Crewel Embroidery, or Crewelwork, is a decorative form of surface embroidery using wool and a variety of different embroidery stitches to follow a design outline applied to the fabric. The technique is at least a thousand years old. It was used in the Bayeux Tapestry, in Jacobean embroidery and in the Quaker tapestry.
The origin of the word crewel is unknown but is thought to come from an ancient word describing the curl in the staple, the single hair of the wool. Crewel wool has a long staple; it is fine and can be strongly twisted. Modern crewel wool is a fine, 2-ply or 1-ply yarn available in many different colors.
|Detail of stitching on the Bayeux Tapestry.|
The outlines of the design to be worked are often screen printed onto the fabric or can be transferred to plain fabric using modern transfer pens, containing water soluble ink or air soluble ink, or iron-on designs applied using transfer sheets. The old fashioned "pinprick and chalk" or "prick and pounce" methods also work well. This is where the design outlines on paper are pricked with a needle to produce perforations along the lines. Powdered chalk or pounce material is then forced through the holes onto the fabric using a felt pad or stipple brush in order to replicate the design on the material.
Designs range from the traditional to more contemporary patterns. The traditional design styles are often referred to as Jacobean embroidery featuring highly stylized floral and animal designs with flowing vines and leaves.
Many different embroidery stitches are used in crewelwork to create a textured and colorful effect. Unlike silk or cotton embroidery threads, crewel wool is thicker and creates a raised, dimensional feel to the work. Some of the techniques and stitches include:
- Outlining stitches such as stem stitch, chain stitch and split stitch
- Satin stitches to create flat, filled areas within a design
- Couched stitches, where one thread is laid on the surface of the fabric and another thread is used to tie it down. Couching is often used to create a trellis effect within an area of the design.
- Seed stitches, applied randomly in an area to give a lightly shaded effect
- French knots are commonly used in floral and fruit motifs for additional texture
- Laid and Couched Work
- Long and Short "soft shading"
|Odo of Bayeux|
Unlike canvas work, crewel embroidery requires the use of an embroidery hoop or frame on which the material is stretched taut and secured prior to stitching. This ensures an even amount of tension in the stitches, so that designs do not become distorted. Although nowadays, crewel and free embroidery is generally executed with a small portable hoop, early embroidery was executed on large free standing frames. Such free standing frames were common parlor furniture in most homes. The rectangular canvas mount could tilt and pivot over so that the needleworker could also access the back of the canvas with ease.
Sample Crewelwork From The Web: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil * A Lovely Rooster * Beautiful Crewel Kits * Crewel Embroidery Pomegranate * Designs Fromm The Crewel Work Company * Selling Historical Reproductions * Modern Jacobean Embroidery Kits * designs by William Morris and William De Morgan *
More Crewel Embroidery Stitches: 5 Stitches From Megan McConnell *
More History About Crewelwork: The Story of Jacobean Embroidery * The Flowers and Animals of Stuart Embroideries * Pictorial and Stumpwork in England * Jacobean Embroidery: Its Forms and Fillings, Including Late Tudor * The Bayeux Tapestries * How Crewel by Elizabeth Creeden * The Jacobean "Rutland Design" *
Free Patterns for Crewelwork: * Free Tudor Embroidery Patterns * Use Worsted Wool to Create These Botanical Crewelwork Patterns * Free Crewelwork Patterns From 1696 * Reproduce Embroidery Designs Found in Hardwicke Hall, Derbyshire * Rare Crewelwork From Powis Castle * Antique Crewelwork Designs from The Late 17th Century * Heritage Crewelwork Patterns from The 18th Century * Patterns Of Little Creatures and Birds From 17th Century Crewelwork * Grace Christie * Complimentary Patterns From NAN *
Stumpwork of a dogwood rose.