The have been dated to the Warring States period (5th-3rd century BC). 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. In a garment from Migration period Sweden, roughly 300–700 CE, the edges of bands of trimming are reinforced with running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, tailor's buttonhole stitch, and whipstitching, but it is uncertain whether this work simply reinforces the seams or should be interpreted as decorative embroidery.
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.
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, Wasli, 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."
Embroidery was a very important art in the Medieval Islam World, one of the most interesting accounts of embroidery were given by 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 a hugely popular art. 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. Many craftsmen embroidered with gold and silver. And each of these embroidery cottage industries employed over 800 people.
Detail of embroidered silk gauze ritual garment. Rows of even, round chain stitch used for outline and color. 4th century BC, Zhou tomb at Mashan, Hubei, China.
English cope, late 15th or early 16th century. Silk velvet embroidered with silk and gold threads, closely laid and couched. Contemporary Art Institute of Chicago textile collection.
Traditional Turkish embroidery. Izmir Ethnography Museum, Turkey.
Traditional Croatian embroidery.
Brightly-coloured Korean embroidery.
Uzbekistan embroidery on a traditional women's parandja robe.
Traditional Peruvian embroidered floral motifs.
Woman wearing a traditional embroidered Kalash headdress, Pakistan.
Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects, and household items have been a mark of wealth and status in many cultures including ancient Persia, India, China, Japan, Byzantium, and medieval and Baroque Europe. Traditional folk techniques are passed from generation to generation in cultures as diverse as northern Vietnam, Mexico, and eastern Europe. Professional workshops and guilds arose in medieval England. The output of these workshops, called Opus Anglicanum or "English work," was famous throughout Europe.
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