Embroidery has existed, in some form, in every population across the globe. Whether it’s displayed on clothing, home goods, or as an artwork, it’s a timeless craft that is an integral part of our material culture.

Prevalent in cultures across the globe, embroidery has developed into one of the world’s most beloved crafts. Today, many contemporary creatives continue to carry out the age-old practice, making it a popular choice for experienced crafts and aspiring artisans alike.

If you’re interested in mastering this ancient handcraft, our ultimate guide to embroidery has all of the information and resources you need to become an embroidery expert—beginning, of course, with the most basic question: what is embroidery?

What is Embroidery?

You’re already familiar with embroidery—even if you had never realized it. Simply put, the definition of embroidery is the art of applying decorative designs onto fabric using a needle. These motifs are traditionally rendered in thread and are composed of different kinds of stitches.

Embellishments like beads, sequins, and pearls can also be incorporated into the composition, which is oftentimes circular in shape due to the special hoops typically used to keep the fabric taut. However, some artists go beyond the hoop to embroider in places you’d never expect, such as metal surfaces or even tennis rackets.