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Antique English Embroidery

Updated on May 2, 2017

The Art Of Antique English Embroidery

By Sharon Stajda

Antique English embroidery works of art from the Middle Ages, have become very valuable, and well sought after throughout the world. The art of English embroidery was practiced many centuries ago and is still practiced today. It would be highly unlikely that today's collector would be able to find or purchase much that was made prior to 1650, simply due to lack of preservation of such works. If one were to locate an antique English embroidery piece, it would be very expensive, due to its rarity.

Antique English embroidery items of this nature can still be seen in museum-type settings or private collections. As one might expect time will have taken its toll on the piece. English embroidery work from the Middle Ages has become well sought after throughout the world. What pieces remain in museums and private collections give good examples, and show just how this century-old hand embroidery work earned its reputation for being the finest work ever produced.

The very early examples of antique English embroidery were done on silk panels, of which most were white in color using silk thread to compose the design. Works were often designed around carved pieces, such as carved heads, faces, hands, and often shoes, which were then incorporated into the piece. The fine embroidery would fill in the clothing and background setting. These fine pieces of needle art would then be framed or perhaps inset into the top of a box.


The English Embroidery Of The 17th Century

In the 17th century one common stitch used in English embroidery was the straightforward tent stitch, embroidered onto wool or silk or both, with a canvas backing. Due to the durability of the canvas, there are more surviving examples of this kind of embroidery. In many cases, these works still retain the same brilliance of color now as they did centuries before. This same type of embroidery is still being practiced today, since it can endure time without noticeable damage. You can find examples of 17th century English embroidery in museums, and rarely one may run across a piece in an antique shop.


18th Century English Embroidery

The eighteenth-century found many furniture manufacturers incorporating English embroidery onto many types of furniture pieces, greatly increasing the value of a piece if present. The later half of the 18th century brought with it the embroidery picture. It was much in vogue to have such a piece in one's home. The pictures came in many sizes and frame shapes. As a rule, silk fabric and silk thread were used in these wonderful pieces of art. For added embellishment, many of these pictures were also touched up with watercolor paint. Such artifacts can still be found today. Unfortunately, this type of work did not wear well over time, and you would be hard-pressed to find one that does not show signs of fading. Even so, a picture of this nature would still have character and charm.


The Nineteenth Century Beadwork Was Added To Embroidered Pieces

The nineteenth century also revived the art of using beadwork in the embroidered piece. Queen Victoria - the reigning Queen of England, took a great liking to embellishing banners, fire screens, and footstool coverings with beads.

Many fine examples of Victorian embroidery can still be found in antique markets today, which as a rule are in pretty good condition.

The wonderful art of embroidery is still very popular today. There are many talented artisans that design and produce beautiful pieces. I am sure many of these artistic creations will become the well sought-after antiques of tomorrow.


The Sampler

Female school children were instructed early on in the art of creating a sampler.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the sampler. The sampler began as a simple reference panel. Whereas a pattern was developed, and colors experimented with, to come up with a desired design. In the eighteenth century, it had become an exercise for children's lessons. Children were instructed to embroider letters of the alphabet, mottoes, verses, and texts. They also would have signed and dated their handiwork. Wonderful maps were also produced in this manner.

During the nineteenth century, samplers were designed to include vivid colors, and subject matter ranged from copies of famous artworks to Biblical themes. Heavier threads such as wool were also used, and larger stitches were incorporated into the designs

Do You Embroidery? - It seems embroidery is not as popular here in the USA, as it was some years Ago.

Do you know how to embroidery?

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    • profile image

      Didge 5 years ago

      I seriously loved this particular lens. Also, beautifully presented Shar.

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      Keaka77 9 years ago

      This embroidery amazing. Thanks for all the information. Keep up the good work..

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      anonymous 10 years ago

      Looking for more information on victorian english silk on silk embroidery with painted faces, etc. Values? Availability? Thanks

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      Once-Again 10 years ago

      Very informative lens. Thanks for sharing.