See U. C. Bath, Embroidery Masterworks (1972); L. F. Day and M. Buckle, Art in Needlework (1900, repr. 1972); Mary Thomas' Embroidery Book (1984).
Detail of an embroidered waistcoat, French, 1800–25; in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New elipsis
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Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with designs stitched in strands of thread or yarn using a needle. Embroidery may also use other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. Sewing machines can be used to create machine embroidery.
Embroidery is classified according to the use of the underlying foundation fabric. One classification system divides embroidery styles according to the relationship of stitch placement to the fabric:
A second division classifies embroidery according to whether the design is stitched on top of or through the foundation fabric:
An important distinction between canvas work and surface embroidery is that surface work requires the use of an embroidery hoop or frame to stretch the material and ensure even stitching tension that prevents pattern distortion. Canvas work tends to follow very symmetrical counted stitching patterns with designs developing from repetition of one or only a few similar stitches in a variety of thread hues. Most forms of surface embroidery, by contrast, are distinguished by a wide range of different stitching patterns used in a single piece of work.
Ribbon embroidery is embroidery performed with ribbon rather than standard six-thread string. Silk ribbon or a silk/organza blend ribbon are commonly used for this type of embroidery. There are many different styles of ribbon embroidery, such as woven rose, French knot, feather stich, fly stich, fly stich fern, couching stich, lazy daisy, looped petal flower, Japanese ribbon stich, stem stich rose, split stich, and straight stich. Those are usually taught to beginners who are just learning silk ribbon embroidery. Ribbon embroidery is most commonly used to create floral motifs. It's said to have a certain romantic and antique quality.
Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects, and household items have been a mark of wealth and status in many cultures including ancient Persia, India, Byzantium, medieval England (Opus Anglicanum or "English work"), and Baroque Europe.