What is Brazilian Embroidery?

T. Carrier

Embroidery, or the creation of arts and crafts using needles, threads, and yarns, takes knowledge and skill. One popular embroidery method is Brazilian embroidery, which utilizes rayon thread. This method is notable for its shiny plant life designs and its use of Z-twist and knotted stitches. Since the technique became popular in Brazil, it bears the country’s name. The Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery International Guild is perhaps the leading advocate of Brazilian embroidery practices.

Embroidery hoops hold material flat and prevent puckering.
Embroidery hoops hold material flat and prevent puckering.

The main difference of Brazilian embroidery from other types is its use of rayon thread. While differing forms mainly use cotton or wool, Brazilian embroidery favors the versatile and man-made rayon fiber, popular with manufacturers in Brazil. In this kind of embroidery, the thread is wrapped around a needle in a clockwise direction, also known as a Z-twist, rather than with the counterclockwise wrap, or S-twist, typical of cotton- or wool-based embroidery

A punch needle can be used for some types of hand-made embroidery.
A punch needle can be used for some types of hand-made embroidery.

Other differences exist with Brazilian embroidery as well. For one, the nature of rayon gives it a sheen and thus a highly glossy finish. The fabric is also smooth, making it relatively flexible. The stitched designs are typically adhered to a fabric rather than being woven into it, and so fall under the classification of surface embroidery. Designs mostly consist of plants and flowers, but other options are also available.

Creativity is an important component of Brazilian embroidery patterns. Generally, stitchers first create a basic outline of the design. In a plant design, for example, outer leaves and branches are outlined first, then flowers and other finer designs are added with increasing detail. When created from scratch, the specific look of the design is dependent upon the artistic flair of the stitcher. Brazilian embroidery kits with pattern options and beginner tips also exist, however, and are available for purchase in many crafts outlets.

The patterns of Brazilian embroidery are achieved through certain stitching techniques. A large percentage of rayon-based embroidery is based on knotted stitches, which are stitches in which the thread wraps around itself in a coiled fashion. French knots and bullion knots are two such examples. When working with rayon in particular, knots also need to be tied at the ends of the threads to prevent unwrapping. Cast-on stitches with raised loops are also preferred, where each stitch is independent and does not rely on another stitch.

Certain tools are necessary for most Brazilian embroidery crafts projects. The thread is, of course, a primary consideration. An alternatives to rayon is trigger cloth. In addition to embroidery needles, milliner needles are commonplace — these needle types feature an elongated body and an eye that does not exceed the size of the shaft. Other important tools include hoops for stretching fabric, thread straighteners, and sharp scissors.

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