Welcome, friends, to the next edition of The ABC’s of Gathering, “E is for Embroidery,” featuring everything you need to know about gathering and decorating with embroidery finds!
As we work our way through the alphabet in this series, each post spotlights a different gathered (vintage, thrifted, found) treasure or concept and pulls together all sorts of inspiration on how you can incorporate it into your home.
One of the beautiful things about gathering is how varied and unique the finds often are – it’s a very different form of decorating than picking a few coordinating pieces out of a catalog. But this can also present unique challenges – how do you bring all these different treasures together in a cohesive and pleasing way?
It’s my hope that by pulling together a collection of gorgeous images spotlighting on each decorating topic, you’ll end up with tons of inspiration for your home, as well as a sharpened eye for spotting these types of treasures when you come across them!
E is for Embroidery
All the topics of this series so far have been near and dear to my heart, but there’s something I find especially irresistible about gathered embroidered pieces.
Perhaps it’s knowing the labor of love that most likely went into these creations, or the draw of an art form that’s becoming increasingly uncommon, along with the patience it embodies, or perhaps it’s just the kitschy charm of certain subjects…
Whatever the reason, I have a hard time walking away from embroidered pieces that cross my treasure-seeking path, which has led to a budding needlepoint pillow collection (I have five…so far) and this post full of my favorite examples of decorating with embroidery from around the web.
All photos not my own are used by the permission of my wonderful blogging friends. You can visit their posts to read more by clicking on each picture or the link in the caption below – please pin from the original source!
A Glossary of Embroidery
I have two main goals in this ABC’s of Gathering series: inspiration and education. I want you to leave each post fired up with ideas for your home, and hopefully equipped with new information and details!
As I’ve shared and talked about my own gathered embroidery finds, I’ve often wondered about the correct vocabulary. For example, what exactly qualifies as “needlepoint”?
I couldn’t put together a post on gathered embroidery without briefly covering its terminology – first and foremost for my own benefit! (Thank you, Wikipedia, for increasing my knowledge of the subject.)
This is by no means exhaustive and I’m by no means an expert. Consider this a layman’s glossary of embroidery at best!
However, I’ve included definitions and close-up examples of a few common types of embroidery below, so that in the future, you and I might both be able to exclaim, “My goodness! What stunning crewelwork!” with newfound confidence.
For starters… Embroidery is a broad term that refers to decorating fabric (or usually fabric, but I’m sure we could both think of exceptions) with needle and thread.
There are two main types of embroidery: Free Embroidery and Counted Thread Embroidery.
In Free Embroidery, the stitches are not related to the weave of the fabric and decorate the surface of the fabric. For example: crewel embroidery and traditional Chinese & Japanese embroidery.
Crewel Embroidery is also known as Crewelwork. It’s a technique that’s at least 1,000 years old! Crewel is a type of surface embroidery named for the type of fiber – thick crewel wool – used. All sorts of stitches may be used to form a slightly-raised result.
In the other main division of embroidery, Counted Thread Embroidery, stitches are spaced according to the weave of the fabric. For example: cross stitch and needlepoint.
Cross Stitch is pretty easy to recognize – designs are created with x-shaped stitches on an even-weave fabric to help maintain perfect spacing.
Needlepoint is another form of counted thread embroidery that uses a simple tent stitch on stiff open-weave canvas. With needlepoint, most designs completely cover the surface. Petit point is needlepoint work on fine canvas.
So there you have it – a quick glossary that will hopefully help you tell your cross stitch from your crewel! And when in doubt, it’s nice to know you can just lump it all under the umbrella of “embroidery” – Oh my word, I just love that embroidered art you found!
As we jump into the next section, I want to challenge you to do your best to identify the various types of embroidery before you scroll down for the descriptions. Ready?
Decorating with Embroidery Finds
Embroidered pieces can come in all sorts of sizes and forms – from framed art to pillows to textiles – but however you add them to your home, they add a fantastic handcrafted and dimensional quality. Textural. Just imperfect enough.
Jennifer found this colorful embroidered wall hanging at an estate sale. You’ll have to visit her blog for more pictures – the texture is incredible and the bold colors fit so well into her eclectic home!
This enormous embroidered wall hanging came from a local vintage mall and Kareen (@shop_agnéswatt on Instagram) repurposed it as a bedspread. It’s such a rich addition to her boho bed linens!
