Embroidery is creating pictures and designs on fabric with needle and thread. Embroidery varies from simple outlining, such as designs common on flour sack dish towels and aprons, to more complex designs, complete with filled in patterns, for wall hangings, pillows and garments to wear.
Embroidery is an inexpensive artwork. Typically cotton floss is used on a variety of fabrics. A needle and hoop or frame and you’re ready to get started.
Many people consider all forms of needlework as embroidery. Cross stitch and needlepoint are not truly considered embroidery. These are counted thread work that follows a printed chart or grid to determine the exact placement of each stitch.
The oldest piece of embroidery was found in China and dates to around 1100 B.C. The ‘Silk Road’ between China and the rest of Asia and the Middle East was an opportunity of commerce that helped develop the art of finely embroidered textiles.
Embroidery needlework utilizes a variety of hundreds of different stitches and variations of these stitches. Some popular stitches include: back stitch, running stitch, straight stitch, blanket stitch, lazy daisy, French knot, chain stitch, satin stitch, seed stitch, stem stitch, feather stitch, couching stitch, split stitch, herringbone stitch and more.
The girls and women of Athelstan used a few stitches to embellish their appliquéd quilt blocks. Most used a back stitch, running stitch or straight stitch to add their names to their quilt blocks. A few added some additional embroidery embellishment to the appliquéd Sunbonnet Sue Overall Bill.
The hats or bonnets seemed to be the most popular place to add decorative details. Beverly Ruth Barnett used a simple outline stitch on her hat to define the brim from the hat. Katie Kemery used a blanket stitch to embellish the edge of her hat. Jean Marie Carroll’s block (possibly made by her mother since Jean Marie was 8 yrs old) embellished her hat with decorative stitching. The hat or bonnet on Jean Maries block varied from some of the other hats, reminiscent of a flapper’s hat from the 1920’s. Eva Marie Byrnes used several forms of creative stitching to decorate the hat for her daughter Leona’s (18 months old) quilt square.
Minnie Weese, making a block for her daughter Madelyn (age 7) used some of the most creative work. She used a running stitch for the name and to add some dimension to the unusual, almost sombrero type hat. A blanket stitch sets off the hand, since the same fabric was used as the pants. Some stem stitching sets of the pants on the figure which was set sideways and varied from the typical Overall Bill that the others used in the set. She also added two flowers to Madelyn’s block, using blanket stitches and stem stitches.
Embroidery, it stitches many lives together in unusual ways.