In this article, you will learn all about what is embroidery, what is hand embroidery, and what to do with embroidery. There are many embroidery stitches that are simple to follow for beginners and others that are more complex designs. Once you start, you will find that embroidery is a therapeutic and relaxing hobby for all ages and skill levels.
What is Embroidery Definition (Embroidery Meaning)
Embroidery is a decorative art form using fabric, needles, and thread designed to add texture and embellishment. Ancient embroidery was done by hand, while modern embroidery can be stitched by hand or machine.
Your embroidery work designs can be sweet and simple or elaborate and involved. Embroidery motifs include animals, flowers, geometric, and many other designs. Embroidery can be done purely with threads or have beads, ribbons, or sequins incorporated.
If you are new to embroidery, you might want to read my articles on how to embroider and the basic embroidery stitches.
What is Hand Embroidery?
Hand embroidery is the art of embellishing fabric with decorative stitching using a hand needle and thread. The alternative to hand stitching embroidery is to use a machine. Hand embroidery has a more organic feel and is much chunkier than machine embroidery since it can use various thicknesses of thread and various types of stitches.
Five of the main hand embroidery stitches are backstitch, chain stitch, cross stitch, satin stitch, and blanket stitch. We will go a little more into these stitches and give illustrations later in this article.
What is the Purpose of Embroidery
The primary purpose of embroidery is to decorate fabric. It can communicate an idea (eg monograms or logos) or purely add interest and texture to a garment or fabric item such as homewares. The colors used may be monochromatic or vibrant and contrasting.
History of Embroidery
Embroidery has a long and noble history dating back to the ancient Chinese civilizations. The word embroidery comes from the French word broderie, and it means embellishment. Embroidery has been found across the world and across different cultures.
Dating back to fossilized clothing from 30000 BC, it has graced the clothing of noblemen and peasants. Embroidery has had a wide variety of uses, from decorating all kinds of fabric-related items and even ornamental boxes.
Initially, for the rich and famous, embroidery and needlepoint became more accessible to a wider range of people over time. Embroidery became a hobby and an accomplishment for young girls of wealthy families. In the 17th Century, there is evidence of pattern books to teach embroidery stitches.
There was an interesting element of class distinction as the wealthy girls stitched as a hobby while the poorer girls were left with creative mending tasks and quilting.
The Industrial Revolution awakened the concept of machined clothing. Hand embroidery was added to fashion items, and the final stage in the history of embroidery saw the arrival of automated machined embroidery.
What to Do with Embroidery
In our modern times, Embroidery has used the elements of traditional needlework with a more modern approach using special embroidery themes and threads.
Machine and hand embroidery decorate clothing (including dresses, dress shirts, and golf shirts), tableware, draperies, wall hangings, ornaments, and cushions.
There has been a revival of hand embroidery as fabric artists are using needle and thread to create abstract and contemporary compositions. In the modern fashion world, embroidery is used to personalize clothing and accessory items. There are no limits to where and when embroidery can make its beauty and charm appreciated.
Once you know the basic embroidery stitches, you can put them together to form embroidery flowers, embroidery leaves, embroidered roses, and even embroidery letters. Modern geometric designs as well as intricate designs are very popular for wall hangings.
What Do You Need to Start Embroidery Art
In simple terms, one would list needle and thread for use as embroidery tools, but as the art form has evolved, so has the list of tools available to make embroidery a skillful and creative experience. The enthusiastic embroiderer has an extensive list of tools to choose from.
Here are beginners embroidery tools:
- Embroidery thread
- Embroidery hoop
- Embroidery patterns
Embroidery needles come in an exciting range of sizes and types. Not all needles are useful for embroidery, but it is interesting to know the ones that do suit this form of fabric art.
- Crewel needles are the most popular embroidery needles. They range in size from numbers 1 – 12, and 6 - 8 are the most popular. Crewel needles have a sharp point and a narrow eye. They can be used for all kinds of surface embroidery.
- Milliner needles are used in embroidery and hat making. They are very long, thin, and pointed. The shaft and the eye are the same thickness. The extra length makes them really useful for bullion knots and French knots.
- Beading needles are very thin. They are long and sharp and used for picking up the tiniest of beads. They tend to bend easily.
- Tapestry needles have a blunt point and a larger eye. They are generally used for tapestry and counted thread embroidery. You may find these needles easier to use for cross stitch on loose weave fabric.
- Chenille needles are like tapestry needles, but their point is sharp. They have an eye that is easy to thread yarn and metallic threads through as well as ribbon.
Hoops are used for holding the fabric tight and stretched. They come in different diameter sizes, and you need to choose one larger than your work. Two rings make up the entire hoop, and one fits inside the other.
Embroidery scissors are an important part of the tool kit. They are small, pointed, and sharp, making them perfect for snipping threads and cutting unwanted stitches.
Best Threads for Embroidery
There is a large variety of threads suitable for embroidery. Each type of thread gives the embroidered article a different style and texture.
