Examples of hand embroidery have been found at various archaeological excavations dating back to at least the second millennium BC, although the art of embroidery probably goes back much further. One of the oldest surviving groups of embroideries comes from the tomb of the famous Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun (died c. 1323 BC).
Chancay open weave darning is a form of darned embroidery, in which the open weave gauze ground is decorated using both thick and thin white cotton threads. The outlines of the individual motifs are worked into the gauze ground. They are made with a thick thread that is looped and/or worked around the ground mesh intersections using a long stem stitch.
In general, the English term ‘darning’ refers to a sewing technique used for repairing holes or worn areas of a fabric. The term darning, however, can also refer to several decorative needlework techniques that use darning stitches (in this context the term used for running stitches or straight stitches). The main types of darning in this context are:
Embroidery is a late medieval English term derived from the French term ‘embrouder.’ By the sixteenth century the term ‘embroidery’ in English started to refer to rich materials that were embellished with stitches or decorated with appliqué. This form of work was generally free style in appearance. The person (male or female) who carried out this type of work was generally called an embroiderer.
Defining and cataloguing a piece of embroidery is always subjective and often depends on the reason why someone (artist, collector, producer, seller, user) is trying to define a particular object. For the purpose of this encyclopaedia it was regarded as necessary to at least attempt to present various definitions of embroidery styles and techniques that can be found throughout the world.
Many people regard embroidery as a craft, rather than an ‘art’. Consequently, embroidery is not often discussed alongside established 'high art’ forms, such as painting. Yet the degree of creativity, use of colour, subtle changes in design, emotional response to a particular setting or situation, all aspects attributed to ‘art’, can also be found in embroidery. It is an art form that uses a needle, a thread and other items, rather than a brush, paint, pen or pencil.
Faggoting is a technique of sewing two hemmed pieces of textile together with (decorative) stitching, creating a zigzag pattern, but leaving a narrow gap in between. Also known as twisted insertion stitch. It was particularly used in the nineteenth century for ladies' underwear.
Fish scale embroidery is a technique that was popular in nineteenth century Britain. The fish scales usually came from carp, goldfish or perch, as their scales were regarded as the most iridescent. Fish scale embroidery was worked on silk, satin or velvet ground cloth and the scales were used to imitate flower petals, bird feathers and butterfly wings.