Embroidery is a beautiful handicraft. It is used to decorate the cloth with needle and threads. Actually, in old times, when the cloth was torn and man had to mend it with patches, to make the cloth strong, he used additional material and sewing techniques.
Embroidery is done by hand. The clothes found from different countries are based on hand made embroidery. Every sample represents the country it belongs. The hand embroidery of every area has its own style and designs based on its culture, history and traditions.
All kinds of fabric were decorated with thread, pearls, beads and shells. Some clothes are found embroidered with pure gold and precious stones. Mostly the embroidered clothes were used by high class and they were the symbol of wealth in ancient times.
The invention of fine steel needles gave the hand embroidery fineness and beauty. Embroidery is also folk art. In folk art, apart from beads, mirrors and coins are also used. Each country has its own embroidery stitches. Sometimes the place is famous and is known by its traditional way of embroidery like Kashmiri embroidery from Kashmir, Mountmellick embroidery from Ireland, Hardanger from Norway, Brazilian embroidery from Brazil, Kantha Nakshi from Bangladesh and Sashiko from Japan.
Chinese embroidery is mostly done with silk thread and it has its own style. It is based on patterns of flowers, birds and scenes from nature. This kind of embroidery is known as needle painting or thread painting.
Embroidery was an important and common art in the middle ages of Muslim world. The embroidery was status symbol in Muslim societies, so it became popular. Most of the Muslim cities like Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul, Persia and Lucknow were famous for their distinctive embroidery styles. The embroidery was seen on handkerchiefs, flags, robes, belts, dresses, gowns, shawls, covers, slippers, horse trappings and many other things. The professionals used gold and silver thread and precious stones. Embroidery cottage industry prospers day and night. In the Mughal era, the kings paid attention on embroidery designs and styles as on other industries. The craftsmen were highly appreciated by the royalty. There were imperial workshops in Lahore, Agra, Fatehpur and Ahmadabad. The beautiful and intricate master pieces of embroidery work can be seen in museums. The ancient art work not only informs us about the craft but through this artwork, we get the knowledge of history, because many scenes from history can be seen on the fabric. The craftsmen were more professional and their art was more intricate, detailed and beautiful.
The fabric used for embroidery varies from place to place and silk, wool, linen and cotton are being used for thousands of years. The thread mostly used is silk, cotton or wool. The selection of material to be used on fabric is decided according to the style and design to be made. The style of embroidery shows the status of wearer. The use of gold and silver thread, precious stones or silk ribbon shows that it is costly and belongs to the elite class and royalties. The material used along with thread adds value to the fabric.
A lot of embroidery stitches, are used to decorate the fabric. Many of them are same but have different names in their areas and countries. Some are surface embroidery techniques such as chain stitch, couching, rose stitch and gold work. Some are based on knots. A number of stitches are counted thread such as Hardanger, Black work, needle point, cross stitch etc. Free embroidery is another type which includes Brazilian embroidery, Crewel embroidery and Satan stitch. Mostly all the embroidery stitches have variations and some stitches are used in different places, only their names are different. They can be used to make borders, outlines, filling or detached.
There were no pattern books for designs so the sample was the only thing for the reference of stitches and patterns. The sample is a piece of cloth embroidered with stitches which includes motifs, alphabets, figures and decorative borders. Even the name of embroider is stitched in the end. The patterns were sewn on the fabric for future use.
With the invention of embroidery machines, the fabric is decorated with modern patterns. The embroidery machines were first used in 1800’s. With the time, many kinds of embroidery machines were introduced in the market and it was a huge success.
Today, embroidery machines are not only commercially used but also in homes.