Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crewel Embroidery Returns

My crewel pillows from Colorful Stitchery
I have been waiting and waiting for stitchers and knitters to catch up with me. Today in my in-box, I was incredibly excited to see crewel embroidery being featured prominently on Purl Soho's website. Wow - maybe someone else will help the trend along! Check out all their new kits here. They are a little tame colorwise for me but what the heck - at least crewel is out there.

What is crewel embroidery, you ask? It is embroidery stitched with wool thread traditionally worked on linen or cotton fabric. It is easy to do. The use of the wool yarn is so forgiving that even a beginner can look like an expert. I favor Paternayan Persian Wool for my crewel work which comes in over 400 colors!

I learned to embroider when I was about 10 years old. It kept me busy for many hours. In fact, I embroidered incessantly before I began to knit when I was 19. Those were the days of Sunset Design kits and the height of the fabulous Erica Wilson's career. (Did you know Erica is married to the uber-chic furniture designer Vladimir Kagan? Fabulous article about them here from the NYT.) Embroidery covered my blue jeans and my blouses as it did so many others. 

My book Colorful Stitchery
I have never fallen out of love with embroidery. Knitting just took over my life and career. For years I have been trying to get knitters to combine embroidery with their knitting and I will admit, it has been a hard thing to sell. I'm not sure what it is. It baffles me. And then I go and teach embroidery on knits and I realize that most knitters are afraid of failure and fearful of trying something new.

I have written two books on embroidery - one for children - called Kids' Embroidery (sadly out of print but I still have it for sale on my Shop Page) and one for adults called Colorful Stitchery. Here are some photos of crewel embroidery that are featured in my book Colorful Stitchery (available on my website Shop Page Here). All these photos are by Kevin Kennefick courtesy Storey Publishing.

An crewel embroidered wedding blanket with a heart shaped pillow

A close-up of the heart pillow - a perfect project for next week's Valentine's Day

Bug pillows stitched on velvet worked in crewel wool

Polka Dot embroidered pillows
And check out this lovely little sheep embroidery kit on Lorna Bateman's Etsy page. So darn cute! I've been meaning to stitch up a banner for my header similar to this. French knots really simulate wooly sheep beautifully.

Later today, I'll be posting another video of Lazy Daisy Embroidery on handknit fabric. Come back and check it out! Maybe you will be willing to give it a go?


Sally said...

Same here! Embroidery came first and I've always had embroidery embellished things in my wardrobe. I think your embroidery embellishment is what has always drawn me to your work. Keep on keepin' on, K!

tracy_a said...

I think - as a knitter branching into other things - that it is fairly easy to get knitting - cast on, knit, purl. Learn the rest later.

Whereas, when I look at a crochet or embroidery book - there are soooo many possibilities. In crochet, you can put multiple stitches into one stitch - or into different parts of the stitch/chain - and are they single, double, hdc, etc.

Most embroidery books have lots and lots of techniques and material choices and such - I think it's hard to realize you don't need all the techniques to make something lovely. And that you can work with one stitch for a long time before adding another. And that simple materials really can make something that will thrill you - once people have a taste, they can go farther. it's just getting them to take that first bite!

Contessa Kris said...

Someone on Facebook posted about your post. I'm curious about crewel as I've never done it but i have all the supplies (and several cream colored pillows with patterns on them, from the 80's?) to do it. What is the difference between it and normal embroidery. Is it just the use of wool that makes regular embroidery be called 'crewel'? I'm curious... My kits came with the cream thread but i'd love to find some bright colored thread instead. I'll have to look around for that. Thanks for sharing your love!

Contessa Kris said...

P.S. Forgot to ask how much wool is enough to get me started and able to finish a reasonably sized pillow. I would not be a good judge of that...

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi Everyone - I use Paternayan Persian Yarn for my crewel - there is a link in the above post. It is rather inexpensive ($1.00/ 8 yard skein). It comes as a 3 ply and I usually work only with one of the plies. It goes very far.

If you are just beginning, I would buy just 1 skein of each color you might like. As I said, it goes far.

You also should check out my book - Colorful Stitchery - it is really good and thorough. It has 65 projects in it and barely any of them are on white fabric. It is really colorful. Many of the projects are on recycled wools and also could be done on knitted fabric or old felted sweaters.

I hope some of you try it! Good luck! Kristin

Melanie Gardner said...

Oh, yay! I have been doing some of this too and feeling like an old biddy for liking it. I've been embellishing my quilts with it. In fact it has been the main embellishment to my art quilts besides some fun dying. I'll have to look up those books for ideas!

Auntie Shan said...

Actually, "Crewel" does seem to be making a comeback - at least in the Home Decor area. I've been seeing a lot of Pillows with it of late and IKEA has Lamp Shades with Crewel stitching as well!

I used to do it and canvas embroidery when I was a kid too... I really should get back to it again.

Apex said...

I like the look of it I never heard of it before last few months.

Ann said...

I am of a certain age and have always done crewel and other embroidery. Sometimes I do in airports and have small children come up in curiosity, as I am not on a Blackberry or watching the daily disasters like everyone else. Their parents explain I'm "sewing," which of course makes me feel like I'm an exhibit in my own personal Living History Museum. I love crewel--I'm thrilled at these beautiful colors and that it does seem to be coming back.

Elena said...

Your work is amazing! I like to know if you sell this?

Sharon said...

After reading your article and seeing Erica Wilson is changing directions; I felt compelled to track down one of her books. Success, last night around 2AM found the book on a used book site. The book is now winging its way to me. Thank you for giving me a nudge in my needlepointing sewing.