Currently viable crafts




The decoration of fabric and other materials with a needle and thread.


Status Currently viable
Craft category Textiles
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required



Embroidery is an ancient craft with a long and diverse history. Embroidery just like mural painting, illumination or tile work was used as forms of non-verbal communication on a wide range of textiles. It was also used not only as signifiers of rank on clothing but also as reinforcements on clothing especially around cuffs, collars and fasteners.

Embroidery was widely used in the home and many women would have been highly skilled in embroidering both functional and decorative objects. Very many girls would have been taught to embroider through making samplers and, as most women did not go on to become professional embroiderers, the samplers were a method of teaching household skills, patience and attention to detail, not to mention letters numbers and bible verses.

In the twenty-first century, embroidery is increasingly admired as an art form. Many textile artists utilise visual research and drawing in a variety of ways to inform and inspire their work, with the  design process firmly underpinning the final outcome.

It is also still vibrant as an amateur craft and continues continues to flourish as a popular leisure pursuit. Great satisfaction and wonderful effects can be achieved using very simple techniques. Embroidery has the advantage of needing little in the way of equipment or facilities to be enjoyed by many diverse practitioners.

As a craft that is predominately practised by women, there will be a wide variety of traditions practised within different communities in the UK.


Stitches are made by hand, and, increasingly since the nineteenth century, by machine also. Traditionally embroidery stitches were created with threads made from natural fibres: silk, linen, cotton and wool; as well as decorations such as jewels, beads, coins and shells.

In the twentieth century creative embroiderers took an increasingly innovative approach to their medium and introduced a range of unusual materials as both ‘thread’ and ground material. Some creative embroiderers have chosen to include mixed media and processes such as dye, paint and drawing with their embroidery.

There are a wide variety of different techniques including:

  • Darning
  • Smocking
  • Both Sides Alike
  • Opus Anglicanum (English Work)
  • Stumpwork
  • White work
  • Black work
  • Crewel work
  • Gold work
  • Silk shading
  • Machine embroidery
  • Cross stitch
  • Beading
  • Sashiko
  • Kantha
  • Drawn thread work
  • Cutwork

and many more…..

Local forms




Issues affecting the viability of the craft


Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known


Other information