Fine stitching not just a woman’s preserve – earliest practitioners were men

MOST people associate embroidery with a boring way to fill up a housewife’s daily life.

The uninteresting procedure of producing a stitched picture on a cloth may seem to many of the uninitiated a sheer waste of time. However, once you learn more about it, you may come to discover how fascinating it is.

To begin with, embroidery has a long history, which dates back to more than 3000 years BC. It is probably the first form of art, as man started using decoration with aesthetic purposes as early as the invention of the needle and thread themselves.

What is more: you may not be aware but actually embroidery was a man’s invention, not a woman’s. In ancient cultures from every part of the world, embroidery was regarded as a priority only for the chosen and talented boys.

The embroiderers-to-be had to study the fine craft under the supervision of a master.

It took them more than 10 years’ apprenticeship until they were approved to practise on their own.

Embroidery has not only a long history. The most amazing fact is that it had evolved simultaneously in almost every part of the world where people practised sewing.

Different cultures formed different embroidery types.

The development of needlework also depended on the various materials used by a certain culture. The styles of embroidery, which different nations invented, were passed on from generation to generation and many of them have survived till the present.

We know of embroidery work practised by the ancient Egyptians. It was done with white threads on a white canvas. This embroidery is so sophisticated that even nowadays the modern technologies have difficulty emulating it.

Another type of finest quality was Chinese silk embroidery, known as two-sided embroidery. It is amazingly intricate and takes years of hard work to complete. Also famous is “raised” embroidery, practised in the 16th century. Better known as Elizabethan embroidery, it involved stitching decorations like butterflies, leaves and other beautiful designs and the inclusion of wool, leather and wood padding.

Still popular today is Western European embroidery called crewel. This technique uses two-ply wool stitching on linen twill and is employed in decorating various household cloths, such as counterpanes, wall hangings, draperies, chair coverings.

These embroidery styles are extremely difficult to produce and many people lose their patience before completing one canvas.

Nowadays, even the clumsiest novice can try to stitch something beautiful using computer software or high-tech sewing machines.

Artistic embroiderers, however, tend to prefer authenticity and still spend time doing everything themselves.

The finest details cannot be produced by technologically based machines, because embroidery is most of all a genre of art, and all art needs its talented artists.” © Google

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