Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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How Many Hand Embroidery Techniques Are There, Anyway?


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Have you wondered just how many hand embroidery techniques there are in the world? I love questions like this one that I received via e-mail, because they make me think, they send me looking, and, often, they make me laugh! There are lots of hand embroidery techniques. Lots and lots. More than I know, I’m pretty sure!! I’m going to attempt to develop a list here, hopefully with input from readers around the world!

First, though, let’s define some things, starting with the term hand embroidery. Embroidery is the embellishment of a ground (fabric, paper, leather, whatever…) using thread made out of various materials. Generally, embroidery implies using a needle and thread to embellish something. Hand embroidery is this kind of embellishment done without the aid of a machine – by hand, in other words!

Techniques are specific ways of doing things – in this case, types of hand embroidery. Some types overlap – for example, drawn thread work, and cutwork, and whitework are different types or techniques of embroidery, but often, in whitework, you’ll find elements of cutwork or drawn thread work. Hmmmm. Perhaps I’m biting off more than I can chew?

How many hand embroidery techniques are there?

Here’s my first un-alphabitized, uncategorized list right off the top of my head. I’m going to allow myself no more than 2 minutes to type, at which point, I’ll stop and see what’s there. See if you can supply techniques I miss!

Drawn Thread
Canvas Work (or needlepoint)
Assisi work
Cross Stitch (counted)
Thread or Needle painting (soft shading)
Needle lace
Klosterstitch (embroidered tapestry)
Crewel Work
Petit Point
Bead Embroidery
Paper Embroidery
Crazy Quilting
Free Style Embroidery
Filet Lace
Punchneedle Embroidery
Chicken Scratch
Ribbon Embroidery

Times up. I’m scratching my head. Some of these need categorizing! And some I’m laughing at because I’m not sure why they would pop in my head right now. Chicken Scratch? I know I wrote a post about it once upon a time, but I’ve never actually done any!

Anyway – how about it? What am I missing? Or what have I listed incorrectly? What about regional embroidery techniques?


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(28) Comments

  1. Brazilian
    long stitch
    pulled thread
    Japanese Rozashi
    shadow work
    trapunto (though that’s subject to interpretation)

  2. Indian embroidery is particular by area of the country.
    Chikankari, ordinary stitches used in extraordinary ways with superb skill. Usually white matte, heavy thread on white lawn or batiste or organdy. From Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India.
    Zardosi, or Zari, embroidery done with a crochet hook using fine wire thread and looks like chain stitch. India.
    Mirrorwork, again from India, from Rajasthan, incorporating mirrorwork and ordinary stitches such as buttonhole, satin and cross stitches, all executed in brilliant colours.
    Kashmiri, again from Indian, again ordinary stitches as listed for Rajasthan with the addition of herringbone, darning stich, knots (doorl), all depicting things found in nature and exquisitely rendered.
    Sitara, where sequins are incorporated into the embroidery.
    I could go on and on about stitchwork from India. Always ordinary stitches used in superbly crafted ways. Each region has its own speciality. A fascinating area of study.

  3. I had no idea there were so many different types or styles of embroidery! So many that I’d never heard of before!

    I had fun looking them up and finding pics that showed examples of finished works. It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite. In skillful hands they all produce something beautiful.

    Thanks for the list! – Jeannine

  4. I gave myself two minutes to write a list of ones not already on your list (struggled after I wrote down about half a dozen). Then crossed of any that were in the comments and am left with two

    Or nue

    Then of course there is Japanese Embroidery although I would say that is a style rather than a technique. It does however include a couple of techniques that I have not come across in other styles

    Fuzzy effect, were silk threads are couched into the valleys of the weft threads in a fabric.
    Superimposed, where motifs are stitched onto a background of laid stitches.

    Oh, I have just remembered bayeux work.

  5. Kogin (Japanese pattern darning)
    Temari (you didn’t say it had to be a flat surface!)
    Teneriffe (needle lace on a loom)

    Some specific types of whitework:
    Richielieu embroidery (sp?)
    broderie anglais

    I’ll keep thinking!

  6. There are several sub-categories for goldwork: someone has already mentioned Or Nue, and there is Opus Anglicanum (a medieval techneque using underside couching), and Tambor (which is a special passing thread called tambor couched over parchment or card).

    Also, the Royal School of Needlework’s goldwork technique uses a LOT of chipping, or cut peices of hollow gold threads, whereas the other (non-RSN and Japanese) goldwork I’ve seen usually uses mostly Japan or passing thread and very little chipping. I am tempted to put those two down as different catagories.

    What other sub-catagories have I missed? I know there are some…

  7. Oh please help us categorize. 🙂
    I guess, there should be like, a list of main categories, based on the stitch techniques(and not color, materials used or geographical origin). Under the stitch techniques, all kinds of embroidery names.
    …Or Vice Versa. The embroidery names (based on location and name the design is famous for) then description what stitches were used.

    For ex. Blackwork is backstitches. or Schwalm is a kind of whitework, using such and such stitches.

    I don´t know. lol! somebody should be out there doing this. I am so in love with embroidery techniques I need a list 🙂

  8. I know I’m wayyy late with this post, but I’m new to the world of embroidery.. but I just wanted to add Bunka Shishu.

  9. Hi Mary, I know this is an old post, but I didn’t see:

    Trapunto (but this could be called Stumpwork) Venetian Picots
    Smyrna Crosses…

    …in your list. I’ve only recently found your web site and I love it! Thank you.

    Some stitches include Brussels and Jessica stitches (not sure if these are techniques, though).

  10. Could you kindly give me some tips [or advice where to find them] on goblin stitching?
    I have always wanted to learn it but can’t find help anywhere.

  11. Tambour beading/embroidery
    Zardosi Embroidery

    I have also attempted Tambour beading on nylon bridal illusion/tulle. It is extraordinarily frustrating. I know “they” have somehow perfected doing this because every bridal shop carries veils beaded in this way-of course most of them are made in China. I keep trying to find a way.

    Love your site!

  12. Hi Mary
    I am a new member. I want to learn lots of things from your web site
    I love stump work, and of course there is a big list

  13. Here is an ALPHABETICAL list of embroidery types/styles. It is primarily ones offered here, from Mary Corbet’s article and the many comments over the years.
    Descriptions are included to help some of us. I stopped when my mobile quit accepting additional characters.

  14. Smocking (is mentioned in another comment), couching, laid work, red work, bead embroidery, faggoting.

    Tend to not count needlepoint as embroidery, but if needlepoint counts, presumably Florentine work should also.

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