Needlecraft encompasses a collection of pastimes that are in many ways integral to the development of civilization. The continuing presence of our crafty hobbies may seem novel in a contemporary society of digital distractions, but it's been a powerful artistic tool with a place firmly threaded into the history books. For this blog post, we at Past Impressions want to give you a brief outlook on the history of embroidery, tapestry, crocheting and more with our own timeline of the history of needlecraft:
- 30,000 BC - Cro-Magnon hunter's fur clothes, boots and hat were heavily decorated with hand stitched horizontal rows of ivory beads. This has been inferred by fossilized remains discovered in 1964
- 3400 B.C. - Earliest known quilted garment is depicted on the carved ivory figure of a Pharaoh of the Egyptian First Dynasty.
- Fragments of cloth dating from between 5,000 BC and 500 AD have been excavated from tombs and monuments in South America, Egypt and China showing crude examples of darning, half cross stitch and satin stitch.
- 200-500 AD - Ancient Peruvian running-stitch sampler dated back to this period in history.
- 13th Century - A form of embroidery is believed to have been done on coarsely woven linen fabric, similar to a canvas mesh.
- Blackwork becomes popular in Spain under the influence of the Islamic civilisation of the Moors (756-1492). It is believed to have been brought to England in the 16th century by Henry VIII's first wife Catherine of Aragon, and to have influenced the development of cross stitch.
- 16th Century - Earliest surviving Ottoman embroideries are made both professionally and in the palace workshops of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. These are a treasured part of Ottoman gardens, poetry and art, all relics of the Lâle Devri or “the tulip age”.
- 1524 - Earliest printed pattern book produced in Germany.
- Needlepoint was a popular past time of the leisure class during the lifetime of Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587), who did much of it during her long imprisonment.
- 1586 - "La Clef des Champs", a leaflet containing patterns of simplified flowers and oriental design-inspired animals is published.
- 1598 - The oldest surviving linen sampler embroidered with silk and metal thread, pearls and beads is made by Jane Bostocke, commemorating the birth a child believed to have been her cousin Alice.
- 1615 - The steel needle is invented in the German city of Aachen.
- 1653 - Loara Standish, daughter of Mayflower passenger Myles Standish and pioneer of the Leviathan stitch, completes the earliest known American cross-stitch sampler. It's currently housed at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
- Mid-1700's - Emergence of crewel embroidery, sometimes called "spontaneous and vigorous needlework".
- 1755 - First ever patent for a needle with an eye is awarded to Elias Howe, an American inventor and sewing machine pioneer.
- 1800 - Daniel Dollfus, son of an accomplished owner of a printed fabrics factory, adds the family name of his wife Anne-Marie to his own and establishes the company Dollfus-Mieg & Cie, today known as DMC Creative.
- 1804 - A print seller in Berlin introduces blocked and coloured patterns on a square grid, where each square is a stitch. This had been used in weaving, but never adapted to embroidery.
- 1806 - The Dollfus-Mieg & Cie company exhibit for the first time at the Exhibition of French Industry in Paris, obtaining a silver medal.
- 1826 - Impressed by the success of the threading techniques of the Clark Mill, a fellow Paisley weaver, James Coats started his own enterprise, which became known for its fine yarn twisting.
- 1828 - Invention of the first embroidery machine in 1828 by the Alsatian Joseph Heilman makes possible the mass production of embroideries.
- 1830 - James Coat's two sons take over the family business, changing the name to J & P Coats. Initially, it was specialised in sewing and crochet threads - including mercer crochet. Today they're called Coats Crafts, wildly known for their range of Anchor threads and kits.
- 1840 - During the 'heyday' of printed coloured charts for cross stitch and canvas work, over 14,000 designs had been published. Sampler making and cross stitch however would start to go into decline, however, once the craze for Berlin wool work took over.
- 1840's - A group of Scandinavian people come to America, bringing with them examples of Hardanger embroidery, known sometimes as whitework embroidery.
- Mid-1800's - In France, the earliest machine embroidery uses a combination of machine looms and teams of women embroidering the textiles by hand.
- 1858 - A style of stitching known as 'Raised-stitch' is first described in Berlin. This means some or all of the design is raised, with any remainder done in cross stitch.
- Early 20th Century - During World War I & II hand embroidery was a popular past time before the invention of the radio, and later, TV.
- Though there was a preference for free-style embroidery (mostly used for patriotic patterns for events such as King George VI's coronation), cross stitch survived through the 20's, 30's & 40's thanks to pre-stamped cross stitch kits, where crosses were already printed onto the fabric and then stitched over.
- 1940 - First issue of 'Needlewoman', a quarterly magazine devoted mainly to needlework and sewing patterns, is published.
- 1970's - 'Hippy handcrafts' see a return to back-to-basic ideas of making something with your own hands, leading to a boom in needlecraft goods.
- 1980 - New and fresh designs, ranging from decorative to more difficult, sees a resurgence of cross stitch.
- 1992 - Past Impressions Ltd. is set up as a mail order company for cross stitch and needlecraft kits and accessories.
- 2003 - Past Impressions starts trading online!
- 2005 - Handcrafted good and supply e-commerce website Etsy is founded.
- 2010 - The Clothes Show Live 2010, opens up a new area called "Sknitch" promoting modern sewing, knitting and embroidery.
If you have any favourite examples of cross stitch, tapestry or any other form of needlecraft throughout history (or perhaps a favourite individual artist), tell us in the comments or share it with us on Facebook