Art Needlework

Lewis F. Day and Mary Buckle's book: Art in Needlework, London 1900. Lewis F. Day and Mary Buckle's book: Art in Needlework, London 1900.

Art Needlework is a late nineteenth century form of free-style embroidery, which became popular in Britain and quickly spread elsewhere. The concept of Art Needlework was developed under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and the Arts and Crafts Movement. In particular it was associated with the English designer, William Morris and his daughter, May Morris.

Art Needlework is characterised by the use of ‘traditional’ (medieval to the eighteenth century) styles of embroidery, emphasising free-hand drawing, delicate shading and the use of vegetable-dyed silk. This style of embroidery was seen as essential in order to counteract the influences of the counted thread technique known as Berlin wool work, which used brightly coloured Berlin wool. William Morris’s shop, Morris & Co., for example, sold finished embroideries as well as kits in the new style.

In 1872, the Royal School of Art Needlework (later known as the Royal School of Needlework) was founded, which provided apprenticeship places in the traditional (Art Needlework) styles of embroidery. May Morris, an influential designer and embroiderer, was active in promoting this style of work and in helping to teach at the school. Art Needlework was introduced to North America at the 1876 Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia (USA).

An influential book on the subject is by Lewis F. Day and Mary Buckle, Art in Needlework, London (1900). The book covers a wide range of subjects, from stitches, embroidery techniques, to suitable designs. It ends with a chapter called 'A Word to the Worker,' with a word of advice as to what is needlework and how to carry it out in the best possible manner.

Source: MORRIS, Barbara (1962). Victorian Embroidery, London: Herbert Jenkins, pp. 113-142.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 4 June 2016).


Last modified on Thursday, 27 April 2017 18:22