AskDefine | Define embroider

Dictionary Definition



1 decorate with needlework [syn: broider]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. to stitch a decorative design on fabric with needle and thread of various colours
  2. (figurative) to add imaginary detail to a narrative to make it more interesting or acceptable


Extensive Definition

Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with designs stitched in strands of thread or yarn using a needle. Embroidery may also use other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. Sewing machines can be used to create machine embroidery.

Types of embroidery

Embroidery is classified according to the use of the underlying foundation fabric. One classification system divides embroidery styles according to the relationship of stitch placement to the fabric:
  • In free embroidery, designs are applied without regard to the weave of the underlying fabric. Examples include crewel and traditional Chinese embroidery.
A second division classifies embroidery according to whether the design is stitched on top of or through the foundation fabric:
  • In Surface embroidery, patterns are worked on top of the foundation fabric using decorative stitches and laid threads. Surface embroidery encompasses most free embroidery as well as some forms of counted-thread embroidery (such as cross-stitch).
  • In Canvas work, threads are stitched through a fabric mesh to create a dense pattern that completely covers the foundation fabric. All canvas work is not counted-thread embroidery. There are printed and hand painted canvases where the painted or printed image is meant to serve as a color guide. Stitches are sometimes of the stitcher's choosing.
An important distinction between canvas work and surface embroidery is that surface work requires the use of an embroidery hoop or frame to stretch the material and ensure even stitching tension that prevents pattern distortion. Canvas work tends to follow very symmetrical counted stitching patterns with designs developing from repetition of one or only a few similar stitches in a variety of thread hues. Most forms of surface embroidery, by contrast, are distinguished by a wide range of different stitching patterns used in a single piece of work.
Ribbon embroidery is embroidery performed with ribbon rather than standard six-thread string. Silk ribbon or a silk/organza blend ribbon are commonly used for this type of embroidery. There are many different styles of ribbon embroidery, such as woven rose, French knot, feather stich, fly stich, fly stich fern, couching stich, lazy daisy, looped petal flower, Japanese ribbon stich, stem stich rose, split stich, and straight stich. Those are usually taught to beginners who are just learning silk ribbon embroidery. Ribbon embroidery is most commonly used to create floral motifs. It's said to have a certain romantic and antique quality.
  • In Machine embroidery, Embroidery designs are stitched with an automated embroidery machine. These designs are "digitized" with Embroidery Software. They can have different types of "fills" which add texture and design to the embroidery. Almost all basic types of embroidery can be created with Machine Embroidery. These include: Applique, Free Standing Lace, Cutwork, Cross-stitch, Photo Stitch, and Basic Embroidery. Most often this type of embroidery is associated with business shirts, gifts, team apparel and commercial use.


The origins of embroidery are lost in time, but examples survive from ancient Egypt, Iron Age Northern Europe and Zhou Dynasty China. It has many roots all around the world and is being done in many different ways because of their cultures.
Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects, and household items have been a mark of wealth and status in many cultures including ancient Persia, India, Byzantium, medieval England (Opus Anglicanum or "English work"), and Baroque Europe.
Hand embroidery is a traditional art form passed from generation to generation in many cultures, including northern Vietnam, Mexico, and eastern Europe.
The Bayeux Tapestry is not a true tapestry; it is an elaborately embroidered wall hanging originally displayed at the Bayeux Cathedral, and now housed at a special museum in Bayeux, Normandy.



Additional Information

  • S.F.A. Caulfield and B.C. Saward, The Dictionary of Needlework, 1885.
  • Virginia Churchill Bath, Needlework in America, Viking Press, 1979 ISBN 0-670-50575-7
  • Readers Digest Complete Guide to Needlework, 1979, ISBN 0-89577-059-8.

External links

embroider in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Blēocræft
embroider in Belarusian: Вышыўка
embroider in Bulgarian: Бродиране
embroider in Catalan: Brodat
embroider in Chuvash: Тĕрĕ
embroider in Czech: Vyšívání
embroider in Danish: Broderi
embroider in German: Sticken
embroider in Spanish: Bordado
embroider in Esperanto: Brodado
embroider in French: Broderie
embroider in Italian: Ricamo
embroider in Hebrew: רקמה (מלאכת יד)
embroider in Hungarian: Hímzés
embroider in Dutch: Borduren
embroider in Japanese: 刺繍
embroider in Norwegian Nynorsk: Broderi
embroider in Polish: Haft
embroider in Portuguese: Bordado
embroider in Russian: Вышивание
embroider in Sicilian: Raccamu
embroider in Finnish: Kirjonta
embroider in Swedish: Broderi
embroider in Ukrainian: Вишивка
embroider in Chinese: 刺绣

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adorn, aggrandize, amplify, applique, array, baste, beautify, bedeck, bedizen, belie, bind, blazon, build up, buttonhole, camouflage, color, convolute, crochet, cross-stitch, dandify, deck, deck out, decorate, disguise, distend, distort, dizen, doll up, dramatize, dress, dress up, elaborate, embellish, emblazon, enhance, enlarge upon, enrich, exaggerate, expand, falsify, fell, festoon, fig out, fix up, flourish, fudge, furbish, garble, garnish, gather, gild, gloss, gloss over, grace, gussy up, hyperbolize, involve, knit, load with ornament, machine-stitch, magnify, mask, miscite, miscolor, misquote, misreport, misrepresent, misstate, ornament, overcast, overcharge, overdo, overdraw, overelaborate, overemphasize, overestimate, overhand, overlay, overload, overpaint, overstate, pad, paint, pervert, prank, prank up, preen, prettify, primp, primp up, prink, prink up, purl, quilt, redecorate, redo, refurbish, renter, run, saddle-stitch, seam, set off, set out, single-stitch, slant, smarten, smarten up, spruce up, strain, stretch, stretch the truth, tack, tat, titivate, trick out, trick up, trim, twist, understate, varnish, warp, whip, whipstitch, whitewash
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