Fragments of cloth dating from between 5,000 BC and 500 AD have been excavated from tombs and monuments in South America, Egypt and China, and these show crude examples of darning, half cross stitch and satin stitch.Many of the fragments are made of linen; the regular warp and weft of this fabric, one of the oldest of all woven materials, provided the basis for the development of counted thread stitches.Peasant embroideries stitched in just one or two colours are perhaps the most striking of all and show off a complicated design to best advantage.
Natural fibres are perishable and do not survive as well as most metal and ceramic objects excavated from archaeological sites.
From the historical and archaeological evidence available, there is not yet enough accurate information to trace the exact origins of cross stitch embroidery.
An alternative school of thought believes that the spread of cross stitch embroidery may have been in the opposite direction, since the first important migration of foreigners into China took place during the T’ang Dynasty.
Persians, Arabs and travellers from Greece and India followed the silk routes to China and many eventually settled there.
Peasant embroidery is a purely domestic skill which is passed down through the generations from mother to daughter.
The stitches are simple to work and the fabric readily available - usually regularly woven linen, sometimes cotton.
Designs and stitches have been exchanged between so many different cultures and geographical areas, through travel, trade and the availability of printed design books, that many design elements are now common to several cultures.
Even today, it is fascinating to see the same motifs occurring in the traditional peasant embroideries of countries as far apart, geographically, as the Greek Islands, Mexico and Thailand.
Single motifs are uncommon in peasant embroidery; instead the motifs are usually repeated to form straight bands, which are then arranged above one another.
Traditional Greek Island designs can have as many as six or seven different bands put together to form an intricate border, which is usually finished with a pattern that creates a broken outer edge.
It decorates colourful garments, bags, animal trappings and furnishings, both large and small.