Updated on January 9, 2023 by Sarina Tariq
When I started embroidery, all I knew was the stem stitch and satin stitch. I made many embroidery designs with these basic stitches. The nun who taught this introduced me to a wonderful world of colors and designs – I was like Alice, who did not know where to ‘stop’ looking in her new world. There are so many stitches, techniques, and designs – I am still looking and not stopping anytime soon.
Other than the regular embroidery stitches, hand embroidery is categorized according to the way they are done, into 4-5 broad categories, so far as I can tell. Open work, counted thread work, outline work & void work and then the colored work and regional-specific embroidery work. They are then mixed, crossed, combined, and joined together to make spectacular embroidery designs; Let us go into specifics.
Names of different embroidery techniques around the world
1. Open work
Open work involves work in which thread is drawn from the fabric, and the remaining thread is tied in many different patterns leaving open spaces in the fabric which form a pattern/ design of its own. Drawn thread embroidery, pulled thread embroider, and cutwork are examples of all open work.
2. Counted thread work
Counted thread embroidery technique involves counting the thread in the fabric for each stitch so that symmetrical stitches are formed. Cross stitch is one of the most popular counted thread embroidery techniques; Blackwork is another one.
3. Outline work
4. Void work
Void technique of embroidery fills the background of the design instead of the design. This creates a negative design which is striking. Assisi work is a void work embroidery technique.
5. Raised work
This refers to a raised/padded embroidery done to form a dimensional effect; Zardosi work, and Laid work are examples.
The whitework embroidery technique refers to all work done on white fabric with white embroidery floss. This is also known as French Laid work. This encompasses many types of embroidery techniques like shadow work, broderie Anglaise, etc. More on white work can be found here.
The main embroidery techniques can be further categorized as follows:
7. Needle weaving
Needle weaving embroidery technique is also called Persian openwork. This work involved drawing thread from the fabric ( either weft or warp thread), and then the remaining thread is woven with a thicker thread with darning or re-weaving patterns. The open thread is overcast with decorative stitches.
8. Candlewicking embroidery
Candlewicking is a type of embroidery in which the full design is filled with knot stitches done with heavy thread on muslin; it is a white work embroidery technique which uses white thread to embroider. A series of colonial knots are done on the lines of the design. This work is almost always done on unbleached muslin with white floss.
9. Crazy Patchwork embroidery
In this embroidery technique, small fabric pieces are assembled on another base fabric. They are arranged as per your aesthetics, and then the seams are worked with decorative hand or machine stitches.
The applique technique is used along with the decorative stitching for a greater effect. You can use any stitch you want to embellish your design – that is the beauty of crazy patchwork. It is used mainly to embellish quilts. Read more on Patchwork here.
10. Shadow work
Shadow embroidery involves mostly herringbone stitches used on the back of transparent or semitransparent fabrics so that the shadow of the work is visible on the face of the fabric in a subtle but beautiful manner. Checkout the shadow work tutorial here
11. Broderie Anglaise
Broderie Anglaise technique is also called eyelet embroidery.
This is an openwork embroidery technique similar to cutwork in which the fabric is cut, and then stitches are made on the design lines. Satin stitches and cutwork combine to produce a beautiful open lace-like look to designs. Checkout the Broderie Anglaise tutorial here
12. Redwork embroidery
As the name suggests, Redwork involves stitching designs in red coloured embroidery thread against a white/cream fabric. The outlines were worked with any of the outline stitches like the stem stitch, back stitch, split stitch etc. Read more on Redwork here.
13. Dotting work
Small dots are worked with white thread on muslin.
14. Fish scale embroidery
This embroidery uses scales of fishes like goldfish or perch to fill embroidery designs. This embroidery was usually done on velvet and other rich fabric . The fish scale was prepared and then holes are made at the base of each fish scale for it to be stitched on the fabric.
15. Pattern Darning
This technique uses parallel rows of darning stitches in different lengths. Checkout the pattern darning tutorial here.
