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The earliest example of a complete cross stitch is a design worked in upright crosses on linen, and the piece was discovered in a Coptic tomb in Upper Egypt, where it was preserved by the dry desert climate dating from about 500AD in Upper Egypt.
Very few pieces of decorated fabric have survived from ancient civilisations, but this does not mean that decorative stitching was rarely used.
The stitches are simple to work and the fabric readily available - usually regularly woven linen, sometimes cotton.
Peasant embroideries stitched in just one or two colours are perhaps the most striking of all and show off a complicated design to best advantage.
The complex border patterns which appear all over the world - from Eastern Europe to Palestine and from Thailand to Morocco - are actually created in a very simple way.
There are many regional variations of similar cross stitch shapes, including eight-pointed star, heart, flower and bird motifs, as each basic shape is translated to fit the grid of the fabric in a slightly different way.
Many earlier stitches are now our most common and more easily executed ones One of the most important and widespread functions of cross stitch has been to ornament peasant garments and household linens, often as a way of indicating family wealth and status in the community.