60+ different types of HAND EMBROIDERY techniques

types of embroidery

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, so many techniques, so many 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 coloured 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.

1 Open work

This 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 embroidery are all this kind of work.

2. Counted thread work

This embroidery technique involves counting thread in the fabric for each stitch so that symmetrical stitches are formed. Cross stitch is one of the most popular counted thread embroidery; blackwork is another one.

3.  Outline work

This is a type of embroidery work in which just the outline of the design is worked with stitches like back stitch, chain stitch, outline stitch and stem stitch.

4 Void work 

This 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, laid work are examples


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 the shadow work, broderie anglaise etc. More on white work can be found here.

white work embroidery

The embroidery techniques  can be further categorized as follows

7 Needle weaving

This 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 weaved with a thicker thread with darning or re-weaving patterns. The  open  thread is overcast with decorative stitches

8 Candlewicking embroidery

This is a type of embroidery done with heavy thread on muslin; it is a white work embroidery technique which uses white thread to embroider. A series of colonial knot 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
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

This embroidery involves mostly herringbone stitch used on the back of a 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

This 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 combines to produce a  beautiful open lace like look to designs.Checkout the Broderie Anglaise tutorial here

borderie anglais

12 Redwork embroidery

As the name suggests this work involves stitching designs in red coloured embroidery thread against a white / cream fabric. The outlines were worked with any 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.

pattern darning

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

hardanger embroidery

17 Hedebo Embroidery

This is a whitework embroidery technique similar to cutwork. The embroiderd fabric resembles lace so it is often called embroidered lace. 

18 Blackwork embroidery

Named so because of the way it is done with black embroidery thread on white fabric. 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 looks the same.
This counted thread embroidery technique creates repetitive motifs which are mostly geometric. Kasuti Embroidery (India) is a similar work.

19 Goldwork

As the name suggests this work uses metal threads in many colours like gold, silver copper to stunning effect. 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 is a type of chain stitch  embroidery technique that uses  an ari hook to make chain stitch. The ari hook makes the chains stitch by catching the thread from the back of the fabric creating the loop of the chainstitch. This hook results in fast  chainstitching. The hook is also called  a  tambour hook or a Luneville hook.

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

chain stitch embroidery

21 Zardosi work

Zardosi is a special type of metal thread which 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 look of the raised metal threads and the sheen and lustre of the spiral zardosi thread make this work stunning. Checkout the post on zardosi embroidery work here for more details

zardosi embroidery

21 Faggotting

This technique uses insertion stitches between two pieces of fabric joining them . The decorative nature of the stitches create a beautiful pattern. This type of stitching was popularly used in lingerie in heirloom stitching


22 Pulled thread work

This 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

pulled thread

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)

drawn thread embroidery


 25 Chikankari embroidery

This is an Indian version of the shadow embroidery. This work involves a lot of other stitches other than the herringbone stitch like 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

chicken scratch embroidery

28 Canvas work / needle point

Needle point is an embroidery technique which 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 colours are blended in this work to create a realistic effect 

29 Laid work embroidery

This embroidery is very similar to couching. In couching we lay one thread and then it is stitched on to the fabric. In this two or three layers of threads are stitched on to the base fabric . The first layer of thread is laid out first 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 needle instead of  embroidery floss.Most of the kits for silk ribbon embroidery has designs printed on fabric and you can do ribbon work on this. The 3 dimensional effect of this embroidery is phenomenal. You can further enhance this embroidery work with beads and embroidery stitches.  Checkout the tutorials for ribbon embroidery stitches and ribbon embroidery flowers

tibbon embroidery flowers

31 Crewel embroidery

This embroidery uses crewel wool to work the designs on linen

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 thickness of thread creates a beautifully textured effect. It is also known as fine white work and refers to delicate work done on two layers of fine linen with a layer of 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 the 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 the Lacis embroidery is a kind of net embroidery which involves use of darning stitches and knots. Carrickmacross embroidery is another embroidery done on net and makes the most beautiful lace

34 Stumpwork 

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 .

36 Couching

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

couching stitches

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

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

39 Bargello embroidery

This is a type of vivid embroidery with a shading effect. 

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.

41  Cutwork

Cutwork embroidery is a type of embroidery 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 buttonhole etc. Then the in-between spaces are cut out. Renaissance cutwork, Reticella cutwork are different forms of this work with varying degrees of open cutworks in between. Checkout the cutwork tutorial here

cutwork embroidery designs

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 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. This work uses mainly red and black thread – red for filling designs and black for outlining with stem stitch. Cross stitch is the main stitch used as well as herring bone stitch

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 aare 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

50 Applique

paisley design in applique

This is an embroidery technique in which fabric pieces cut out in the shape of  designs are embroidered to a base fabric .  The three main categories of applique work are Overlaid applique, Inlaid applique and reverse applique. You can learn more in details and other types of applique in the posts –  Sewing Machine Applique  work tutorial , Hand Applique tutorial and reverse applique tutorial 

51 Eyelet Embroidery

eyelet 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 on beads to the surface of the fabric. Checkout the commonly used  bead embroidery stitches here

how do do bead work

53  Needle Painting

This refers to a technique of filling the design with straigh stitches ( long and short stitches as well as same length straight stitches) in shading way with different shades of the same colour . Checkout the tutorial for doing needle painting here.

needle painting

54  Shisha work /Aabla embroidery

This refers to a mirror embroidery from Indian state of Gujarat. Check out this post on mirror embroidery work

mirror work stitches

According to the region in which the embroidery is originated the styles of embroideries can be categorised as follows.

55  Jacobean embroidery

This is a type of embroidery with a stylised design . This embroidery flourished during the 17th century in England. Beautiful designs depicting nature forms the designs in this embroidery. The embroidery uses mainly two colours in tonal shades

56 Berlin wool work

This intricate embroidery uses tapestry wool yarn on canvas

57 Japanese embroidery

This embroidery style involves delicate embroidery worked like paintings done with silk thread

58  Brazilian embroidery

This embroidery with lots of floral motifs is made with lustrous rayon floss instead of cotton thread

59 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 on a class of its own .  In this work 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.

60 Delft embroidery

Delft is a city in Norwegian. The embroidery work that originated here has distinctive blue designs done on white fabric. This embroidery can be done in a variety of stitches, including cross stitch

61 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

62 Schwalm Embroidery

This is a beautiful white work embroidery technique originally from Schwalm in Germany with drawn thread work involved

63 African Embroidery

Embroidery has been practiced from centuries in Morocco Tunisia Algeria and other African countries. It can be traced as far as 3000 years ago in the great kingdoms there. Black work originated in Morooco. Raffia fibers were used to embroider fabrics.

Patterns from Kuba art forms were used. Islamic influences can be seen in the embroidery designs there. Very bright coloured thread were used to create bold designs. Cut pile embroidery, bead work aAfricanfraican embroidery. Cowrie shells were embroidered on clothes to ward off evil eye. In Nigera chainstitch embroidery is used to embellish shirts



Reference : http://trc-leiden.nl/

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