Embroidery lends itself so well to whimsy, as this adorable stitched map demonstrates. Kristy (Robb Restyle) bought a box of frames at an auction and found this piece hiding inside!
Speaking of whimsy, I’ve been obsessed with Erica Reitman’s embroidered tiger head ever since she first shared it on Instagram. Have you ever seen anything like it? The zany embroidery just takes this over the top! Keep your eyes peeled for ultra-unique pieces like this – they add so much depth and energy to your decorating!
A little humor goes a long way in decorating! (Hint hint: H is for…) And the slightly-pixelated stitchery just adds to the charm of this piece in Arielle’s moody library!
And where do I begin with my love for vintage needlepoint pillows? The black floral one is the key to my entire decorating scheme (and my heart) – it works in any room of the house and frequently gets borrowed away for different vignettes.
The takeaway: Why not give needle point pillows a chance? They are usually cheap and add such great punches of graphic color to a space! If you find one out thrifting, just be sure to give it a good sniff test (trust me on this one.)
This picture shows you exactly why Erica is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram. I love her fearless approach to composition and color. A huge stained glass needlepoint wall hanging + abstract art? Absolutely! Mix all the textures!
There’s a long story behind my deep-seated affection for this vintage French petit point that goes well beyond my appreciation for its workmanship, impressive though it may be. (If tufted leather Chesterfield sofas and Bible humor are your jam, you can read all about it here and here.)
I’m truly amazed by the detail that went into this piece and only hope that I can learn more about it one day! My best efforts to track down any information on it have failed.
You saw a close-up of this floral embroidery from Maggie (Maggie Overby Studios) earlier as an example of free embroidery.
Pro tip: Sometimes vintage embroidery isn’t found in the best of shape. Check out her Instagram post here for details on how she cleaned decades of smoking stains off the fabric!
I’m so glad Maggie, a fellow host of #thriftscorethursday, shares my love for embroidered finds! I’m constantly inspired by the way she styles them with colors and objects pulled straight from their subjects. Take notes, friends – this is a fantastic way to assemble a beautiful vignette!
Another embroidered find from Maggie, this time a needlepoint version of Henri Matisse’s “Blue Nude I.” Embroidered takes on famous art pieces are such a fun alternative to prints or posters!
The multi-media gallery wall: In her sewing room and studio space, sprinkle embroidered pieces in with paintings, prints, and other forms of decorative arts. The result is a very dimensional display that invites you in for a closer look at all the details!
What can you do once you’ve amassed a little collection of embroidered art? Start a gallery wall like Mary (At Home On The Bay) did! Here, similar colors bring together various types of embroidered pieces.
What do a snow leopard and an Egyptian Pharaoh have in common? Besides both being stunningly detailed needlepoints, they also look absolutely fabulous hanging out together on Erica’s navy wall thanks to their shared color scheme.
Can you spot the needlepoint pieces in Dena’s gorgeous Mid Century inspired living room? Answer: the little yellow one with fruit, the abstract girl, and the oval floral piece. They’re all different styles, but they come together so well in her eclectic gallery wall.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to mix traditional fine embroidery with fun pop pieces!
Eliesa’s gallery wall (in her glamorous bathroom!) is a perfectly eclectic mix of art. Above, you can spy a very Jane-Austen-esque needlepoint (on which I am crushing so hard) and a round floral peony embroidery (upper right) mixing in with every shape and style of art imaginable.
Finally, my jaw quite literally dropped when Charlotte sent me this shot of her embroidery gallery wall. I mean, I thought I loved vintage embroidery in solo pieces and small collections, but a full on ensemble like this – heart-pounding first-love infatuation!
The takeaway: Sometimes it pays to really commit to a collection! But one of the reasons Charlotte’s collection works so well is that she’s unified many of the frames with a coat of white paint. A few stained wood frames keep it interesting, but the white lets the rest of the frames recede and the colorful embroidery pop!
That’s all for today, folks! I know there are all sorts of embroidered treasures that didn’t make it into this roundup, so I’m counting on you to share the ways YOU are decorating with embroidery finds (or perhaps you’re talented enough to create your own!) by commenting below or posting on Instagram using #ABCsofGathering #EisforEmbroidery!
And while you’re waiting for the next topic, “F is For…” why not help spread the word by pinning or sharing this post?