As I said, exploring the counted variations could keep you busy for decades! I, however, am a dilettante. So I’ve been exploring the non-counted styles as well.
Non-counted varieties of ethnic embroidery include:
- Palestinian couching & Applique (often from the Bethlehem area)
- Silk and Metal thread – Imperial Chinese (dragon robes and rank badges)
- Broderie Anglaise – England, eyelets and white work
- Shisha – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan (mirror work, sometimes combined with counted work…)
- Estonian – really cool freestyle embroidery and motifs, very crewel-like
- Crewel – European, especially English 17th c. USA – especially 1960-70s.
In general, when discussing ethnic embroideries it seems that peasant work was generally a counted form. As you move up the economic and class ladders, embroidery begins to get more elaborate, including finer materials such as extensive flat silks and goldwork. It also becomes less durable, as the upper classes generally didn’t need their clothing to withstand hard labor – there are some exceptions to this if you are talking about a male warrior class that sometimes wore finery into the field. But even then, the decorative things take too much work to expose them to blood and mud on the battlefield!
Another question to ask about “upper class” embroidery is: can it really be denoted as “ethnic?” While motifs can sometimes be specific to an area or people, the ruling classes had more connections with other civilizations, and the embroideries often moved – blackwork, from Spain to England, for example.