History and Origins of Embroidery

Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with needle and thread or yarn. In this way, it has been practiced for decades.

The origin of embroidery can be dated back to Cro-Magnon days or 30,000 BC. During a recent archaeological find, fossilized remains of heavily hand-stitched and decorated clothing, boots and a hat were found.

In Siberia, around 5000 and 6000 B.C. elaborately drilled shells stitched with decorative designs onto animal hides were discovered. Chinese thread embroidery dates back to 3500 B.C. where pictures depict embroidery of clothing with silk thread, precious stones and pearls. Examples of surviving Chinese chain stitch embroidery worked in silk thread have also been found and dated to the Warring States period (5th-3rd century BC).

Embroidery and most other fibre and needlework arts are believed to originate in the Orient and Middle East. Primitive humankind quickly found that the stitches used to join animal skins together could also be used for embellishment. Recorded history, sculptures, paintings and vases depicting inhabitants of various ancient civilizations show people wearing thread-embroidered clothing.

During the 1100's, smaller seed pearls were sewn on vellum to decorate religious items and from the 1200's through 1300's beads were embroidered onto clothing. By 1500 A.D., embroideries had become more lavish in Europe, as well as other areas of the world. From this period through the 1700's elaborate thread and bead embroidery gained popularity. Bead embroidery could be found on layette baskets, court dress, home furnishings and many other items.

Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects, and household items have been a mark of wealth and status in many cultures including ancient Persia, India, China, Japan, Byzantium, and medieval and Baroque Europe. Traditional folk techniques were passed from generation to generation in cultures as diverse as northern Vietnam, Mexico, and eastern Europe. Professional workshops and guilds arose in medieval England. The output of these workshops, called Opus Anglicanum or "English work," was famous throughout Europe. The manufacture of machine-made embroideries in St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland flourished in the latter half of the 19th century.

The process used to tailor, patch, mend and reinforce cloth later fostered the development of sewing techniques, and the decorative possibilities of sewing led to the art of embroidery. Elaborate freehand stitched thread embroidery began to dwindle with the machine age of the 1800's when Art needlework and Berlin wool-work appeared on the scene. Berlin wool-work, canvas thread embroidery, was popular through the 1870's only to be replaced in popularity by counted cross-stitch of the 1880's, using square meshed canvas with stitch-by-stitch thread designs. With the introduction of printed patterns in colour, the need for counting each stitch was pass in many instances. Although elaborate freehand thread embroidery was waning in popularity, bead embroidery was beginning its heyday along with the new needlework stitches of the 1800's.

The fabrics and yarns used in traditional embroidery vary from place to place. Wool, linen, and silk have been in use for thousands of years for both fabric and yarn. Today, embroidery thread is manufactured in cotton, rayon, and novelty yarns as well as in traditional wool, linen, and silk. Ribbon embroidery uses narrow ribbon in silk or silk/organza blend ribbon, most commonly to create floral motifs.

Surface embroidery techniques such as chain stitch and couching or laid-work are the most economical of expensive yarns; couching is generally used for gold work. Canvas work techniques, in which large amounts of yarn are buried on the back of the work, use more materials but provide a sturdier and more substantial finished textile.




History and Origins of Cross-Stitch

Cross-stitch is the oldest form of embroidery and can be found all over the world. Many folk museums show examples of clothing decorated with cross-stitch, especially from continental Europe, Asia and Eastern and Central Europe.

Cross-stitch is a form of sewing and a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture. The stitcher counts the threads on a piece of evenweave fabric (such as linen) in each direction so that the stitches are of uniform size and appearance. This form of cross-stitch is also called counted cross-stitch in order to distinguish it from other forms of cross-stitch. Sometimes cross-stitch is done on designs printed on the fabric (stamped cross-stitch); the stitcher simply stitches over the printed pattern. Cross-stitch is also executed on easily countable fabric called aida cloth but the threads are not actually counted.