16. Hardanger embroidery
Hardanger embroidery is a beautiful counted embroidery technique which involves making small cutwork in between kolster blocks made with satin stitch. You can use pearl cotton embroidery floss to make these blocks and cut spaces in between with sharp scissors. Checkout the hardanger embroidery tutorial here
17. Hedebo Embroidery
This is a whitework embroidery technique similar to cutwork. The embroidered fabric resembles lace, so it is often called embroidered lace.
18. Blackwork embroidery
Named so because of the way it was originally done with black embroidery thread on white fabric. It is a very old technique. The main stitch used in this embroidery technique is double running stitch (also called Holbein stitch). Checkout the blackwork tutorial here
This is a reversible work in that, the back and the front look the same.
This counted thread embroidery technique creates repetitive motifs which are mostly geometric. Kasuti Embroidery (India) is a similar work.
As the name suggests this work uses metal threads in many colors like gold, silver, copper to stunning effect.
Gold thread is used to make outline, flat, and raised designs. This is usually used along with other stitches to complete the design or used on its own.
20. Tambour work /Aari work
Also known as Aari embroidery, this type of chain stitch embroidery technique uses an Ari hook to make a chain stitch. The Ari hook makes the chains stitch by catching the thread from the back of the fabric, creating the loop of the chain stitch. This hook results in fast chain stitching. The hook is also called a tambour hook or a Luneville hook. Check out this post on Aari embroidery to know more about this work.
In India, this work is also known as Zalakdozi and is extensively used in products made in Kashmir. Semiprecious stones, crystals, and kundan (stones set with cast gold) are added to the work for beautiful sparkle.
Check out the post on Chain stitch embroidery for more details and 5 commonly motifs used in this work
21. Zardosi work
Zardosi is a special type of metal thread that is shaped like a spiral tube. This is usually done on silk or velvet fabrics and was patronized by the royals of India. At present this work is increasingly used in Indian garments especially wedding wear. The 3 Dimensional looks of the raised metal threads and the sheen and luster of the spiral zardosi thread make this work stunning. Checkout the post on zardosi embroidery work here for more details
This technique uses insertion stitches between two pieces of fabric joining them. The decorative nature of the stitches creates a beautiful pattern. This type of stitching was popularly used in lingerie in heirloom stitching. Read more on Faggoting stitches here.
22. Pulled thread work
Pulled thread work is a counted thread work in which the thread of the fabric is pulled with embroidery stitches and holes are created as part of the design. Thin cotton cloth is used for this embroidery.
Check out the post on Pulled thread embroidery work for more details on this, and the 5 commonly used stitches in this work.
23. Cross stitch embroidery
This is a very popular counted thread embroidery technique in which x-shaped stitches are made to fill the design. Checkout the tutorial for cross stitch
24. Drawn thread work
This embroidery technique involves drawing threads from the fabric( weft threads / warp threads ) and creative decorative stitches over the remaining threads. Checkout the tutorial for drawn thread work (2 methods)
25. Chikankari embroidery
This is an Indian version of shadow embroidery. This work involves a lot of other stitches other than the herringbone stitch, like a zig-zag stitch, pulled thread work, knot stitches, etc. The work is done on thin cotton fabric with white embroidery thread. Checkout the detailed tutorial for chikankari here
26. Sashiko embroidery
This is a Japanese embroidery technique which uses running stitches in beautiful patterns. Checkout the detailed tutorial for Sashiko here
27. Chicken scratch embroidery
This embroidery involves doing cross stitches on gingham cloth( checked fabric). Checkout the chicken scratch embroidery tutorial here
28. Canvas work / needle point
The needle point is an embroidery technique that is done on canvas or cloth with stitches filling the design.
Persian wool is used to do the stitches. This is usually worked on an open weave canvas fabric (18 point). The colors are blended in this work to create a realistic effect. Gros point embroidery is canvas done with large needlepoint stitches.
29. Laid work embroidery
This embroidery is very similar to couching. In couching, we lay one thread, and then it is stitched onto the fabric. In this work, two or three layers of threads are stitched onto the base fabric. The first layer of thread is laid out parallel to each other, filling the design, and then another layer of thread is laid over it, crossing the first set. Small stitches are then used to attach the threads to the base fabric.
