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Monday, April 30, 2012

Crafty Things: Embroidery

The definition of embroidery is basically the art or handicraft of decorating fabrics or other materials with needle and thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads,  quills or sequins.

The origins of embroidery are unknown but early examples survive from ancient Egypt, Iron Age Northern Europe and Zhou Dynasty China.

Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects and household items have been a mark of status and wealth in many cultures including Persia, India, China, Japan and medieval and baroque Europe.

In modern times, it continues to be a popular handicraft and embroidery thread is manufactured in cotton, rayon and novelty yarns as well as the traditional wool, linen and silk. Ribbon embroidery is also very popular for use in floral motifs. Needlepoint is also considered a type of embroidery and is often classified as "counted-thread" embroidery.

In some of my past photographs, you may have seen these pillows in the background, or like this one below, on my bed. This pillow is an example of crewel embroidery, or crewelwork. It is the type that I most often do when I have an embroidery project.
Crewelwork is a style of "free embroidery" where a variety of embroidery stitches follow a design outline applied to the fabric. This pillow also has some ribbon embroidery. The stitches I used were mostly chain, split and stem stitches. I made this pillow to commemorate my wedding in 2007.

This pillow is older; I probably stitched this one when I was about 21 or 22 years old. It was a fun pattern to stitch because of all the French knots, which is my favorite stitch!
This pattern used mostly cotton candlewicking thread. Candlewicking thread is an unbleached cotton thread.

Look at all the lovely French knots!

The funny thing about French knots.....it was my mother who taught me to embroider, but French knots are her least favorite stitch!! I was quite young when I started embroidering, about six or seven years old. My mother would find me simple patterns to make or she'd just give me scrap muslin to practice stitches. I had first learned to do cross-stitch at age five, and then graduated to learning how to do a chain stitch and stem stitch. When I got those, I learned couching, satin stitch and French knots. It was not hard to learn at all.

This pillow was also made when I was in my early twenties. This one took quite some time because the whole center bunch of roses and ribbon is satin stitches, with long and short shading stitches also.

You can see how a satin stitch needs to be densely packed  in these roses. Also, you may notice there are plenty of French knots! 
I really enjoy embroidery, but really don't do much of it often anymore. It's very relaxing to me, like crocheting. I did have another candlewicked pillow that I made right around the same time as these, however, that one was unfortunately torn to pieces by one of my cats when he was a kitten (my sweet departed Baby, who passed on in 2010. In his youth he was quite the pillow-destroyer!)

I've suggested to my sister to teach her daughter, who is now five, how to cross-stitch. My niece is already quite the crafter at five....she takes after Grandma, Mom and her aunties! My sister worries that my niece doesn't have great fine dexterity yet, to which I told her that embroidery will certainly help with her fine motor skills...as well as hand-eye coordination! And it's fun!

What crafts do you really enjoy doing??

Thanks for stopping by!



romance-of-roses said...

Hi Katie, your work is amazing. Love the pillows and also the meaning of embroidery. Mom used to embroider all the time and taught me and I still enjoy it. I do pillow cases, children clothes hangers and so on. Wonderful post. Hugs...Lu

Bead and Needle said...

Your handwork is BEAUTIFUL, Katie - I love French Knots too, but your satin stitch is awesome, too...it's tricky to get that so packed in there, and looking nice at the same time! DO have your sister teach her little one - or you do it! I learned embroidery once summer, about her age, from my grandmother and the nice, elderly lady that lived across the street from her...she made me a bag to keep my embroidery in. Happy Tuesday, Katie! Tanya

Pam said...

Those pillows are amazing! I used to embroider, but haven't in way too many years. You brought back some fun memories.