chinese silk embroidery painting Vimalakirti Preching Doctrineschinese silk embroidery painting Vimalakirti Preching Doctrines

Quality Standards of Su Embroidery Studio

A Definitive Guide to the Quality of Chinese Silk Embroidery Teaches You How to Judge and Choose Chinese Embroidery

The major characteristics of the traditional Chinese silk embroidery are flatness, neatness, fineness, density, evenness, brightness, harmony and smoothness. Flatness refers to the texture of the embroidered face; neatness refers to the shape of the outline; fineness refers to the skillful use of the stitches and the fineness of the silk threads; density refers to the careful spacing of the lines; smoothness refers to the quality of the silk threads; harmony refers to the color combinations; and brightness refers to the eye-catching appearance of the embroidery.

Thistle, A Masterpiece of Chinese Silk Embroidery Created by Su Embroidery Studio

Four Criteria That Determine the Chinese Silk Embroidery Quality

Su Embroidery Studio created four main criteria to help silk art lovers to appreciate the quality of Chinese silk embroidery and judge the value of Chinese embroidery.

1. Size of Silk Threads 

Chinese silk embroidery is made with silk threads on silk fabric stitch by stitch. The size of silk threads used in a silk embroidery painting decides its quality to a large extent. Generally speaking, a higher quality silk embroidery is often hand embroidered with finer silk threads than a lower quality one. To make the silk embroidery work as fine as possible, the embroidery artists do not use full silk threads but split silk threads to make the embroidery work. In many high quality silk embroidery artworks, the silk threads used are only 1/32th to 1/64th of one full silk thread. By using finer silk threads, the embroidery artists can make the embroidery work as detailed as possible. It's a bit like to use very small brushes to paint a painting with many minute details. If the brushes are too large, it's impossible to display all the details by painting and some details will inevitably be lost. It is the same to Chinese embroidery paintings, if the silk threads are not thin enough, the embroidery work will not look as vivid as life.

sizes of silk threads showing how silk embroidery artist splits one full silk thread to 64 strandssizes of silk threads showing how silk embroidery artist splits one full silk thread to 64 strands
one full silk thread split from 1 to 64 strands

2. Length of Stitches

In some poorly made embroidery work, the stitches are very long. It's very clear for two silk embroidery paintings of the same design and the same size, the one made with long stitches will be made in a shorter time. Long stitches save the embroidery artist's time but affect the whole quality of the embroidery work. The long stitches are not strong enough. After some time, the stitches will get loose and some silk threads may come out. A high quality Chinese embroidery painting is often made with very short stitches. The embroidery work is very strong, dense and smooth.

close-up of Masterpiece silk embroidery to show the minute details of the embroidery workclose-up of Masterpiece silk embroidery to show the minute details of the embroidery work
One part of Chinese silk embroidery Thangka magnified 3 times. The brocade mat (left) shows its texture clearly after magnifying, while the stitches in the silk embroidery (right) are so short that they are not noticeable. (see the whole silk embroidery below)

3. Density of the Embroidery Work

A high quality Chinese silk embroidery is made with several layers of embroidery work. The base layer is normally made with fat silk threads. The upper layers are made with finer silk threads. The upper layers, the finer silk threads will use. The top layer is made with the finest silk threads. By doing the embroidery in this way, embroidery artists can make the embroidery work as detailed as possible and more colors of silk threads can be mixed.

lychee fruit hand embroidered with extremely fine silk threadslychee fruit hand embroidered with extremely fine silk threads
Lychee fruit embroidered in a Masterpiece Thangka with more than ten layers of embroidery work that one can feel the roughness of the shell like real lychee fruit when touching it. The photo is 2 times as large as the real silk embroidery. (see the whole silk embroidery below)

4. Colors of Silk Threads

High quality Chinese embroidery uses silk threads of more than 100 colors. The result is very clear. To make the colors of the embroidery painting look natural, the embroidery artists often use silk threads of one color at different gradations. Sometimes one red color of the embroidery work has dozens of different red colors mixed, from light to dark. The color differences are so tiny that most people are not able tell their exact differences. But the embroidery artists know how to use them well. By mixing the similar colors, the final colors of the embroidery work transit smoothly and look as realistic as a photograph. 

silk threads in different colors

Based on the four criteria, Su Embroidery Studio classifies all the embroidery paintings created into three quality levels, Fine Quality, Top Quality and Masterpiece

Here's how we define and differentiate these quality levels based on the four criteria,

1. Thread Size

Fine Quality: Fine Quality embroidery paintings may use moderately thin silk threads for intricate detailing.

Top Quality: Top Quality pieces use even thinner silk threads, allowing for finer and more detailed work.

Masterpiece: Masterpiece embroideries employ the thinnest silk threads possible, enabling the most intricate and lifelike representations.

2. Stitch Length

Fine Quality: Fine Quality embroidery paintings feature short and precise stitches for durability and detailing.