30. Silk ribbon embroidery
This embroidery is done with silk/ synthetic ribbon threaded on a needle instead of embroidery floss. Most of the kits for silk ribbon embroidery have designs printed on fabric, and you can do ribbon work on this. The 3-dimensional effect of this embroidery is phenomenal.
31. Crewel embroidery
This embroidery uses crewel wool to work the designs on linen; Another name for Jacobean embroidery
32. Mountmellick work
This is a type of embroidery that uses white embroidery thread on white fabric and uses raised or padded stitches. The work was developed in Ireland.
The use of varying thicknesses of thread creates a beautifully textured effect. Not much work is evident on the back of the fabric – most of the stitches are visible on the face of the fabric. It is also known as fine white work and refers to delicate work done on two layers of fine linen with a layer of the net in between.
Different techniques like drawn thread work and open work as well as net darning are done on the fabric
33. Net embroidery
Net embroidery is embroidery done on net fabric – It is a skill of its own to embroider on the net. The see-through, open nature of the net makes it a challenge. You will have to ensure that there are no knots or backstitches; then, drawing the design on the net is another challenge to be mastered.
This embroidery also involves net applique. Filet embroidery or Lacis embroidery is a net embroidery that involves the use of darning stitches and knots.
Carrickmacross is another embroidery done on the net that makes the most beautiful lace.
This is a kind of padded embroidery with a 3 D look. This work combines silk work, goldwork, counted work, flat & raised stitching, bead work, padding and needlelace to create the effect of projection and texture.
35. Blue work
This is a type of embroidery which is done with blue thread against a background of white fabric .
This involves laying a thick yarn thread on a base fabric and then using embroidery stitches over it. Checkout the different ways of doing couching here
37. Fes Style Embroidery
Fes is a place in Morocco where this style originated. This style uses double-running stitches to outline the designs.
38. Huckaback embroidery (Swedish embroidery)
This is a type of darned embroidery done with silk floss on huckaback cloth; it is also called popcorn embroidery because of the shape of the design formed. Learn more about huckaback embroidery here.
39. Bargello embroidery
This is a type of vivid embroidery with a shading effect. Also called Florentine or flame embroidery. The stitch used is also called the same. Long straight, vertical stitches are used to create geometric and zigzag designs. It is usually done on canvas.
40. Badla work
Badla is a form of metal thread embroidery made with short, flattened metal strips that are wrapped and knotted around the threads of a fabric or net.
Cutwork embroidery is a technique in which fabric is cut between embroidery stitches. The design lines are drawn as a double line, and then they are overcast with different stitches like overcast buttonholes, etc. Then the in-between spaces are cut out. Renaissance cutwork and Reticella cutwork are different forms of this work with varying degrees of open cutwork in between.
42. Ayrshire cutwork
This involves bigger cutwork done along with satin stitch, eyelets and needlelace fillings. This work was developed in Ireland and hence the name
43. Richelieu cutwork
This is a cutwork technique using eyelets and ladders.
44. Phulkari work
This is a counted thread embroidery work which is famous in India. It is a trousseau embroidery for most Indian brides. A darning stitch is used to fill the designs with silk embroidery floss.
Checkout the phulkari embroidery tutorial here
45. Assisi embroidery
This work is a combination of void work as well as counted thread work. Cross stitch is the main stitch used as well as herringbone stitch. This work uses mainly red and black thread – red for filling designs and black for outlining with stem stitches. Only the background is embroidered and the pattern is left plain and in outline.
46. Passementerie work
This involves use of cords and braids to decorate the fabric in the form of elaborate trimmings and edgings.Tassels and fringes are a form of passementerie.
47. Chancay Open Weave Darning
This is a work in which an open weave fabric (like gauze) is embroidered with thick as well as thin embroidery thread. The outlines are worked with the thick tread and the inner work is done in zig zag stitches filling the design with thin thread. A stem stitch is used to make the outlines.
48. Punched Embroidery
Also called needle punching this involves filling the designs with small loops ; these loops are made with a special needle punching tool.
49. Tapestry Needlework
This is a type of embroidery done on canvas with tapestry wool.
