Reviving embroidery: the comeback of the crafting tradition as art in the digital world.

June 20, 2019

Reviving embroidery: the comeback of the crafting tradition as art in the digital world.

One would think of embroidery as a nineteenth century scene of a woman sitting by the window at home, enough light coming through to illuminate the canvas she is working on. Something in between the “cult of domesticity” and “Little Women”, a world where women belong to the household’s space and family life only.

Image result for painting of women doing needle work xx century

 A pre-1848 world, where women weren’t allowed to vote (the 19th amendment was approved in 1919), or own property, let alone to enroll in university and to graduate. One wonders if there were much for us to do back then, more than the house chores and the crafts by the window. Fast forwarding to the Twenty First Century, social media is bursting with embroidery.

Architecture embroidery by Elin Petronella #hoopart #travelart

Brown Paper Bag

According to Emily Matchar, in her book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, the cult of domesticity is having a comeback; this time as a kind of rebellion against the economy of capitalism, the environmental sense of catastrophe and the decline of the American Dream. As a result: “A generation of smart, highly educated young people are spending their time knitting, canning jam, baking cupcakes, gardening, and more (and blogging about it, of course), embracing the labor-intensive domestic tasks their mothers and grandmothers eagerly shrugged off.” Embroidery though, has spanned off as a craft to transforming the imagery of butterflies, flowers, bees, and bible quotes into a creative force of art flooding social media.

Embroidery and drawing artist Annalisa Bollini sees a positive turn towards democratization and the new uses of embroidery: "embroidery has been considered for many years  a female craft and only the women learnt and used that technique, but recently it started to attract also the attention of the male world and I'm sure this will show us new ways to think it and to use it."

Annalisa Bollini

Annalisa Bollini

Blogs and Magazines such as Brown Paper Bag, Colossal, MyModernMet, the New York Times, The Huffpost, Design Boom, Mostcraft and many more publish articles about needle stitching and its relation with diverse subjects such as feminism, gender identity, fashion, art, ethnicity and sexuality and everyday life. 

Playboy Hong Kong-whitebkg.jpg

Jessica So Ren Tang

Embroidery art by Cheese Before Bedtime

Amy Jones

Floral Embroidery Stiched Into Used War Helmets Contrast War and Peace

Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene

Best of 2016 embroidery artists


Sheena Liam’s intimate portraits of women’s everyday moments with dangling hair flowing out the canvas have gone viral on social media.

Embroidery transformed itself in radical ways; in 2016 My Modern Met published the article “The best of 2016: Top 17 Artists Who Have Revitalized Embroidery” with such diverse approaches to the craft such as hyper realistic pet portraits, abstract compositions, combinations of needle work with hand felted elements, embroidered garments, 2D sculptural blooms and geometric animals’ portraits, Van Gogh’s brush strokes, lettering, hand craft notebooks enhanced with embroidery, intricate detailed interiors, and more.

Best of 2016 embroidery artists

Chloe Giordano

Best of 2016 embroidery artists

Fabulous Cat Papers

Best of 2016 embroidery artists

Danielle Clough

 Ulla Stina Wikander

There is no limit to the aesthetic and political possibilities of embroidery. Embroidery seems to be a sign of the times for women, as Rozsika Parker, in her classic book The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine writes: “Femininity and sweetness are part of women's strength...Quiet strength need not be mistaken for useless vulnerability.” 

MINE! Biddy Craft  I saw this today at the Exquisite Uterus Project!

Kathleen Buchanan

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