutwork embroidery is a technique that can create holes in order to create a design. When this is done using white yarn on a white fabric it is called whitework. Other kinds of embroidery include broderie, hardanger, mountmellick, blackwork and needlepoint embroidery.
These days when embroidery made with the aid of machines is so common some people classify embroidery on the basis of whether it is handmade or made by machines. Patterns that are crafted by hand are far more expensive than those that have been created by machines.
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