Y-Knot: the Art of Craft - Embroidery

The earliest found examples of embroidery date from at least 3000 BC and consisted of darning, half cross and satin stitches. More modern examples come from 5th to 3rd century BC China. It is said that the basic stitches of embroidery, including running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, buttonhold and whipstitching were already advanced at this time; these stitches are still used today.

DEFINITION OF embroidery general

Definition of embroidery artists.

Definition of aari and tambour embroidery.

Blackwork embroidery traditionally consists of back stitch and double running stitch, using black thread, on material with large enough mesh for counting. The stitch patterns are geometric and repeat to fill the area desired. The areas left free of stitching and the closeness and thickness of the stitches provide shading.

Definition of caribou tufting.

Couching consists of thick threads laid on the surface of a fabric and tied down by thinner threads that come up and down from the background fabric.

Counted thread is any kind of embroidery where the number of threads crossed is regular and important to the end effect; therefore the background fabric must have a loose and well-defined weave. Traditional wool needlepoint was expected to completely cover the ground fabric so that the resulting material could be used for durable chair seats and pillows. More modern needlepoint and other counted thread work is much more open and may be combined with many other embroidery techniques in the same piece.

Crazy quilt embroidery runs along the seams of patchwork quilts with irregular fabric pieces. The stitches are often complex combinations of more basic stitches and may also include intricate motifs featured in the centers of random quilt pieces.

In cutwork the design area is first outlined in buttonhole stitch, then the inside is carefully cut out and freestanding embroidery added to the open area. Because of the buttonhole stitch foundation, the shape does not need to be regular.

Embroidery and needleweaving formed over an open disc shape, originating in the Dorset region of England. Dorset button making was a cottage industry in that region until the Industrial Revolution when a button making machine was invented.

In drawn thread embroidery warp or weft threads, or both in small areas, have been removed from a coarse-woven fabric and replaced by needlelace and needle weaving. Drawn thread is limited to following the x and y axis of the fabric, unlike cutwork.

For me "folk embroidery" is a catchphrase, allowing me a category for traditional, often historical, embroidery that was not produced for the wealthy to wear. As I learn to recognized new styles of regional embroidery I may start to subdivide this category, as I have already done with South Asian regional embroidery (which in turn will need further subdivision).

Rich, thick embroidery made with metal threads, generally couched down on the surface through use of smaller threads.

Hardanger embroidery, developed in Norway, traditionally features white stitching on a white background. The stitches are mostly satin stitch and drawn thread embroidery, but more modern hardanger happily violates several of the rules of tradition to add color and less strictly geometric forms.

Another holding pen, right now "historical embroidery" refers to anything old but not identifiable as a folk embroidery. Historical folk embroideries tend to go into the folk category, historical South Asian into that category. Soon I will perhaps make a category for historical European court dress.

Definition of Hmong embroidery.

definition of Japanese traditional embroidery.

Kantha could either go with folk embroidery or South Asian embroidery, but it has a distinctive style that allows even a non-expert to recognize it much of the time. This embroidery is composed entirely of running stitches and is popular in Odisha and West Bengal. There are starting to also be modern, non-regional variations produced by embroiderers across the world.

Definition of Miao embroidery.

Pulled thread is a technique applied to loose, coarsely woven fabric where the stitches are pulled tightly enough to distort and leave gaps in the fabric. The thread used is generally the same color as the ground fabric, with different textures created by the type of stitch used to pull the fabric.

Definition of quillwork.

Raffia cloth could also be included in a weaving category, or in my Mudcloth dyeing category, or even in quilting, but I have included it in embroidery because, besides being woven out of raffia, and often dyed with natural dyes, pieces of the cloth are appliqued together and there are over 200 traditional patterns that may be stitched on it. This cloth is produced by the Kuba people of Zaire.


This category will need a bit of expansion. Almost any style of embroidery could be featured in a sampler, which is just a way of learning and recording variations of a form of embroidery. Though originally a learning device, most samplers are a thing of beauty as well.

Sashiko embroidery consists of patterns of decorative running stitch. It was originally used to reinforce the worn portions of the clothing of working class people. Traditional sashiko is made with white thread on an indigo blue cloth.

Definition of Shadow Work embroidery

Peruvian embroidery from the Amazon region. The work features repeating geometric interlocking patterns that have cultural significance to the Shipibo tribes that produce them.

Much more remains to be sub-divided here, as there are many regions and styles included in this category. Several Indian blogs examine the styles and differences and will be linked to from the individual page.

Embroidery popular in 17th century Europe featuring stitches worked over padding to produce bas relief embroidery. Flowers, small animals and people were often stitched this way.

definition of suzani embroidery

Return to Top