- Floss or stranded cotton (embroidery floss) is the most popular. Six individual threads make up the strand, and they can be separated or used together depending on the thickness of the pattern. These are usually cotton threads.
- Pearl Cotton is also made of twisted strands, but the twists can not be divided. It has a heavier textured feel and is more raised on the fabric.
- Silk thread is soft and fine. It is very strong and has a high sheen. Silk threads embroider without making large holes.
- Wool yarn is a natural, long-lasting fiber. There are three categories - crewel yarn, 3-ply Persian wool yarn, and tapestry wool threads. Tapestry wool is the most popular.
- Satin and rayon floss are synthetic threads with a high sheen. They are not recommended for machine embroidery.
- Overdyed thread is a non-divisible thread and comes in many different shades of color. It is not like a variegated thread that comes in shades of a single color.
- Metallic thread of gold, silver, and platinum with a shiny finish is the way to describe this thread. It is difficult to sew with, and using shorter thread lengths is recommended.
- Novelty threads are a variety of threads with different properties. Glitter thread, glow-in-the-dark thread, and matte thread.
- Fine ribbon has come to be used in embroidery for a style known as ribbon embroidery.
There really is no limit to the kinds of thread to use and experiment with in modern embroidery styles and techniques.
Best Embroidery Fabric
Choosing the right fabric for showing off your embroidery stitches is very important. There are several different types to consider, and something plain with an even weave is the most popular choice.
The thread count is an important factor with the right embroidery fabric as you want an even natural fabric with a thread count under 150.
- Linen, cotton, muslin, and denim are all good for embroidery stitches because they have an even thread count and are natural fabrics.
- Duck cloth, a form of canvas, makes a good backdrop for embroidery. It is a strong fabric and will need a strong needle.
- Aida is one of the most commonly used fabrics.
Pre-wash your fabric and try out some simple stitches before going ahead with a project.
Starting Embroidery Stitch
If your first impulse is to start embroidery stitches with a knot, try to avoid that method. Knots can show from the back and make your finished article very bumpy. The knot can show through or be felt through the soft fabric. A knot can also unravel.
Starting embroidery without a knot is actually easier than you think.
- Double Backstitch -You can start with a double backstitch to strengthen the beginning and get away with a firm start.
- Leave a Long Tail - Another easy method is to start the stitch and leave a long tail at the back. Hold the tail with your opposite hand to prevent it from slipping through your work. When you have finished the stitching, weave the tail thread back into the stitching.
- Loop Method - The two-strand loop method works well if you are wanting to do fine embroidery with only two strands. The method requires you to pull a strand of thread from your floss and thread two ends together through the needle.
Transferring Embroidery Designs
Heat transfers, marking pens, or a light source are all ways to transfer embroidery designs. It really is a personal choice and depends on the pattern's detail.
- Light Source - Using a light source, like a window or a specially designed light box, is a very simple method. Tape the pattern onto the window with the fabric to be embroidered in front of it. Use a suitable marking pen to trace the pattern onto the fabric.
- Heat Transfer - Make sure, before you start, that the transfer is the right side down on top of the fabric in the place you want it to be. Avoid ironing from side to side as this may blur the image. Rather iron by pressing down on the image and wait for it to cool before removing the transfer.
- Freehand - Copy or draw freehand a design using your transfer marking pens. Use the water-soluble pens to gently rub them out when you have completed your design.
What is Embroidery Color Schemes
You can use a color wheel to choose embroidery thread colors. You may want shades of the same color for a subtle shaded look. For example, shades of pink can look beautiful on the petals of flowers. Alternatively, colors on the opposite side of the color wheel will be contrasting and vibrant. Read more about color theory.
What is Hand Embroidery - Types of Embroidery
Basic embroidery stitches can be categorized into the different functions they are part of. Beautiful designs are created by using a combination of different types of stitches.
- Outline Stitches - Some stitches like backstitch and split stitch are straight stitches and used to sew lines.
- Filling Stitches - A satin stitch and long and short stitch make flowers and fill in areas. French Knots create dots and flowers or decorative borders.
Simple Embroidery Stitches
Once you have learned the basics, you are ready to tackle slightly more detailed stitches. Many stitches build on from a beginner's level. It is a good idea to start with a sampler and practice your simple level of stitches. Note what they are and refer to them when you want ideas.
Here are some of the stitches used in basic techniques.
Embroidery chain stitch forms one of the basic beginner stitches. It makes a row of thick stitches and is very useful for a bold line of stitches. The stitch can be linked, or each stitch can be a separate chain stitch to create leaves and flowers.
Backstitch is a very easy stitch to learn. It is used for all kinds of outlining and goes well with other stitches. It is a key basic stitch not only for embroidery but also for hand sewing.
Cross stitch can be its own art form, also known as counted thread work. It is used to decorate all kinds of cross-stitch projects, including samplers, cushions, table wear, and peasant-style clothing.
