If the words “Hand Embroidery” make you think of a gift from Granny in days gone by, here’s some great and colorful news. Hand embroidery – the craft of decorating fabric using needles with thread or yarn – is a vibrant practice still being done by people of all ages all over the world including right here in the America. Cultures as diverse as Latvia, Mexico and Hungary are a few of the many places on earth where hand embroidery is still a thriving craft. Pictured above is an example of embroidery from France.
Historians have found embroidery that dates all the way back to the 5th Century BC in China. As far back as then, people had discovered that the hand stitches that were used to create, tailor and mend garments, could be used in a decorative fashion as well. Incredibly, the basic stitches of embroidery that are used today – chain stitch, blanket stitch, running stitch and cross stitch – can be seen on examples of the earliest embroidery. And those very stitches are still seen on modern garments like the colorful peasant blouse from Mexico seen below.Embroidery is generally done using an embroidery hoop. This allows the fabric being used to remain flat and makes it easier for the person working to move their needle above and below. Hoops are generally circular but can sometimes be oval or square.One country where you will find embroidery as a central and thriving art is Guatemala. There, the distinctive coloring and embroidered designs are put on everything from clothing to purses to home linens. Mayan women in Guatemala create garments that are made from two kinds of handwork – weaving and embroidery. It is common in many Guatemalan cities to see women sitting in doorways selling their wares. They often have just a few pieces for sale and each work is unique and represents hours of work. Hand embroidery is a principal way that Mayan women adorn their clothing, confirm their heritage and make money for their families.Hand embroidery is an act of creative expression that can be done by people of all ages. In fact, some of the finest examples of hand embroidery are made by elderly women who have been practicing the craft all their lives.Hand embroidering is a wonderful way to create adornment for any kind of garment or household linen that is truly one of a kind. If you’re interested in giving it a try, there are affordable online classes at Craftsy.com. There you will find wonderful lessons on all the basic hand embroidery stitches as well as instructions in how to create your own patterns.
Lorne Holden is an artist, author and educator. Her book “MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done” will inspire you to embroider or dive into doing anything that makes your heart beat fast. Check it out!