The art of embroidery can be found throughout history, all across the world. It dates as far back as 30,000 BC China, where fossilized heavily hand stitched clothing was found.
A common thread across cultures is the use of embroidery to signify wealth and high social status.
India has a rich history with embroidery, with distinct styles originating in different regions. Designs are focused on texture and often feature beads and other embellishments. A well known example of Indian Embroidery is the Sari. The Sari is a draped garment that is most often associated with Indian culture although it is also worn in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Otomi Embroidery is a style of embroidery created by the Otomi People of Mexico. The Otomi People have been embroidering since pre-colonial times, but the style as we know it today came to be in the 1960's. The region was ravaged by famine and the Otomi People turned to the ancient craft as a means of income.
Designs are hand drawn on white cotton cloth and embroidered with a special satin stitch. Animals are a common motif in Otomi embroidery as they are thought to be bearers of important information.
Embroidery from the Victorian Era is similar to the societal structure of the time; embellished and structured. Being a skilled seamstress was a necessary skill for women to possess in order to secure a offer for marriage. Therefore learning embroidery was seen as a major piece of the journey from girlhood to womanhood.
The skill became so important that colleges began offering classes, lower class women would forgo reading and writing in order to learn how to embroider. Embroidery was one of the few trades that was not drastically altered by the industrial revolution. While the sewing machine changed the way functional sewing like mending and constructing was performed, it was not able to duplicate the intricate art of hand embroidery.
Since the beginning of Islam, embroidery has been an important art form. It offered symbolic protection for highly valued objects, including babies and religious items. Just as in Victorian Ages, Islamic Embroidery was a woman's job and being skilled at it was important to securing a husband.
Islamic Embroidery declined during the Industrial Revolution as colorful clothing became more readily available. Additionally, as young women were offered educational opportunites to build a future, instead of having to rely on marriage.
These are just a few examples of embroidery styles that have developed in different cultures and time periods. Check out Famous Embroidery from Around the World to discover other types of embroidery.
Embroidery and Women's Rights
As mentioned above, embroidery has almost always been a women's avocation, typically enforced by patriarchal societal norms. Women would meet in sewing groups as a guise to gossip and socialize . And since many women were unable to read or write they would use embroidery as a method of self expression and record keeping. For example, during the women's suffrage movement they would use this time to organize marches and embroider slogans onto flags and banners. This legacy continues today, feminist motifs and phrases are extremely common amongst those who practice the craft now.
Embroidery has seen a massive resurgence in recent years. Machine embroidery has become extremely popular for apparel and home goods while hand embroidery has picked up as a hobby for people of all ages.
Machine embroidery dates back to 1964. Of course there were no computers to design on so creators had to punch designs on paper tape to run through the machine. A single mistake could ruin the design and force the creator to start over.
In 1980 computerized embroidery hit the market. This allowed creators to make digital designs a single time that could be easily replicated on a variety of items. And thus embroidery became a staple in textile design.
Monday on Mars
All of our embroidery is designed by our very own Lucy Bieber. She spent 5 months creating designs and testing them on various shirts to get it just right. Our apparel is made to order and embroidered in house with one of our four embroidery machines. Because each machine can only hold 16 spools of thread Lucy had to be super strategic when threading the machines to make sure all the colours that need to be together are. This means we can spend less time switching out thread colours and more time creating awesome apparel.
- Written By Emily Piro