Crewel embroidery combines basic embroidery stitches to create artistic designs and motifs on fabric using two-ply wool yarn. Basic stitches in crewelwork include satin stitches, running and chain stitches, French knot stitch and outline stitches common to other types of embroidery. Crewel yarn is thicker than embroidery threads made of cotton or silk. As with most embroidery projects, crewelwork follows lines transferred or stencilled to fabric, embracing conventional floral patterns, leaves, stems and curving vines. Woven cloth makes the best structure for crewel embroidery, for example, linen, cotton and silk in light or natural colours.
Draw or stencil a design onto the fabric. Any pencil medium will do, including a lead pencil. The stitches cover any pencil marks. Make marks for dots, lines, curves and circles.
Place the fabric into the embroidery hoop. Stretch the material tight, pulling and adjusting the material around the hoop until the fabric is flat and even.
Cut a piece of thread--about 20 inches long. This allows enough thread to work efficiently without tangling or knotting.
Thread the needle. A crewel needle has a larger eye than an embroidery needle, which is necessary to accept the thicker thread. Insert thread into the needle's eye pulling it through until there is a shorter and longer length, unless a pattern calls for doubled thread.
Insert the needle from underneath the fabric, emerging on the top side. Pull the thread through the fabric, leaving a 1-inch tail on the underside. Place the tail in the stitch pattern to catch and hide it as stitching progresses. Follow the design using your chosen stitch.
End a stitching pattern by leaving the needle and thread on the underside of the fabric. Take the leftover thread and draw it through the stitch pattern with the needle, snipping off any leftover thread. This hides the thread and keeps it securely in place, so you don't need to knot the thread end.
- "Creative Needlework"; Jo Springer; 1974
- Satin stitches are good to fill in leaves and flower petals while running stitches, chain stitches and outline stitches work well with longer, curving vines and stems.