According to records, embroidery has existed from some of the earliest civilizations. However, the oldest surviving pieces are Egyptian. The culture trained seamstresses in applique decoration incorporating leather and beads. Many countries around the Mediterranean used fine embroidery. It explains why there was a high demand for woven goods from these countries.
The more complex and intricate designs were made for those of high social status. The adornments on the clothing represented the level of their position and wealth. Silver and gold were included in the most precious pieces. Royalty and clergy almost always had something designed specifically for them. This continued all the way into the 15th and 16th centuries but at that point, secular decorative motifs entered into the work. It was used as a form of folk art in Europe and expanded from clothing to pillows, sheets, towels, and valances.
The work continued to expand and grow more intricate. Jacobean designs were raised. They featured exotic birds, leaves, and fantastical scenery. Repeating patterns became more standard. At this point embroidery also expanded to furniture upholstery. The expansion of the trade became increasingly easier as technology advanced. Once done by hand, the industry switched to machines with the coming of the industrial revolution. Needlework could eventually be done in factories and be done in far less time.
The history of machine logo embroidery began with the rise of the corporations. As the market became more laissez-faire, people began to see the use of embroidery for business. Some of the designs became simpler and repetitive but it did not degrade in quality. Companies could use logo embroidery for their staff shirts. Making logos became an art of its own. Logo embroidery is now ordered in bulk.
Business logo shirts are the new status symbol. It may not be royalty of times past but it still represents a social status and job position. The business world is now “king,” so to speak. We value the marketplace and we follow its cues as to what we need and what we want. The advertising value of customized design cannot be underestimated.
Embroidery will always be used in fashion. It is not by any means a dying art. If anything it has expanded now for multiple purposes and, just as we have seen from its history, it will probably continue to expand in its application as time progresses. The advent of the modern computerised embroidery machine has made it possible for anybody to produce professional designs. We have only seen the beginning of its influence.