The history of embroidery is hard to trace before the 6th century AD. We believe that embroidery was known in India from prehistoric times. The earliest surviving examples of Chinese embroidery are Tang dynasty garments. Chinese emperors wore black silk robes adorned with traditinal motifs. We believe when embroidery was first done, there wasn't a name for it. We know from paintings, sculptures, and literature that embroidery was applied to clothes and all types of fabrics from very early times. The oldest survining embroidered cloth is Egyptian and has been preserved because of the dry desert climate. The Egyptians and ancient Mediterranean people were skilled embroiderers. Fine embroidery developed in other ancient lands such as Bablylon, Isreal, Syria, and Persia. Later medieval Europeans made embroidered court garments and altar clothes. In medieval Byzantium, these garments were decorated with pearls, gold, and silver threads.

The earliest embroidery that has survived from England, is a stole from St. Cuthbert's tomb at Durham. An 11th century Bayeux tapestry, technically an embroidery rather than a tapestry, is the most famous and the largest embroidered hanging to come from the medieval period. In colored wool in linen ground, it portrays the events leading to the Norman conquest of England. Opus anglicum or English work, was famous all through Europe. Religious vestments and textiles were embroidered in silks and metal thread with Images of saints and other designs found in paintings or manuscript decorations.

Later, gold was used more often in embroidery. In or around 1300, there was a movement to produce embroidered pictures or needle paintings that would resemble the quality paintings by contemporary artists such as Jan van Eyck. Gold was then used in a Burgundian technique called nue or shaded gold. Pictorial representations, were made from cloth covered with gold and silk thread.

In the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy, needle paintings reached it'ts peak. Famous painters designed scenes to be sewn by embroiderers. By the mid 16th century, much of the vestments and scroll work with embroidery were made in convents and monestaries.

The Spanish style of embroiderey was white linen stiched with wool from black sheep. This black on white become the popular Elizabethan blackwork. White on white embroidery was worked with various stitches on linen altar cloths and clothing for peasants. By the 15 th century, white on white cutwork gave rise to reticello, or in Itallian, little net, which was the beginning development of lace making. In Germany, embroidery was used on domestic items and crewel embroidery became popular. In central Europe became a folk art and adorned pillows, towels, sheets, and other items.

In the 17th and 18th century, two techniques became important. Stump work, designs were raised against a ground of silk or wool. These were often biblical scenes with fiures in 17th century dress and were found on boxes or mirror frames, and other objects. The other techniques was Jacobean woolwork which was used for curtains, bedspreads, wall hangings, and other furnishings. Repeating patterns became the new trend and was used ofr upholstery. embroidery of clothing reached a peadk in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In America, settlers brought with them the crafts from Europe. American designs came from English designs, but were simpler. The English style that became popular in America, was called Turkey work because of its knotted pile. It was a type of canvas used for upholstery. Quilting was also practiced in America in colonial times. As the colonies prospered, the applique quilt become the favorite type, with embroidery stitches used to apply the pieces of colored cloth that formed designs.

In the early 20th century, the taste for natural looking designs gave rise to shaded silk embroidery.This is a flat satin stitch on linen in fine shaded colors. From the middles of the 1960s to early 1980s, there was a renewed interest in embroidery crafts. By 1985, crewel work had been started again by serious embroiderers. Also, quilting became popular again. Now in the 21st century, embroidery has become a popular way to not just adorn clothing, but to also advertise and create awareness of organizations or companies in a distinguished manner.

Facts for this article were taken from Encarta Online Encyclopedia

"Needlework," Microsoft r Encarta r Online Encyclopedia 2007 c 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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