Embroidery is an ancient textile art which uses strands of embroidery floss or wool to create a picture in thread on canvas, linen or other cloth. It forms a part of needlework.

Embroidery uses various stitches and combinations of stitches. Each embroidery stitch has a special name to help identify it, and although they are mostly simple to execute, when you put them together the results can be extremely complex.

  • back stitch
    • for outlining shapes
  • blanket stitch
    • as the name implies, an edging stitch to prevent fraying, but also decorative.
  • chain stitch
  • cross-stitch (or X-stitch)
  • couching
    • Attaching a thread to a piece of fabric by sewing it on. Specialist couching stitches: Pendant couching, Bokhara couching, Square laid work.
  • fly stitch
    • Looped stitch, suitable for either repeat or random patterns.
  • Holbein stitch
  • knots:
    • bullion knots
      • Used as filling stitch or in a line. Worked by twisting thread around the needle.
    • French knots
  • lazy daisy stitch
  • running stitch
  • stem stitch
    • Used for lines and stems, but also used as an infilling stitch.
  • whip stitch
  • Specialist stitches such as the Quaker stitch used on the Quaker tapestry

Embroidery has traditionally been used to decorate clothing and household furnishings including table linens, tray cloths, towels and bedding, but you can literally embroider anything as long as it is made out of an evenly woven fabric and can be held firmly in the hand or in a special embroidery hoop or tapestry frame. The art of hand embroidery is a painstaking and laborious process, but today garments are often decorated with machine embroidery instead.

There are many different styles of embroidery, often with regional variations. Cross-stitch is both an embroidery stitch, and a style of embroidery.

Some embroidery styles include:

Embroidery has also been used as a form of art and for decoration, through the creation of embroidered or cross-stitch samplers, tapestries, wall-hangings and other works of textile art. Some types of patchwork also incorporate embroidery as a form of extra decoration.

Today some artists, eg. Annemieke Mein, use machine and/or hand embroidery to create beautiful and original pieces of textile art.

One of the world's most famous pieces of embroidery is the Bayeux Tapestry.

Other notable embroideries on public display:

The Royal School of Needlework is often involved in the design and/or execution of major embroidery works.

Famous embroiderers

Beryl Dean
Kaffe Fassett
Ann Macbeth