During the middle ages embroidery was a popular way of decorating luxury textiles. The rich and powerful medieval Church owned huge amounts a of embroidered textiles, often donated by the wealthy. Documents show that embroidery was commissioned for clothing for royalty and the nobility but little of this survives. Furnishings i were probably decorated with applied embroidered motifs. From the middle of the 1200s to the middle of the 1300s, England was the centre of very fine embroidery, known as Opus I Anglicanum, or English work which was exported all over Europe .

Opus Anglicanum embroidery usually covers the whole of the cloth on which it is worked, leaving only small areas of the background visible. From Matthew Paris the thirteenth century historian.

About the same time [1245] my Lord Pope, having noticed that the vestments of certain English priests were embroidered in gold thread after a most desirable fashion, asked whence came this work? From England , they told him. The exclaimed the pope, ‘ England is surely a garden of delights, truly an inexhaustible well’.