Embroidery is a beautiful and creative way of embellishing a piece of fabric with stitches using threads or yarns. By its use, plain materials, home wares, clothing, in fact almost any cloth surface, can become a work of art. Sounds tricky? Images of painstaking hours of work hunched over a scrap of fabric? Well, think again! This is certainly a hobby to produce impressive results, but it is much more accessible and fun than you might have thought. It can be whatever you want it to be, and with a few basic techniques under your belt, you can produce a finished piece to be proud of in a short time.
The tradition of embroidery is old, at least 2000 years, but it is a universally found handicraft. Consequently it has many different forms and styles, being always open to new interpretations. Embroidery work can include other materials worked in with the thread or yarn, things like beads, sequins, natural objects, feathers and whatever else you wish to add. It can be as traditional or modern as you like, by hand or using a machine. I have seen some amazing machine stitched embroidery patches coming out of Nepal, scenes of mountains and psychedelia. The point is, embroidery is a hobby that is an art form, and in that sense, every bit as individual as you are.
Let's have a look at some of the ways that embroidery can be defined. One method is according to way the stitches are placed on the fabric. If they are not related to the weave of the fabric, such as crewel or Chinese embroidery, it is known as free embroidery. However, if the stitches are formed over a set number of threads in the base fabric, such as needlepoint or cross stitch, this is known as counted thread embroidery.
Another way of classifying embroidery is whether the stitches are on or through the fabric. Fancy stitching using laid thread is called surface embroidery, and this broad definition covers much in the free embroidery class, as well as some counted thread embroidery. Then there is canvas work in which the stitches are sewn right through a woven foundation cloth, totally obscuring the base. The printed designs giving guidelines and colours fall into this category, and any stitches can be used. Some forms of hand embroidery are also classed this way.
It is always good to get some inspiration when starting out, and the popularity of embroidery means there is a vast amount of information readily available. Find yourself a good sewing or craft shop where you can ask questions and get information. There is sure to be a group or class going on in your area, and don't forget the library and internet. Seeing what other people have achieved is always a good spur to do something new. It is the sort of hobby that endures a lifetime and suits a wide range of ages, and the potential for making beautiful items that can be enjoyed yourself or given as gifts is only limited by your own imagination.
Get going, keep at it, and let us know how you get on. We want you to feel the same passion about embroidery as a hobby as we do!