Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from ‘X’ Stitches

Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Cross Stitch By Shobha at Marasim

Cross-Stitch – The inspiration for this article came from our cross-stitch expert Shobha, who joined as our first full-time cross-stitch artisan in June 2021. Shobha has been practicing this craft for the past 17 years. When she was in her twenties, she joined the training group led by father, Colombus, and has never looked back. The crafts were introduced to her village by father Colombus almost 70 years before. Father Columbus visited India through a missionary and trained women in more than 25 villages. Today, Shobha is one of the most skilled cross-stitch artisans in her village. Therefore, under her leadership, In a few months, we will begin a training program for elevating the skills of the other cross-stitch artisan women of her village, which by the way, will be a dream come true for Shobha, as she has told this to me many times on our calls. As for our calls – it is so adorable that her elder son Abhilash coordinates video calls between us, bridging our language barriers. Thanks to her embroidery skills- she provided for her kids’ education and future and now wants to help other women in her community do the same.  How Noble!

Find more Embroideries in our Embroidery Series

Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Cross Stitch By Shobha at Marasim
embroidery
Cross Stitch at Marasim

These images are from the first piece of cross-stitch we did together. Watch the full video HERE. We can’t wait to explore more of this gorgeous technique. At the same time, in today’s article, I want to share more information and perspective on this technique. Read along.

The Beginning of the Embroidery

The use of cross-stitch as a sole stitch for embroidering a whole pattern is a very recent development; however, the use of ‘X’ as a stitch in embroidery samples is as old as the 6th or 7th century AD. As per the earliest recorded sources, cross-stitch embroidery flourished during the Tang dynasty in China (618-906 AD). Even today, many ethnic minorities in China practice and decorate with cross-stitch. 

The opening of the silk roads played an essential role in carrying the know-how of the East to the Middle East and the West, including cross-stitch Embroidery.  It is a belief that the  Spanish Black Work embroidery was highly influenced by the cross-stitch.

Image Source: https://www.domestika.org/

The Practice of Sampler

A beautiful practice of creating samplers by early stitchers and embroiderers who did not have any other means to record inspirations and stitches included noting patterns and stitches on a narrow piece of fabric called a sampler. The sampler was a reference piece, which would become like a family asset, with great patterns, ideas, and stitches documented on a piece of expensive linen. The cross-stitch came into its own with the working of samplers. 

Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Sampler (detail), Mildred Mayow, 1633, England. Museum no. T.194-1927. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Sampler, unknown maker, 14th – 16th century, Egypt. Museum no. T.326-1921. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Given by G. D. Hornblower, Esq.

During the 18th century, the samplers became more refined into stylized patterns embellished with a sole stitch like the cross-stitch to create the decoration pieces.

Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
ampler (detail), Louisa Pesel, 1910 – 11, England. Museum no. T.274-1913. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Embroidered Sampler. 1721 Anne Chase. MET Museum
Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
SAMPLER (AUSTRIA), EARLY 18TH CENTURY. COOPER HEWITT
Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Sampler, Sarah Bland, mid-19th century, England. Museum no. T.240-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Given by Mrs D. McGregor

Cross-Stitch Technique

This technique uses an evenly woven fabric with visible and even squares. The diagonal stitches create an ‘X’ mark on each square using the same or various color threads. Thus the technique needs a lot of focus and discipline. 

Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
CROSS STITCH TUTORIAL BY ALICIA PAULSON https://aliciapaulson.com/pages/cross-stitch-tutorial
CROSS STITCH TUTORIAL BY ALICIA PAULSON https://aliciapaulson.com/pages/cross-stitch-tutorial

Cross-Stitch in Palestinian Embroidery 

Although there are many cultures where this technique is loved and practiced for generations, what fascinated me was this embroidery is the most renowned of Palestinian embroidery techniques, known for its rich colors and texture and many traditional motifs that vary from one region to another, adorning the walls of houses in Jerusalem and cement block houses in refugee camps. 

Embroidery by Wafa Ghnaim
Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
The word fallah means farmer and fallaha is the farm woman so this type of embroidery is called fallahi because it was traditionally made by village women. Image Source: http://tsdailytreasures.blogspot.com/2021/05/traditional-embroidery.html
Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
The word fallah means farmer and fallaha is the farm woman so this type of embroidery is called fallahi because it was traditionally made by village women. Image Source: http://tsdailytreasures.blogspot.com/2021/05/traditional-embroidery.html

Cross-Stitch Today 

As a time taking and detailed technique, cross-stitch is common among artists or high-end home decor designers. The linen cushions embellished with cross-stitch embroidery are a luxury decor item for tasteful, traditional, and expensive houses.

Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Image Source: https://www.lushome.com/modern-cross-stitch-embroidery-furniture-accessories-connecting-old-new-generations/186619
Cross-Stitch, A Gorgeous Embroidery developed from 'X' Stitches
Image Source: https://www.lushome.com/contemporary-embroidery-in-modern-interior-decorating/186138

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nidhi Garg Allen is an alumnus of Parsons School of Design and Adjunct Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a technologist turned artisan entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Marasim. Marasim based in NYC is committed to preserving artisanal textiles that make use of regional techniques without uprooting craftspeople from their native communities.

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