Historically for women needlework was essentially a requirement. A practical necessity (mending household linens and clothing) but also an expected part of the well-bred woman's repertoire. During the mid-to-late 20th century when skill with a needle and thread was no longer necessary for survival, traditional "ladies arts" came to be viewed, by some, as "granny."
But in the last 20 years many young women have rediscovered needlework and embraced it. Some, like Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, use thread and canvas as an artistic medium. During her exploratory days, fine artist Elliott Puckette did monochromatic needlepoint. Others, including Ellen Baker, are putting a modern spin on classic domestic applications such as hand towels or children's clothes. And of course others are working in a traditional style.
In tune with the times, the V & A offers extensive online resources related to embroidery and needlework: history, patterns to download, links to embroidery blogs, lists of contemporary embroidery artists and so on.
Shown at top:
Embroidery design on squared paper
Il Monte, Libro Secondo
Illustration from The Illustrated Needlework Book
Both courtesy the V & A.
BTW: You may enjoy these related links about Leontine Linens founder, Jane Scott Hodges, and the woman who preceded her, Eleanor Beard:
Eleanor Beard history
Eleanor Beard main site
Image of Jane Scott via Leontine Linens and Georgetown News-Graphic
Click here to see Jane Scott on Martha's show.