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Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with needle and thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. Embroidery is most often recommended for caps, hats,
coats, blankets, dress shirts, denim, stockings, and golf shirts. Embroidery is available with a wide variety of thread or yarn color.
A characteristic of embroidery is that the basic techniques or stitches of the earliest work—chain stitch, buttonhole or blanket stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch—remain the fundamental techniques of hand embroidery today.
Machine embroidery, arising in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, mimics hand embroidery, especially in the use of chain stitches, but the "satin stitch" and hemming stitches of machine work rely on the use of multiple threads and resemble hand
work in their appearance, not their construction.
Commercial machine embroidery in chain stitch on a voile curtain, China, early 21st century. Much contemporary embroidery is stitched with a computerized embroidery machine using patterns"digitized" with embroidery software. In machine embroidery, different types of "fills" add texture and design to the finished work. Machine embroidery is used to add logos and monograms to business shirts or jackets, gifts, and team apparel as well as to decorate household linens, draperies, and decorator fabrics that mimic the elaborate hand embroidery of the past.
Phulkari from the Punjab region of India. Phulkari embroidery, popular since at least the 15th century, is traditionally done on hand-spun cotton cloth with simple darning stitches using silk floss. Laid threads, a surface technique in wool on linen. The Bayeux Tapestry, 11th century.
The fabrics and yarns used in traditional embroidery vary from place to place. Wool, linen, and silk have been in use for thousands of years for both fabric and yarn. Today, embroidery thread is manufactured in cotton, rayon, and novelty yarns as well as in traditional wool, linen, and silk.
Ribbon embroidery uses narrow ribbon in silk or silk/organza blend ribbon, most commonly to create floral motifs.