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What is embroidery?
Embroidery is the ancient art of decorating a cloth with a needle and thread. As much as we can judge from the conservation of antique textiles, humans have been embellishing clothing, household laundry and all sorts of accessories and home goods for many, many centuries. Since the beginning of the 20th century, embroidery in all forms has become a hobby, largely grouped under the antiquated term fancy work. This generic term covers a wide range of techniques: cross stitch, tapestry or needlepoint, ‘traditional’ embroidery which in itself regroups an infinite number of stitches and techniques, white work – which is tending more and more towards colours, as well as the exquisite Luneville embroidery with sequins and pearls.
On this site you will find all sorts of inspirations for embroidery projects: our famous Retors du Nord embroidery floss, Laine Saint-Pierre, Tonkin thread, the superb Museums and Heritage collection of embroideries, the Sajou albums, all our La Fontaine and Perrault counted cross stitch charts, our vintage samplers, our floral motifs, Aida and linen tea towels, tapestry kits, wooden embroidery hoops, a wide selection of needles. Practically all our products are made in France and their quality is beyond reproach. We are sure you will find something to suit you, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned embroiderer!
Our experience in haberdashery and embroidery has opened the doors to some of the best French suppliers who make all the products we create. Maison Sajou is in fact, not a distributor, the only products sold on our site were created by Frederique Crestin-Billet, a fervent embroiderer for many years. For our threads and flosses, we associated with Ets. Toulemonde, last remaining manufacturer of thread in France and the proprietor of the famous Fil Au Chinois brand.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contacts us. And thank you for supporting our site!
You can also see embroidery demonstrations on Maison Sajou YouTube channel, where we show you traditional embroidery stitches but also some great techniques for embellishing our printed fabrics.
Discover our different embroidery flosses:
Retors du Nord embroidery floss:
The Retors du Nord embroidery floss is a high-quality thread made in France, which we created in 2009. This 100% cotton floss is made up of four separable strands. Our Retors du Nord embroidery flosses are known for their lustre with a finish that is close to silk. They are available in 96 colours. You can by them by the unit, in selection boxes or our gorgeous complete collection box. Once they have tried it, most embroiderers won’t use any other floss, be it for cross stitch or traditional embroidery. A very important detail: Retors du Nord is presented on a card, not only practical and aesthetic, but also , unlike embroidery flosses in skeins, there is no waste of thread.
Find out more about the Retors du Nord embroidery floss in Madame Sajou’s Diary.
Laine-Saint Pierre is historically a yarn for darning socks and pullovers. We have given it a new lease of life by creating new, more vibrant colours, making it adaptable for all types of embroidery. Contrary to our Retors du Nord embroidery floss, the result with this yarn is a matt, more rustic finish. The yarn is presented on cards and has four separable strands. It is composed of 50% wool and 50% polyamide. It is sold by the unit, or in one of our four assortments, and there is of course, a spectacular box containing the 96 colours in the collection.
Find out more about Laine Saint-Pierre in Madame Sajou’s Diary.
Tonkin embroidery floss:
Tonkin embroidery floss is a polyester thread with a very fine strand of gold lurex. It is available in 24 different colours and presented on cards and has four separable strands. This thread was originally used on machines in haute-couture houses. It is much more pleasant to use than metallized threads and does not fray. It is sold by the unit or in 12 card assortments in gorgeous boxes. You can get amazing results by associating a strand of Tonkin thread with our Retors du Nord embroidery floss or Laine Saint-Pierre for your embellishments or embroidery. There is no limit to your creativity!
The Museums and Heritage embroidery collection:
The spectacular collection of Museums and Heritage embroideries is inspired by all aspects of textile history, haberdashery and French savoir-faire. Each pattern chart evokes diverse subjects, such as the history of Toile de Jouy, the Bayeux Tapestry, the gorgeous fabrics in the Versailles Chateau, Queen Marie-Antoinette’s garments, the the wonderful world and history of Maison Sajou, the marvellous cloths from the era of Napoleon and Josephine, the different plants used through history to dye cloths, embroidery flosses and sewing threads. Each theme has an incredible main embroidery pattern chart and a choice of smaller charts and kits on the same topic. We like to call it “cultural cross stitch” as you learn so much whilst embroidering.
See all the detailed presentations of the Museums and Heritage collection in Madame Sajou’s Diary.
The Sajou albums:
The famous Sajou embroidery booklets contain numerous alphabet embroidery samplers. They are organised in different series. The blue albums contain mostly small letters and are perfect for beginners. The mauve albums have both alphabets and motifs. The green albums have larger letters with floral and geometric motifs. These three series of albums are reeditions of original cross stitch motifs dating from the times of Monsieur Sajou, and are just a small part of his publications. The red series of albums contain patterns created by Frederique Crestin-Billet. One of them is entirely dedicated to basic stitches in traditional embroidery. Beginners or experienced embroiderers will surely find inspiration for unique projects in these albums.
The tea towels and embroidery fabrics:
We have two sorts of tea towels to embroider: natural linen tea towels which are great for both cross stitch and traditional embroidery, and cotton tea towels with a central panel of Aida, perfect for cross stitch. As for our embroidery linens, we have both 12 count and 16 count for cross stitch embroidery. We also have a range of tight weave linen for traditional embroidery. All are proposed in a large variety of colours – the difficult bit will be choosing your favourite!
The tapestry kits:
Tapestry is generally stitched on canvas using a woollen yarn. There are a wide variety of stitches, the one we use in our kits is basketweave, which is stitched diagonally rather than line by line. Some of our models are available as pattern charts, others as complete kits. All the items in our tapestry kits are quality products made in France.
You can watch the video on how to do the basketweave stitch in Madame Sajou’s Diary.
The material for embroidery:
Of course you will need embroidery floss. Our flosses are sold on cards and have four separable strands. As a general rule, you should use to strands of floss. However, you will find explanations in some of our embroidery kits to use one or three strands, but it is always clearly indicated. Some specific types of embroidery, notably Luneville, require gloving thread, which is presented on spools. Our rayon threads and silk threads, also presented on spools, are also great alternatives for embroidery and embellishment. Although our Calais and Caudry cocoons and Egyptian cottons were originally conceived for lace making, they can also be used for cross stitch or traditional embroidery. You can also get striking results by adding a strand of metallized thread to your classic embroidery floss.
You will also need some needles. For cross stitch, you will use a round-tipped needle, which passes easier through the holes without risk of stitching the fabric. Round-tipped needles are normally referred to as embroidery needles. However, sharp embroidery needles also exist, this is clearly indicated on the packaging and on our site. For traditional embroidery, you should use sharp embroidery needles, the weave of the fabric being tighter. Beginners generally prefer a larger needles, progressing onto finer needles when they gain confidence in their work.
Embroidery hoops, while not being compulsory, do give a neater finish to all embroidery work. Being anti-plastic as far as is possible, ours are wooden. The embroidery hoop should be adapted to the size of the project, so as not to have to move it too often. A word of advice, if you are going to set aside your embroidery for any length of time, remove the hoop to avoid it marking your embroidery fabric.
If you want to embellish an item of clothing with an embroidery design, think about using Solufix, a great invention which really simplifies tracing and embroidering a motif. You can see how to use Solufix in Madame Sajou’s Diary. You can also use a FriXion pen, another great invention. You can trace a motif and it disappears with an iron or hair dryer. These are available in a multitude of colours so you can easily distinguish the motif whatever the colour of the embroidery fabric.
The threads for bobbin lace
The Calais cocoons, cotton thread for bobbin lace:
Our range of threads for bobbin lace is also very extensive. We named these cocoons after the famous lace of the same name. It is a cotton thread which is singed (it passes through a flame which removes any fluff) and mercerised, making it shiny and soft to the touch. The Calais cocoons are available by the unit, in boxes of 12 per colour, or in assortments of 12 varied colours. You can also purchase a spectacular box containing the complete collection of Calais cocoons. Although they were originally intended for bobbin lace, our Calais cocoons are easy to adapt to cross stitch, traditional embroidery and even patchwork and quilting. Some of our clients also use them for headbands in book binding. The Calais cocoons are made in France by the Fil Au Chinois brand.
The Caudry cocoons, polyester thread for bobbin lace:
Caudry cocoons are made from a polyester thread with a very fine strand of Lurex. They are a textured thread with a slightly puffy aspect. The strand of Lurex is coated with the polyester thread. The Caudry cocoons are available by the unit, in boxes of 12 and in assortments. Created for bobbin lace, they are very flexible and amusing to use in cross stitch or traditional embroidery. They are made in France by the Fil Au Chinois brand.
The Egyptian cottons:
The name is a bit of a giveaway, this long fibre cotton comes from Egypt, reputed for the quality of their product. Sold on reels and available in white, off white, ecru and black, they are available in different thicknesses and are often used for white work and hardanger embroidery.