Embroidered Textiles - Profession or Craft

by Annette Garcia - Date: 2007-04-23 - Word Count: 449 Share This!

Textile goods are social objects that assume an importance beyond household maintenance and use. In all ages they have been seen as displays of conspicuous consumption and reserves of wealth, but has the creating of the textiles been a move from valued craftsmen to professional articles produced by anonymous employees.

Today, most textiles are made in far away from the retail customer, often in 3rd world countries where labor is cheap or in large factories using automated machinery. From the exclusive design houses patronized by the rich and famous through brand name products sold in better quality stores to generic branded items in budget stores, consumers are unlikely to personally meet either the designer or the maker of their goods.

Embroidery is valued more for what it signifies rather than for what it is. We display the logos that indicate that an item is from a desirable brand or chose embellished textiles to achieve a particular decorating theme.

Has this changed from the past? Not really. Since the industrial revolution most textile production and embellishment has been done in factories. "Fancy work" was desirable accomplishment for women of wealth or the upper classes. Their projects were mainly designed to show off elegant hands or to keep them from boredom or to embellish decorative items. Such women did not create or deal directly with those who actually made the bulk of their clothing or household furnishings.

Poor and working class women were those who labored in the sewing rooms of the fashionable designers or in the, usually, unsafe factories. It is ironic that these women were paid such low wages and worked such long hours that they had to clothe themselves and their families in cheaply manufactured or second-hand items.

Prior to the industrial revolution things were not so dramatically different. The nobility and very wealthy purchased their best textiles from professional workshops staffed by guild-trained craftsman (and the occasional craftswoman). Bulk textiles were made locally, either by servants or by village workers. Many of the embroidery patterns used to embellish domestic linen were drawn by traveling professional pattern-makers or copied from purchased pattern books.

Still, women of wealth or the upper classes were expected to be able to use embroidery to embellish their clothes and produce decorative textiles to give visual evidence of family status and wealth.

It is really only in modern times that the skill of individual embroiders is truly appreciated. Modern society has now given many women and men time to be able to carry out embroidery as an art-form rather than from necessity, and so we need to learn from the superb achievements of the past without viewing it through rose-colored glasses as a craft paradise for that has never really existed.

Related Tags: wealth, textiles, history, society, craft, economics, manufacture, embroidery, craftsmen, guild

Annette Garcia is an embroidery enthusiast with a day-job of managing projects for the manufacturing industry. She runs a website, http://www.xstitchandbeyond.com providing her original designs in blackwork, cross-stitch and other counted thread techniques.

Your Article Search Directory : Find in Articles

© The article above is copyrighted by it's author. You're allowed to distribute this work according to the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license.

Recent articles in this category:

Most viewed articles in this category: