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The History of Embroidery


Embroidery is a skill that transcends geographic location and historical periods. Where people have lived, embroidery in one form or another has existed. Archeologists and historians have found examples of embroidery worldwide in cultures as diverse as Cro-Magnon, Viking, and Victorian England.


The earliest examples of embroidery date back to 30,000 BCE and the Cro-Magnons. There is evidence that these early hunter-gatherers not only wore clothing of tanned hides but also of woven grasses and barks.


Just like us, they liked to decorate their attire. Early embroidery allowed for the decoration of early clothing.


From this point, we know that embroidery spread across the globe. Every early civilization had its own form of decorative sewing. Early China, India, and Egypt have shown archeological examples of embroidery.


Although we don’t have any actual examples, we have existing paintings depicting the wearing of embroidered clothing and the embroidering of furniture.


The earliest existing examples of embroidery come from Scythia and are dated between the 3rd and 5th Centuries BCE. For examples from the British Museum, click here.


In the early centuries of the Current Era, we find a rapid expansion of embroidery. As textile clothing became widespread, people found ways to decorate the clothing. Different cultures approached the practice differently. Some used geometric patterns while others used the fabric as a tapestry to depict scenes and subjects from their lives.


For centuries embroidery was an art form equated to wealth.


As embroidery was not necessary, it became more of a pastime and a demonstration of wealth. However, this began to change around the Crusades as war and travel brought embroidered goods to Europe.


This led to an expansion of existing embroidery techniques in northern Europe and as the years passed, English and French embroidery turned into a cottage industry.


By the 17th Century, embroidery had become so common that people began publishing how-to guides to teach different stitching techniques and even offering templates for common motifs in pattern books.


With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the invention of the hand embroidery machine allowed for the mass production of embroidered goods.


This advent reduced the individual flair of embroidery but made it readily available for purchase at a more affordable price. Making embroidered goods available to all reduced the value of hand-embroidered goods.


Now, in the 21st Century, embroidery falls into two main categories: cottage industry, hand-sewn embroidery that is generally viewed as a hobby, and mass-produced, computer-guided embroidery available at local department stores.


Embroidery has come a long way in the centuries since the first person decided to embroider a little animal or plant onto their cloak. It has passed through the decorative art of the ruling class to the point where we can order custom embroidered hats for our kid’s hockey team.


Find the Best Custom Embroidered Clothing and Gifts


If you’re looking for the best custom embroidered apparel, gifts, or even pet accessories, you’ll find it at 1StitchAtaTimeShop.


Do you have an idea in mind? Click the Start Designing button on our homepage, or click here to go to our Custom Shop.


Questions? Contact us today!

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