One thing you realise pretty quickly when you join the embroidery world, is that there's so much more to it than you first realised! Some of these techniques share equipment, materials and stitches, while others are pretty specialist. Which technique will you try next?
Cross-stitch is where many people start their embroidery journey. In this technique, you stitch small crosses to create a larger image. Almost like the pixels in a digital photograph. These images can be quite simple or very complex. It is usually done on aida fabric - a type of canvas where the holes are already laid out for you. Cross-stitch is one of the 'counted stitch' techniques as you count the number of crosses or stitches you do in each colour or pattern.
Canvaswork is very similar to cross-stitch. In fact, cross-stitch is one of the stitches we use in canvaswork. Again, you count your stitches worked on a canvas where the holes are laid out for you. However with canvaswork there are many different stitches used to create different patterns and textures. Needlepoint is another name for canvaswork. Traditionally stitched with wool, it was often used in furniture and bag making.
Blackwork is another counted stitch technique. It is usually worked on linen (such as Belfast or Dublin linens) or a tight-weave aida. Geometric patterns are created by straight, counted stitches.
Historically it was used on the sleeves and collars of clothing and thought to have originated in Spain. As the name would suggest, it is traditionally done in black thread, but modern patterns include much more colour. Blackwork has also developed to depict shading and density to convey more realistic subject matters.
You can try out my blackwork kit here.
Crewelwork is one of the oldest styles of embroidery, dating back at least 1000 years. It is the closest technique to what we consider 'embroidery' today. Patterns are drawn on the fabric and filled in using a wide range of stitches - traditionally stitched in wool onto linen twill.
You may have heard it called 'Jacobean Crewelwork' before. This refers to the stylised crewelwork of 17th century England which often depict tree of life designs with large leaves and plants alongside small animals.
The most famous piece of crewelwork is The Bayeux Tapestry.
I also have a Crewelwork inspired kit if you'd like to try a modern twist on the old technique.
Silk shading is also known as thread painting, because of the fine blended detail of the stitching looking almost like a painting from a distance. It is most often used to depict natural subjects such as flowers, fruit and animals. Traditionally stitched in silk, a large number of colours and shades are blended together through long and short stitch.
This technique is stitched with silk ribbons instead of threads. The ribbons come in different widths, but generally 4mm, 7mm and 13mm are the most popular. Many 'regular' embroidery stitches are used in this technique, but there are some stitches specific to ribbon work. The thickness of the ribbons also means that the work has a more raised effect than most embroidery techniques.
You can try out this technique with my Ribbon Heart kit.
Whitework embroidery is an umbrella term for a number of styles done using white threads on white fabric. These include:
- Mountmellick - using threads of different thickness to create textured patterns and knotted stitches.
- Broderie Anglaise - the main feature of this technique are eyelets - round holes cut out from the fabric and reinforced with stitching. This gives an effect almost like lace.
- Drawn Thread work - threads from either the warp or the weft are removed and the remaining threads are gathered at different points to create patterns and designs.
- Hardanger - uses a mixture of counted thread and drawn thread techniques.
- Ayrshire work - uses a mixture of drawn thread and needlelace techniques to give a lace effect.
- Shadow work - this technique is worked on a sheer fabric so that both sides of the stitching can be seen. One side will show the outlines, with the 'shadow' of the opposite side visible.
- Pulled work - tension is used to drawn the threads of the fabric together, creating patterns and holes without cutting.
Goldwork, as the name suggests, is created using a variety of metallic threads and wires. Originally associated with royalty and religion because of it's expensive, luxurious qualities. The term 'goldwork' is often used to describe stitching with silver, copper and imitation metals also. These threads and wires are often stitched to the surface using another thread (cotton or silk) in a technique called couching.
You can get a taste for goldwork with this Or Nué kit.
Stumpwork, or raised embroidery, is a style that creates 3D effects through stitch. This can mean the stitching comes out from the base fabric to create a 3D image, or it can be a completely free-standing thread sculpture. Many of the techniques mentioned above can be adapted for stumpwork. The technique became very popular in 17th century England, often used to depict scenes on a box or casket.