The complete guide to crewel embroidery
Fancy trying your hand at crewel embroidery? Read Jessie's complete guide which includes all the crewel embroidery supplies, kits and information you could ever need and get stitching!
Have you ever heard the term crewel embroidery and been completely bewildered as to what it actually is and how it differs from normal embroidery? Here is everything you need to know about where this fantastic technique comes from, what makes it so popular and how to do it, including a free pattern so you can get started right now!
What is crewel embroidery?
In simple terms, crewel embroidery is just normal embroidery using 1-ply or 2-ply wool; Its name is derived from the type of yarn that was used – krua – which means wool. Also referred to as crewelwork, it is a popular decorative stitching technique that has stood the test of time and continues to impassion makers to this day. It is one of the oldest forms of surface stitching – at least a thousand years old – and the technique itself is steeped in history, with the earliest surviving example being The Bayeux Tapestry.
At the height of its pre-20th century popularity, crewel embroidery appeared most prominently in Jacobean England, when the grand houses and buildings of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century were being built and the demand for luxurious furnishings increased. Historically, crewelwork was used to heavily decorate cushions, curtains, bedding and wall hangings.
Crewel embroidery experienced a revival in the 1960s and 70s with bright floral designs of the era in oranges, teals, yellows, purples and more. Much of the hype around crewel embroidery during this time was headed by artists such as Erica Wilson, Mildred J. Davis and Elsa Williams. Some vintage Elsa Williams embroidery kits can still be found popping up across Etsy and eBay!
What you need to do crewel embroidery
If you’re already an avid embroiderer or fibre artist, it’s likely that you’ll have almost everything you need in your creative toolbox already! However, if you’re a budding craftsperson just itching to delve into the world of crewelwork, here are some of the things you’ll need…
Thread for crewel embroidery
DMC: Lovecrafts, £0.98
An all-time favourite amongst crewel embroiderers, Appletons have been producing high-quality crewel yarn in a vast range of shades for almost 200 years. Their 2-ply wool comes in 25m skeins and boasts hard-wearing and long-lasting qualities that have stitchers falling in love over and over. DMC’s Soft Cotton 1-ply threads are also perfect for crewel embroidery, tapestry work, weaving and more and are available in a huge variety of colours and shades!
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Appletons: Lovecrafts, £0.89
Fabric for crewel embroidery
The most universally recognised fabric for crewel embroidery is Linen Twill for the strong foundation it provides. Combining the advantages of both being heavy weight and having a distinctive and textured diagonal weave makes it the perfect base for your crewelwork.
Needles for crewel embroidery
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Crewel needles have a longer eye which makes threading them so much easier when working with a thicker thread/yarn such as 2-ply. They can be found in packs of multiple sizes to give you more suitable options when working with a range of different fabrics. Both Hemline and Prym needles are a firm favourite of crewel embroiderers.
Prym Needles, Amazon, £4.98
Find a variety of sizes from Lovecrafts
There aren’t any specific hoops needed for crewel embroidery – any will do the trick – so you’ll have no trouble sourcing them from your local haberdashery or favourite online craft shop. We love Elbesee hoops, as seen above, for their availability, size range and their durability, they’re real box tickers!
How to do crewel embroidery
As crewel embroidery is defined not by style but by the type of yarn used to do it, you can use all your favourite embroidery stitches when practising crewel embroidery. As the yarn used is 2-ply wool, crewel embroidery adds a whole new dimension to your stitch work through the added texture and thickness. Here’s a handy step-by-step guide on how to complete this simple yet stylish crewel embroidery project!
You will need:
- Linen Twill fabric – 15cm x 15cm
- 4in embroidery hoop
- DMC soft cotton
- Pink (2315)
- Yellow (2146)
- Green (2012)
- Crewel needle
- Basic embroidery kit
- Floral template
To learn how to do all the stitches mentioned in this project head to our embroidery stitches guide!
Crewel embroidery flower
Pop your fabric into a 4in hoop and thread your green crewel yarn and trace your pattern with a removable pen (We do this to the fabric facing up in the inside of the hoop for accuracy with tracing). Stitch all the stems in Stem Stitch, keeping stitches even to make the detail pop!
Now Satin Stitch all the leaves, including the one on the flowers’ stem.
Create the flower petals with Lazy Daisy stitch in your next colour and then make a couple of Satin Stitches in the centre to fill them out.
Finally, in your third colour, use French Knots to fill in the flower’s centre before turning your hoop back the right way round. Your first crewel embroidery piece is complete!
6 of the best crewel embroidery kits
Purchasing a crewel embroidery kit will cut out the hassle of having to source threads, materials and patterns separately and gives you the opportunity to stitch a design you’ve set your heart on!
1. A Halcyon Day Crewel Embroidery Kit
Featuring a total of 9 different stitches, this advanced crewel embroidery kit from MelburyHill depicts a striking dragonfly with majestic, textured wings. The kit includes 100% original linen twill fabric, Appleton's yarn, a needle and full instructions – all you need to supply is a 10in embroidery hoop.
2. Swallows Flight Crewel Embroider Kit
Another beautiful kit from MelburyHill is this beautiful, traditional swallows design. 100% original linen twill fabric, Appleton's yarn, a needle and full instructions are all included in the kit – all you need to supply is a 10in embroidery hoop. With 7 different stitches, this pattern is perfect for the intermediate stitcher.
3. An English Bouquet Crewel Embroidery Kit
From Needlewoman’s Studio comes this stunning, floral kit that includes Appleton's wool, a needle and comprehensive instructions. This 6in x 6in design is the perfect project to throw yourself into your spring makes with!
4. The Strawberry Thieves Crewel Embroidery Kit
This kit will be a firm favourite amongst fans of William Morris’ work! This deluxe kit includes a hand-drawn design on linen fabric, all the Appletons wool you will need to complete the piece, 3 different needles and a comprehensive 12-page booklet of instructions.
5. Crewel Heart Embroidery Kit
Inspired by the ceiling mouldings of the Strawberry Hill House’s Tribune Room, fall in love with a variety of stitches and the art of shading with thread. The kit includes Appleton's crewel wool, a square of Irish linen with the printed design, needles, a needle threader, Gilt Smooth Passing Bright Check Purl, Gütermann Sew-All thread, beeswax and a miniature velvet board – all you will need in addition is an 8in embroidery hoop.
6. Hummingbird Crewelwork Kit
Including printed cotton twill fabric, Appleton's crewel wool, all the needles you will need and 24 pages of step-by-step tutorials, all you need to stitch this fantastic design is an 8in hoop! This sweet, 12 stitch hummingbird embroidery is ideal for those with some previous experience, however, if you’re up for a challenge, you’ll be a pro in no time with the comprehensive instructions booklet that’s included.
We hope you've enjoyed learning and stitching crewel embroidery. For more fab embroidery projects check out our embroidery patterns section which includes a free chicken embroidery design and even some cat embroidery!
Bristol-based Jessie lives a fabric-filled double life. By day she surrounds herself with quilts in her job as Production Editor for Today’s Quilter magazine, and by night she’s a talented embroidery artist and illustrator who runs Jessie Doe Designs. Her specialty is lovingly stitched embroidery hoops. Having always loved crafting, she fell in love with contemporary embroidery during her time at university and used it as a way to unwind from her degree in English Literature. When she’s not writing and editing the pages of Today’s Quilter, the self-confessed Harry Potter nerd shares her work and ideas on Instagram @jessiedoedesigns where she writes about craft, mindfulness and lifestyle on her blog.
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