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Embroidery makes its 'mark' as more than a niche business

With designs ranging from simple to elaborate and colors traversing the entire spectrum, embroidery is stitching its mark on the world of home textiles.

Whether it is on the bed or covering the window, embroidery has been established as a simple but elegant way to decorate sheets, shams, towels, rugs, comforters or window panels.

"I've believed in embroidery for the last five years," said Marla Stuchel, vp, design, Ellison Division, Alice Mills, New York. "It's good for all aspects of the bed."

Stuchel said embroidery has been popular in European bedding for many years and is only now appearing en masse in the United States. Manufacturers, she said, are finally realizing that embroidery lends itself to the simple yet elegant look many consumers now prefer.

Judy Neu, design director, decorative pillows, Town & Country, based in New York, had a different take on why embroideries are gaining in popularity. She believes consumers like embroidered goods and are renewing their interest in them because they are reminiscent of handmade crafts as opposed to a machine-made product with a cookie-cutter image. "It's like we are retaliating against the computer age," she said.

Jee Lee, product manager for Melange Home Fashions, also based in New York, said that when Melange entered the home textiles business several years ago it offered only embroidered bedding, since there was little competition.

"Back then, embroidery put us in a niche market. Now, I guess people see it as an opportunity in the marketplace," Lee said about the proliferation of embroidered goods in the marketplace.

Melange currently offers five open stock patterns, five mini-duvet sets, four shower curtains and five window panels that are all embroidered, while Ellison's assortment includes three complete beds. Both manufacturers plan to enlarge their respective collections for fall market.

The Sugar Valley, GA-based Mohawk Home plans to incorporate embroidered designs for its upscale bath rug collections, Newmark and Townhouse. Fleece throws and decorative pillows from its juvenile licensed Disney and Warner Bros. collections will also be introduced.

"We see embroidery as an area of growth," said Pat Moyer, vp, marketing, Mohawk Home.

Although Lee sees embroidery as suitable for many different designs, she believes consumers favor the more traditional florals and stripes; but geometrics and larger-scale motifs are in the works. According to Moyer, Mohawk will utilize leaves and flowers for its products, while Ellison's Stuchel said daisies, pansies and geometric shapes such as swirls are what she favors. "Anything that's the trend in print would be the trend in embroideries," Stuchel said. "There's all different types of fun things you can do with it."

For more elegant looks, manufacturers are turning to tone-on-tone color schemes. Embroidered stripes or edging partnered with same-color, higher-thread-count sheets gives a bed a formal look, while multi-colored embroideries, such as flowers, tend to be favored by a younger or more contemporary consumer.

As for price, Stuchel said embroideries, in general, are more of a specialty or department store item, thereby giving them slightly higher retail price points. Contributing to the higher price points is the amount of work an embroidered ensemble requires as opposed to a printed set of the same thread count, Lee said.

"Embroideries tend to get more expensive the more conservative they are, because they're done on higher-thread-count sheets," Lee said. "The more contemporary they are, [the more] they tend to be done on lower-thread-count sheets, so they're a little less expensive."

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