Crewel embroidery is the art of stitching designs in fabric with colorful wool yarn. Embroidery is most often done using colored threads called embroidery floss; it's the use of heavy wool yarn that differentiates crewel from regular embroidery.
The art of crewel embroidery, sometimes called crewelwork, has been around for centuries, but became extremely popular in 17th Century England. This craft made its way to the new world, and by the 18th Century it was quite popular in America as well. Flowers, trees, fruits and other nature themes were popular motifs for crewelwork during this time.
Getting Started with Crewel
If you'd like to try your hand at this age-old craft, you have a couple of options available to you. A nice easy way to start is by purchasing a crewel embroidery kit, which can be found at specialty craft shops, some larger yarn stores or online. Most kits will include fabric pre-printed with a design, and all the yarn you will need to complete the project. Most kits will also have instructions on how to work the many stitches used in crewel embroidery.
Some kits will come with a hoop to hold the fabric and needles, though most often you will need to supply these things yourself. Crewel needles are a bit thicker and have a larger eye than regular sewing needles, to accommodate the thicker yarn.
Those new to the art of crewel work should seek out simpler designs until they've mastered the basic stitches. More experienced stitchers can try their hand at the more intricate crewelwork kits available, some of which look like elaborate paintings when they are completed.
If you prefer to create something truly original, you can try your hand at making your own design. It's best to first sketch out your ideas on paper. When you are satisfied with your design, transfer it onto the fabric of your choice, and you're ready to begin stitching. If you're a floss embroidery veteran, be sure to ask about the amount of yarn needed for crewel embroidery projects. Some of the complex stitches can use a surprising amount of yarn, and you don't want to run out of a needed color partway through your project.
Crafting with Crewel
Crewel embroidery can be used to embellish almost anything in your home, such as pillows, clothing, bedding and wall hangings. Keep in mind that this is not a quick craft. Some crewelwork projects can take years to complete. Even smaller crewel projects can take several weeks to finish. The end results are so exquisite, it is well worth the effort.
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