This is an embroidery technique in which fabric pieces cut out in the shape of designs are embroidered into a base fabric. The three main categories of applique work are Overlaid applique, Inlaid applique and reverse applique.
51. Eyelet Embroidery (Madeira embroidery)
This type of embroidery uses eyelets all over the fabric. Checkout the tutorial to make different types of eyelets here
52. Bead Embroidery
This involves stitching beads to the surface of the fabric. Checkout the commonly used bead embroidery stitches here
53. Petite point embroidery
Petite point is embroidery done on petite point canvas with tent stitch – it uses wool or embroidery thread and creates a beautifully detailed and shaded effect.
54. Needle Painting
This refers to a technique of filling the design with straight stitches (long and short stitches as well as same-length straight stitches) in a shading way with different shades of the same color. Checkout the tutorial for doing needle painting here.
55. Arrasene embroidery
An embroidery work which results in a raised pattern like that of chenille fabric.
56. Shisha work /Aabla embroidery
This refers to a mirror embroidery from Indian state of Gujarat. Check out this post on mirror embroidery work.
According to the region where the embroidery originated, the embroidery styles can be categorized as follows.
57. Jacobean embroidery
This is a type of embroidery with a stylized design. This embroidery flourished during the 17th century in England. Beautiful designs depicting nature form the designs in this embroidery. The embroidery uses mainly two colors in tonal shades.
58. Berlin wool work
This intricate embroidery uses tapestry wool yarn on canvas. This all over embroidery work uses Half cross-stitch in very bright colours.
59. Japanese embroidery
This embroidery style involves delicate embroidery worked like paintings done with silk thread.
60. Brazilian embroidery
This embroidery with lots of floral motifs is made with lustrous rayon floss instead of cotton thread. Read more about brazilian embroidery here.
61. Swiss embroidery
Swiss embroidery is also known as St. Gallen embroidery. This is a style of embroidery that features white thread work on white fabric Swiss lace is in a class of its own. In this work, the design is embroidered on a base fabric with white thread and then the fabric is dissolved in a chemical surface. The result is a beautiful lace.
62. Swiss Appenzell embroidery
A drawn thread embroidery originally from Appenzell, Switzerland. It is a very delicate embroidery done on handkerchiefs.
63. Delft Blue embroidery
Delft is a city in Netherlands. The embroidery work that originated here has distinctive blue floral designs done on white fabric – looks like blue pottery designs. This embroidery can be done in a variety of stitches, including cross stitch.
64. Chinese embroidery
Chinese embroidery dates back thousands of years. There are many categories of Chinese embroidery including Gu embroidery, Shu embroidery, Suzhou embroidery, Xiang embroidery, and Yue embroidery.
65. Schwalm Embroidery
This is a beautiful white work embroidery technique originally from Schwalm in Germany with drawn thread work involved.
66. African Embroidery
Embroidery has been practiced for centuries in Morocco Tunisia Algeria and other African countries. It can be traced as far as 3000 years ago in the great kingdoms there. Blackwork originated in Morocco. Raffia fibers were used to embroider fabrics
67. Czechoslovakian embroidery
A bright coloured embroidery.
Patterns from Kuba art forms were used. Islamic influences can be seen in the embroidery designs there. Very bright colored threads were used to create bold designs. Cut pile embroidery, beadwork aAfricanfraican embroidery. Cowrie shells were embroidered on clothes to ward off the evil eye. In Nigeria, chain stitch embroidery is used to embellish shirts.
68. Indian embroidery
India is famous for its art forms and divergent culture and has been for a long long time. Embroidery is one such art form with several distinguishing techniques that are native to India.
Each area of this big country has its own special embroidery style.
- The state of Kashmir is famous for Kashida embroidery work.
- In the state of Bengal Kantha work is popular.
- In Himachal Pradesh the popular embroidery is chamba rumal.
- In Karnataka Kasuti is popular.
- In the state of Rajastan Kutch embroidery is a popular embroidery work.
- Punjab state is famous for Phulkari work. Read more about Indian embroidery techniques here.
Reference : http://trc-leiden.nl/