Embroidery has long been present in designs seen on everything from jackets and jeans to royal gowns, bedding and cushions. Now we're seeing this ancient art form make a modern day comeback, with embroidery designs queries throwing up lots of resources, including instructional videos, step by step guides, expert tips and design ideas. Whether you're a complete beginner or a practised hand looking for free embroidery designs for your work, the internet is the place to be for modern day embroidery.

What is embroidery?
Embroidery is the art of stitching designs onto fabric using needle and thread or yarn. This may come in the form of pictures, lettering, or patches that are created individually and then attached to articles of clothing separately at a later date. Other materials are often incorporated into the embroidery, such as sequins or beads, to create a more textured appearance to the design. There are different kinds of stitching techniques that are used when embroidering, such as the cross stitch and the chain stitch. Embroidery can be used for small, select parts of a garment or article, or it can be hugely intricate and extensive, covering all or most of the surface area, with colors ranging from the soft and subtle to the rich and glamorous.

Traditional embroidery
The use of embroidery dates back more than two thousand years, and has been in widespread use in various countries around the world for centuries, including China, Sweden, Japan and Turkey, to name just a few. Its applications have been numerous and varied, at times acting as a mark of status or wealth, and sometimes being used to distinguish royalty from the rest of the population. However, through the ages it has gained more regular uses, such as for company logos on uniforms for staff to wear during their working day. It has also been part of many fashion trends, for example in the 70s and 80s no denim garment was complete without embroidered patches or designs, with everything from political allegiance to a favourite band being expressed through the art of embroidery.

The comeback
Although embroidery has never truly fallen out of use, it has recently seen a big comeback on both the high street and on the catwalks. Designers such as Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs and the fashion house Gucci have been incorporating embroidery into their designs of late. This of course has a knock-on effect, and many celebrities have been snapped wearing embroidered designs in recent times, including Kate Hudson, Taylor Swift, Nicole Kidman and Jackie Chan. Though fashions inevitably come and go, embroidery is likely to be around in one form or another for as long as people are still wearing clothes.

Embroidering in modern design
While in the past, embroidery was done by hand, today the process is largely carried out by machines, especially for large batches of clothing or headgear. When a company decides to use embroidery to stitch their logo onto staff polo shirts, for example, the logo will first be digitized and then loaded onto the machine (especially models like SINGER Futura XL-400 I’ve seen on Design My costume), which will then stitch the logo onto however many shirts the company has ordered. Home embroidery machines are also available for those who would like to take their embroidery beyond the hand stitching stage. While it might not have the calming, relaxing benefits that many find comes with hand embroidery, it definitely saves on time.

The advantages of embroidery
One of the main advantages of embroidery is its durability. Unlike screen printing, which can often look cheap, as well as resulting in a cracked and worn effect after washing, embroidery is hard wearing and long lasting. The design retains its original appearance even after many washes and wears. Another advantage embroidery has is that it is perceived as being more professional. This is why many companies choose to embroider their clothing, for example when it comes to logos or company information on staff uniforms and headwear.

How to embroider clothes
If you're a complete beginner to embroidery, don't fear, the internet is full of tips and instructions on how to get started. From videos explaining the basics of hand embroidery to DIY tutorials and step by step instructions on how to embroider designs onto t-shirts, there's something out there for everyone. Instructables has a detailed guide to getting started which explains what materials and equipment you'll need and how to use them. A wide range of embroidery machines are available for home use including highly-rated models by Brother & Singer Embroidery machines in an affordable price range.

Finding ideas for embroidery designs
If you need inspiration for designs to practise your embroidering skills on, then hit the internet and start making embroidery designs queries. There are plenty of resources out there offering free embroidery designs to use for your garments. If you're planning to embroider by hand, then there's a wide selection to choose from on embroiderydesigns.com. If it's designs to apply by machine that you're after, then EmbroIderes has a selection of free machine designs available. They also have a wider range of designs on offer for a small fee, including seasonal and occasion themed choices as well as Dr Seuss and Disney Pixar options. Maybe you already have your own ideas about the sorts of designs you'd like to see adorning your garments. In that case, there are guides available for how to draw up and carry out your own handmade embroidered designs, adding that unique and personalized touch to any article of clothing, blanket, cushion or cap. If it's digitized designing you're interested in, there's software available for download that'll help you get started with creating digital versions of your own personal designs. There are also options for uploading images of your artwork for digitization, with the design files then being sent to you ready for embroidering.

Whether you've never tried embroidering before, are experienced but rusty, or an old hand at this ancient art form, embroidery has come back into fashion with a bang, so dig out those needles and threads and get embroidering.