Running stitch is a very basic embroidery stitch and probably the easiest. It involves running your needle and thread along the fabric at evenly spaced intervals.
Satin stitch is the perfect stitch for filling in an area. The stitches are worked carefully across an area from side to side. They may start small and get longer as they are used to filling the design area.
The French knot is a delightful little stitch to add interest to your pattern or picture. The French knot will add texture and definition to your working pattern.
Blanket stitch is a very useful edging stitch. It is decorative and practical at the same time. Alternate the length of the stitches to have more variety. Keeping the spacing consistent is key to making this decorative stitch.
More Embroidery Stitches
Many of the basic embroidery stitches are the start of other variations of stitches.
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Stitch
- Double Herringbone Stitch
- Faggoting Embroidery
- Feather Stitch
- Fern Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch
- Fly Stitch
- Herringbone Stitch
- Lazy Daisy
- Outline Stitch
- Sashiko Stitch
- Satin Stitch
- Seed Stitch
- Short and Long Stitch (needle painting)
- Stem Stitch
- Straight Stitch
- Web Stitch
- Whipped Backstitch
- Whip Stitch
In fact, there is no end to the variations to modify basic stitches, making the art of embroidering a very creative craft.
How to Learn Embroidery Online
There are numerous embroidery stitch lessons on Youtube. Here is the Treasurie video showing you 6 of the easiest stitches to get you started.
Free Embroidery Pattern Resources
There are many free embroidery patterns on the web. DMC is a leading brand of embroidery threads and kits and offers many free patterns.
Dogs Embroidery Pattern
What is Embroidery by Machine
Using a machine gives another type of embroidery and is suitable for mass production. Machine embroidery, as the name suggests, is the art of creating decorative patterns with the help of a machine.
Quality embroidery machines are made by all the well-known sewing machine brands. Some of the machines are computerized with programs and patterns; others rely on stitch selection for the embroidery.
A machine may have different stitches, and the stitch is regulated by changing the stitch length or width. The computerized machines have set programs to follow, or you can buy additional discs to program other patterns.
The modern embroidery machine is able to embroider names and letters. It can replicate designs for badges and monograms. A repetitive border is guaranteed to be uniform, and the dainty design on a tablecloth can be used on napkins.
What is Embroidery FAQs
What is the main purpose of embroidery?
The main purpose of embroidery is to bring a decorative art form to a fabric-based article. Embroidery enhances the article with a stitched embellishment, bringing joy and pleasure to the people who appreciate its beauty or create the stitches.
What is the difference between sewing and embroidery?
The main difference between these two forms of needlework is sewing is the functional act of stitching together a garment or article made of fabric. Embroidery is the art of decorating the outside of the fabric area. Sewing is practical construction, and embroidery is the decorative addition to the fabric article.
Is there a difference between a sewing machine and an embroidery machine?
The obvious difference between the two machines is the purpose they are designed for. The sewing machine is limited in the stitch types it can perform. An embroidery machine has many variations, and often the embroidery machine is computerized.
A sewing machine, generally speaking, sews in a straight line. Many of the sewing machine stitches are based on the zigzag action of the machine. There are ways to adjust a sewing machine to make circular movements by adjusting the feed dogs and using different threads to make stitches closer to embroidery. However, an embroidery machine is always going to do a more professional job.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of embroidery?
Hand embroidered products are always going to retain the unique hand-finished look and individuality of a one-of-a-kind item. Hand embroidery has become a hobby and a creative art form.
The disadvantage to this form of fabric art is the time it takes to sew each item by hand. Many patterns have to be drawn on the fabric before they are ready for sewing. The overall factor leaning against embroidery is the time factor.
What are the benefits of embroidery?
Embroidery is relaxing and portable. It has the creative attraction of being able to keep the sewer engaged in the evening while watching something on TV or having a relaxing conversation with another person. Embroidery starts off with simple designs and, with practice, can become more elaborate. Embroidered articles can be personalized.
Why is it important to know the basic embroidery stitches in our daily life?
Many of the basic stitches are the foundation stitches for more elaborate stitches. When you know how to do one, the ability to stitch the variations will follow.
Where can I find embroidery designs?
The internet is always a good resource for embroidery designs. Needlework shops and needlework publications often offer great patterns and ideas. The advantage of these designs is you can use a portion of the pattern or the whole transferred design.
What is Embroidery - In Conclusion
Embroidery can be many things - a decorative sampler, a creative hobby, or a charming edge to some tableware or other household items. Embroidery has depicted scenes from history stored in museums for us to see. It has stood the test of time by starting out as a handcraft and becoming something machines can do too.
Embroidery has been compared to the twists and turns of life - a pattern to be experienced patiently, one stitch at a time.
“Take your needle my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that – one stitch at a time." (Oliver Wendell Holmes -American Poet)
Indulging in embroidery is a very satisfying hobby and creative craft. Through embroidery, you can leave a legacy to your family through a creative sampler. Learning what is embroidery is a great way to decorate and transform a plain piece of fabric into a work of art.