Introduction to Embroidery

Image courtesy of Filoli Historic House & Garden, Woodside, CA

Stumpwork – Mixed Media and Sculpture

Like Metalwork, Stumpwork is a technique that employs the use of relief to achieve dimensional effect, most often for animal, human and floral figures. A variety of needle-made lace techniques are the primary stitches used to cover the subjects. However, many other techniques and medium can be used to make a fanciful stumpwork artwork, including Needlepainting, Goldwork and Appliqué. This is a technique where the imagination and a range of skills can take the lead, as any subject and a wide range of materials can be used.

A Little History

Stumpwork is a three-dimensional technique that employs many techniques, including needle-made lace, needle painting and Metalwork. Raised embroidery was used in the court of Louis XV (1774-1792). Louis XV used embroidery to embellish everything; ladies court dresses were even embroidered with raised work. English ladies were intrigued by the French, and by the 17th Century had developed an original approach in design and concept.

It is an interesting note that at this same time, the American colonists were bringing English Crewel into their own American style, demonstrating how the fashions moved across nations. The inspiration for these fanciful embroideries came from the English gardens of the Elizabethan period, which had recently introduced formal borders and hedges amongst flowers.

Young ladies in the 17th Century created boxes, mirrors and pictures in Stumpwork, capstone projects that demonstrated their skills at all of the stitching they had learned throughout their schooling.


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Staples, Kathleen. British Embroidery: Curious Works from the Seventeenth Century. Austin: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Curious Works Press. 1998. Print

Staples, Kathleen and Hogue, Margiet. Samplers in the European Tradition. Curious Works Press. 2000. Print

Synge, Lanto. Art of Embroidery: History of Style and Technique. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2001. Print