ExhibitionsThe Universal Link: Chain Stitch

Museum Exhibition 2004

Chain stitch is one of the oldest decorative stitches.

It is unique because it can be done with a needle or a hook. There are two types hook – the tambour hook which is used with fabric held in a hoop and the ari, which is worked with the fabric held in the hand.

Chain stitch is one of the stitches worked on the oldest piece of embroidery known, which was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb (1334-1325 BC). There is a piece of chain stitch embroidery from China from 1000-500 BC. Chain stitch possibly began in China but was gradually replaced by other stitches and by around 800 BCE was rarely used.

We do not know how chain stitch reached the Middle East area and from there Europe, or the Indian subcontinent. The ancient trade routes from China to Eastern Europe were gradually established before the Egypt of the Pharaohs. Textiles and dyes were the principal items of trade and chain stitch probably went with them. Perhaps such a basic stitch was discovered in more than one place.

At Pazyryk in the Atlas Mountains of North Eastern Siberia, chain stitch on a saddle cover from 400 BC, has been discovered.