Top Quality: Top Quality pieces use even shorter stitches, ensuring lasting integrity and meticulous detailing.

Masterpiece: Masterpiece embroidery paintings excel in using the shortest stitches, guaranteeing exceptional strength and the most intricate details.

3. Embroidery Density

Fine Quality: Fine Quality embroidery paintings have multiple layers of embroidery work, with varying thread thickness to create depth.

Top Quality: Top Quality embroidery paintings excel in layering and blending threads for enhanced depth and detail.

Masterpiece: Masterpiece embroidery paintings are known for their meticulous layering and blending, achieving unparalleled depth and realism.

4. Colors of Silk Threads

Fine Quality: Fine Quality embroidery paintings use a diverse color palette to create vivid imagery.

Top Quality: Top Quality pieces employ an extensive range of colors, enhancing the realism and vibrancy of the artwork.

Masterpiece: Masterpiece embroidery art showcases an exceptional spectrum of colors, ensuring the most lifelike and captivating visuals.

By establishing these quality levels, Su Embroidery Studio hopes silk embroidery lovers will have a better understanding about the craftsmanship and artistry in Chinese silk embroidery. It not only helps our customers make informed choices when purchasing Chinese embroidery online but also shows our dedication to excellence in embroidery art. One thing worth noting is that Su Embroidery Studio refuses to describe the quality of hand embroidery in technical numbers online, for instance the number of layers of embroidery work etc, though we have strict standards for what size of silk threads to use, approximate lengths of stitches and layers of embroidery work before making each embroidery painting. A high quality silk embroidered painting is a result of the embroidery artist’s applying of her embroidery skills adeptly. When making a ilk embroidery painting, the embroidery artist will not count how many stitches and layers made or measure the length of stitch. A stuffing with the finest silk threads, shortest stitch length, dense work and maximum colors won’t make a Masterpiece silk embroidery artwork automatically if the embroidery artist’s skills are not good enough. In addition, we find many silk embroidery sellers like to exaggerate the layer numbers to justify the high price they ask for. At Su Embroidery Studio, we encourage our customers to see and compare with their own eyes instead of getting misled by numbers. 

It takes 1 to 3 months to complete a medium size (40 x 50 cm) Fine Quality embroidery painting depending on the complexity of the embroidery work, while some large size Top Quality or Masterpiece embroidery paintings may take more than a year to complete. What mainly makes Chinese silk embroidery stand out from the other hand embroidery in the world is the size of silk threads it uses. In Masterpiece Chinese silk embroidery, for instance the tail of the gold fish, it uses silk strands that are only 1/128th of the full silk thread, finer than human hair and almost invisible to naked eyes. 

Now all of the embroidery artists in Su Embroidery Studio are over 45 years old. Unlike their mothers or grandmothers, the young girls in the embroidery village are not interested in learning Chinese silk embroidery. Embroidering is a painstaking job. To master the high embroidery skills requires great patience and years of boring practice. In 20 to 30 years, while Chinese silk embroidery in Suzhou may still exists, the embroidery artists who can create Masterpiece silk embroidery paintings will be extinct species if this situation still continues. 

chinese embroidery Thangkachinese embroidery Thangka
Handmade Chinese embroidery ‘Thangka - White Tara’, Masterpiece

Take a Close Look at Su Embroidery

Close-up of lotus silk embroidery, Fine Quality

Close-up of lotus silk embroidery, Top Quality

Close-up of silk embroidery The Kiss, Fine Quality

Close-up of silk embroidery The Kiss, Top Quality

Close-up of silk embroidery Thistle, Fine Quality

Close-up of silk embroidery Thistle, Masterpiece

Close-up of silk embroidery Tiger, Fine Quality

Close-up of silk embroidery Tiger, Masterpiece (magnified 3x)

Media Gallery

We encourage you to spend some time on exploring the embroidery paintings below, espeically their close-ups. They are categorized into three quality levels: Fine Quality, Top Quality, and Masterpiece. We believe that viewing these photos will offer you a tangible understanding of the exceptional craftsmanship that defines our embroidery paintings.

At Su Embroidery Studio, we uphold rigorous standards for all our silk embroidered artworks. While Fine Quality serves as the foundation in our quality system, it certainly does not compromise on excellence. In fact, these pieces surpass the quality of most Chinese embroidery work you can see both online or in shops in China. Approximately 70% of our customers opt for Fine Quality, and their feedback consistently highlights that the received embroidery paintings exceeded their expectations.

For those seeking a higher tier, about 20% of our customers choose Top Quality. Less than 10% of our customers have indulged in our Masterpiece collection - the highest quality Chinese embroidery available in China and the finest hand embroidery in the world. By dedicating an extraordinary amount of time to craft Masterpiece embroidery paintings, Su Embroidery Studio aims to leave a lasting legacy, ensuring that future generations recognize the pinnacle of hand embroidery quality achieved by our skilled embroidery artists

Fine Quality


Top Quality




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