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The Origins Of Embroidery And How It Has Changed – Embroidery History

Embroidery is a stunning art form that has been around for centuries. Known for beautifully decorating fabrics with precise and high-quality designs, this art form has been around for decades. Embroidery history is truly fascinating. In recent years, the power of embroidery has progressed dramatically thanks to advances in technology. From delicate hand-stitching, to the creation of machines that can complete a task effortlessly.

Embroidery has come a long way but is still definitely the most premium form of personalisation. Here we will dive into a brief history of embroidery to gain a greater appreciation of this beautiful art form.

Ancient Origins – Embroidery History

Embroidery is an ancient art form. Practiced across the world, it originally stems from China and the Middle East. Archaeologists have found fossilized remains of hand-stitched and decorated clothing items, boots and even hats dating from 30,000 BC.

In Sweden, evidence of embroidery dates all the way back to the 9th and 10th centuries. These early embroidery finds come from the Viking Age.

Embroidery started to rise in popularity in Europe around the year 1000. Its sudden popularity was due to the growth of the Christian church and the rise of the monarchies. The rich commissioned highly decorated garments and ornaments, such as wall hangings. People believed these embroidered items displayed power and wealth.

History Of Hand Embroidery

Embroidery History hand

Hand embroidery has always been a highly desired skill. Though it does have its practical purposes, it is all about decorative designs. What started as simple patchwork and repairs soon blossomed into elaborate designs.

Skills with a needle and thread were considered an essential part of a young woman’s education. From the basics to more advanced and detailed designs, young women learned embroidery from a young age.

Hand-stitched embroidered objects were especially popular amongst the upper classes. Clothing, religious objects, and household items marked wealth and high status. The fabrics used varied from place to place. Traditional embroidery uses wool, linen, and silk threads.

Hand-stitched embroidery was very popular, however, dwindled in popularity with the introduction of machine embroidery in the 1800s.

From Hand To Machine

Embroidery has advanced immensely in recent years. Moving from hand embroidery to machines, creating beautifully detailed embroidered items has never been easier.

The history of machine embroidery is quite remarkable. The first machine was used in private homes and needed to be operated by two people. Schiffli machines later replaced these hand machines. This machine used two threads instead of a single thread. It was also 20 times faster than the previous model.

The chain stitch machine was invented in 1855. This marked the start of the mass production of embroidered materials. Finally, it was patented in the US two years later. And no later than 1858, it was becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between hand and machine-stitched embroidery. This shows how fast embroidery was evolving.

Fast forward to the 21st-century and embroidery is almost effortless. Thanks to technology and the digitization of embroidery, the whole process is faster and simpler. Embroidery techniques may have changed but the quality of the materials used remains key. Embroidery adds depth and significance to a piece of fabric, creating a timeless design.

The Uses And Purpose Of Embroidery

The uses of embroidery have been dependent on a number of factors: time, location, and materials. Embroidery can be used to tailor, patch, mend and reinforce fabrics as well as to decorate items.

Starting as a means to enforce fabrics, it later became a statement of luxury. Due to its intricate nature, and the skill and time needed in order to effectively execute, embroidery became a way to display power and wealth.

Many cultures use embroidery to portray important life events and signify their cultural identity. For example, in India, traditionally, the bride’s grandmother will embellish the wedding shawl. In China, embroidered birds signify the ranking of officials.

Embroidery Today


Today, embroidery is far more advanced than it was in the past. Computerized embroidery machines that use selected digitized patterns are the preferred method.

The computer downloads and digitizes your embroidery designs. The machine then translates this design onto the fabrics to create your finished product. The computer can store multiple designs onto the system. This process can be used repeatedly to produce identical copies or slight variations. The ease of embroidery has made it increasingly popular with small businesses.

Commonly used to add logos and monograms to clothes, gifts and uniforms, embroidery is also popular for decorating household linens and decorations. Many also still opt for hand-stitched embroidery as a relaxing hobby. However, hand-stitched is not time or cost-effective. Due to technological advancements, hand-stitched embroidery is rare when it comes to retail products, but makes a great hobby or unique gift.

Create Personalised Embroidered Gifts

Now you know all about embroidery and its history and have a newfound appreciation for the craft, why not create your own personalised embroidered gifts?

Create luxury items unique to them with our bespoke range of beautifully embroidered gifts. To keep or give as a gift, either way, you will love our range of embroidered presents at Bags of Love. Click the banner to discover more.

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