A Stitch in Time: Embroidery is the art of embellishing fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn. In various forms, this craft has existed since the production of fabric. While embroidery is practiced across the world, the origin is commonly associated with coming from China and the Near East dating back to the 5th century B.C. Early embroidery can also be traced back to Cro-Magnon days around 30,000 B.C. showing that primitive humankind discovered the stitches used to join animal skins together could also be used for embellishment. Archeological discoveries from this time period include fossilized remains of heavily hand-stitched and decorated clothing.
Around the 9th and 10th century, known as the Viking Age, early discoveries of embroidery have been found in Sweden. Embroidery really began to take off in Europe with the rise of the Christian church and monarchy around the year 1000. Intricately embellished garments, tapestries, and tablecloths were an important sign of power and wealth — and not just in Europe. In Medieval Islamic societies, embroidery was a sign of high social status in Muslim communities. At one point, it was even marked as a girl’s passage into womanhood and social standing in 18th century England and its colonies. Thankfully, the Industrial Revolution arrived and lead to the development of machine embroidery rendering the societal and gender stigmas associated with this hand-craft no longer relevant.
Today, embroidery is the perfect craft for everyone; young or old, poor or rich, beginner or expert — the only thing needed is a needle, thread, fabric, and a spare moment. Actor Henry Fonda revealed that during his nearly 50 years of acting his favorite hobby was embroidering between shots when filming in order to relax and pass the time.