Fabrics used in cross-stitch include linen, aida, and mixed-content fabrics called 'evenweave' such as jobelan. All cross stitch fabrics are technically "evenweave" as the term refers to the fact that the fabric is woven to make sure that there are the same number of threads in an inch both left to right and top to bottom (vertically and horizontally). Fabrics are categorized by threads per inch (referred to as 'count'), which can range from 11 to 40 count. Aida fabric has a lower count because it is made with two threads grouped together for ease of stitching. Cross stitch projects are worked from a gridded pattern and can be used on any count fabric, the count of the fabric determines the size of the finished stitching if the stitchers counts and stitches over 2 threads. The finished stitching size is reduced by half if the stitcher counts and stitches over one fabric thread. These methods are commonly referred to as "2 over 2"—i.e. 2 embroidery threads used to stitch over 2 fabric threads; and "1 over 1"—i.e. 1 embroidery thread used to stitch over 1 fabric thread. There are different methods of stitching a pattern, including the cross-country method where one colour is stitched at a time, or the parking method where one block of fabric is stitched at a time and the end of the thread is "parked" at the next point the same colour occurs in the pattern.


Medieval Project - January - Arming Surcote

This project was commenced last year. Lord Terence had seen a manuscript of an arming surcote worn in the late 14th Century with quarters and dagged hemline to add to his Knightly Wardrobe. While progress has been slow, with machine and hand sewing required, Lord Terence is pleased with the garment. Next to complete will be heraldic crest and some more stitching on the material. This outfit will be ready to wear this Sunday for our Riverbend Alliance Recruitment Day on 28 January. 

Men's clothing

Men wore a tuniccote or cotte with a surcoatover a linen shirt. One of these surcoats was the cyclas, which began as a rectangular piece of cloth with a hole in it for the head. Over time the sides were sewn together to make a long, sleeveless tunic. When sleeves and sometimes a hood were added, the cyclas became a ganache (a cap-sleeved surcoat, usually shown with hood of matching color) or a gardcorps (a long, generous-sleeved traveling robe, somewhat resembling a modern academic robe). A mantle was worn as a formal wrap. Men also wore hose, shoes, and headdress. The clothing of royalty was set apart by its rich fabric and luxurious furs. Hair and beard were moderate in length, and men generally wore their hair in a "pageboy" style, curling under at necklength. Shoes were slightly pointed, and embroidered for royalty and higher clergy.

Reference - Wikipedia. 

Medieval Project - February - Mastering the Lucet

Once final handsewing was completed on my light woollen surcote, I wanted to make eyelets and cording with lucet for the rear fastening of my garment.  I have not learned how to make cord with a two-pronged implement.  I used a four-pronged Knitting Nancy or French Knitting tool when I was young.  The lucet was a challenge I was looking forward to.  I followed the following video tutorial and had success.  Now to make by cord and finish the garment. - Lady Tonya.


A lucet is a tool used in cordmaking or braiding. It is believed to have dated back to the Vikings and medieval times when it was used to create cords that were used on clothing, or to hang items from the belt. Lucet cord is square, strong, and slightly springy. It closely resembles knitted I-cord or the cord produced on a knitting spool. Lucet cord is formed by a series of loop like knots, and therefore will not unravel if cut. Unlike other braiding techniques such as kumihimo, finger-loop braiding or plaiting, where the threads are of a finite length, lucetted braids can be created without pre-measuring threads and so it is a technique suited for very long cords.

Archaeological finds and literary descriptions of lucets strongly suggest that its use declined after the 12th century, but was revived in the 17th century. Its use waned again in the early 19th century.

A modern lucet fork is normally made of wood, with two prongs at one end and a handle on the other. It may also have a hole through which the cord can be pulled. In contrast medieval lucets appear to be double-pronged, straight-sided implements, often made of bone. Some were shaped from hollowed bones, left tubular, presumably so that the cord could be drawn through the centre hole.

The only materials necessary to lucet are a length of yarn and a lucet fork, also called a lucet or a chain fork. However, one can also use skewer-like sticks to pull the yarn over in addition to this.

To cast on, the yarn is put through the hole in the lucet from the front, and the yarn in front of the lucet is wound around the prongs twice in a figure-of-eight. The two lower loops are then lifted over the two upper loops using either the fingers or a stick until they come over the horns, and the thread behind the lucet is pulled to tighten the knot. The process is then repeated, but this time only winding the yarn once around the prongs, as there is already a figure-of-eight on the fork. When the desired length is reached, the lucet can be cast off by carefully lifting the loops off the prongs, passing the remaining thread through them and pulling the knot tight. Any loose thread can be cut off with scissors or tied together to form a closed circle. The cord can be wrapped around the lucet handle as it grows.

*Note that this is only one technique. There are many techniques used for making lucet, all of which produce slightly different cords. It is also possible to produce a two-coloured cord by using two strands of yarn.

Lucet cord can be used for decorative edging, draw-strings, lacing, and any other use where a strong cord is needed.

Reference from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia.