History of Russian Punch Needle Embroidery

One interesting thing about punchneedle is its unique history. Here's the short version:

Miniature punch needle embroidery has been around for a very long time. Ancient Egyptians were among the first to employ this technique by using the hollow bones of birds' wings as needles. The technique was used throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, often to elaborately decorate ecclesiastical clothing and panels. In modern times, it has been associated with embroidery work done by Russian immigrants belonging to a religious sect called The Old Believers.

During the reign of Peter the Great in the 17th century, the Russian Orthodox Church was going through a period of change. A new leadership made reforms, mostly to worship rituals, that some rejected. Those opposed to modernization split from the church. They were severely persecuted, first by the reforming leadership, then by the Tsars. These Old Believers were scattered into remote areas of Russia and around the world. Some settled in America. There are several clusters in the U. S., but the largest concentration of 'Old Believers' in the United States is near Portland, OR. In some ways, they are like the Amish. They stay mostly to themselves, and reject many things in modern culture.

Special thanks to Charlotte Dudney, Sally Van Nuys and Linda Repasky for providing this information.