Gold embroidery on an gognots (apron) of a 19th-century Armenian bridal dress from Akhaltsikhe.

Embroidery is the craft of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn.

Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. In modern days, embroidery is usually seen on caps, hats, coats, blankets, dress shirts, denim, dresses, stockings, and golf shirts. Embroidery is available with a wide variety of thread or yarn color.

Some of the basic techniques or stitches of the earliest embroidery are chain stitch, buttonhole or blanket stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch. Those stitches remain the fundamental techniques of hand embroidery today.


Traditional embroidery in chain stitch on a Kazakh rug, contemporary.
Caucasian embroidery


The process used to tailor, patch, mend and reinforce cloth fostered the development of sewing techniques, and the decorative possibilities of sewing led to the art of embroidery.[1] Indeed, the remarkable stability of basic embroidery stitches has been noted:

It is a striking fact that in the development of embroidery ... there are no changes of materials or techniques which can be felt or interpreted as advances from a primitive to a later, more refined stage. On the other hand, we often find in early works a technical accomplishment and high standard of craftsmanship rarely attained in later times.[2]

The art of embroidery has been found worldwide and several early examples have been found. Works in China have been dated to the Warring States period (5th–3rd century BC).[3] In a garment from Migration period Sweden, roughly 300–700 AD, the edges of bands of trimming are reinforced with running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, tailor's buttonhole stitch, and whip-stitching, but it is uncertain whether this work simply reinforced the seams or should be interpreted as decorative embroidery.[4]

Ancient Greek mythology has credited the goddess Athena with passing down the art of embroidery along with weaving, leading to the famed competition between herself and the mortal Arachne.[5]

Historical applications and techniques

Depending on time, location and materials available, embroidery could be the domain of a few experts or a widespread, popular technique. This flexibility led to a variety of works, from the royal to the mundane.

Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects, and household items often were seen as a mark of wealth and status, as in the case of Opus Anglicanum, a technique used by professional workshops and guilds in medieval England.[6] In 18th-century England and its colonies, samplers employing fine silks were produced by the daughters of wealthy families. Embroidery was a skill marking a girl's path into womanhood as well as conveying rank and social standing.[7]

Conversely, embroidery is also a folk art, using materials that were accessible to nonprofessionals. Examples include Hardanger from Norway, Merezhka from Ukraine, Mountmellick embroidery from Ireland, Nakshi kantha from Bangladesh and West Bengal, and Brazilian embroidery. Many techniques had a practical use such as Sashiko from Japan, which was used as a way to reinforce clothing.[8][9]

The Islamic world

Morocco fly mask embroidery, 18th–19th century

Embroidery was an important art in the Medieval Islamic world. The 17th-century Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi called it the "craft of the two hands". Because embroidery was a sign of high social status in Muslim societies, it became widely popular. In cities such as Damascus, Cairo and Istanbul, embroidery was visible on handkerchiefs, uniforms, flags, calligraphy, shoes, robes, tunics, horse trappings, slippers, sheaths, pouches, covers, and even on leather belts. Craftsmen embroidered items with gold and silver thread. Embroidery cottage industries, some employing over 800 people, grew to supply these items.[10]

In the 16th century, in the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, his chronicler Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak wrote in the famous Ain-i-Akbari: "His majesty (Akbar) pays much attention to various stuffs; hence Irani, Ottoman, and Mongolian articles of wear are in much abundance especially textiles embroidered in the patterns of Nakshi, Saadi, Chikhan, Ari, Zardozi, Wastli, Gota and Kohra. The imperial workshops in the towns of Lahore, Agra, Fatehpur and Ahmedabad turn out many masterpieces of workmanship in fabrics, and the figures and patterns, knots and variety of fashions which now prevail astonish even the most experienced travelers. Taste for fine material has since become general, and the drapery of embroidered fabrics used at feasts surpasses every description."[11]


Hand-made embroidery – Székely Land, 2014

The development of machine embroidery and its mass production came about in stages in the Industrial Revolution. The first embroidery machine was the Hand-Embroidery Machine, invented in France in 1832 by Josué Heilmann.[12] The machine used a combination of machine looms and teams of women embroidering the textiles by hand.[13] The manufacture of machine-made embroideries in St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland flourished in the latter half of the 19th century.[14]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Borduurwerk
Ænglisc: Blēocræft
العربية: تطريز
azərbaycanca: Tikmə
беларуская: Вышыўка
български: Бродиране
brezhoneg: Broderezh
català: Brodat
Чӑвашла: Тĕрĕ
čeština: Vyšívání
Cymraeg: Brodwaith
dansk: Broderi
Deutsch: Sticken
español: Bordado
Esperanto: Brodado
euskara: Brodatu
فارسی: گل‌دوزی
français: Broderie
한국어: 자수 (공예)
Bahasa Indonesia: Bordir
íslenska: Útsaumur
italiano: Ricamo
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಕಸೂತಿ
kurdî: Nimûş
Кыргызча: Саймачылык
Latina: Acupictura
magyar: Hímzés
Malti: Rakkmu
मराठी: भरतकाम
Bahasa Melayu: Seni tekat
Nederlands: Borduren
日本語: 刺繍
norsk: Broderi
norsk nynorsk: Broderi
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Kashta
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਕਢਾਈ
polski: Hafciarstwo
português: Bordado
română: Broderie
русский: Вышивание
sicilianu: Raccamu
Simple English: Embroidery
سنڌي: ڀرت
српски / srpski: Вез
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Vez
suomi: Kirjonta
svenska: Broderi
Türkçe: Nakış
українська: Вишивання
Tiếng Việt: Thêu
吴语: 刺绣
粵語: 刺繡
中文: 刺绣