Tips and advice for Crewel work

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I recently interviewed a Crewelwork expert on my blog ‘Crafts of Texture’ at , here are the top tips and advice I wanted to share with you.

Top tips for a crewel work beginner

  • Start with and always work with the best materials! Even as a beginner, enjoy using the finest wool and linen materials. It’s as though you are learning to cook with inferior ingredients or learning to sew on the cheapest fabric you can find. Will you get fabulous results in those instances either? Inferior materials will give you uneven results, an unattractive finish out, and some stitching frustration in-between!
  • Always work with clean hands to keep your work from getting soiled. And never work around food or drink!
  • Always work a crewel design from the back to the front. Within the design itself, do objects at the back first, followed by those in the middle, followed by objects at the front of the design. This is a subtle difference, but it is an important one in crewelwork. A crewel design worked in the correct order actually creates depth within the piece. It is a detail that your eye picks up. Observe two samples of stitching where the spatial order has and has not been observed, and you will see the difference!
  • Be willing to pull out an unsatisfactory area and re-stitch it. I know, I know, this can be discouraging to a beginner who wants to see some progress on her piece, but it is important to be able to do this in order to get the "look" that you need. Hopefully you will be looking at this finished piece for quite awhile, so don’t hesitate to make it right. Practice does make perfect for many of the stitches like Satin Stitch and Long and Short Stitch, so don’t get discouraged! The more you make these stitches, the better you will do them in the future. The makers of a quality kit know that you will need to pull out an area now and then, and you should find that you have spare amounts of yarn to do so.
  • The yarn has a nap. This is never mentioned in books or stitching instructions, but your work will definitely turn out smoother and prettier if you feed the smooth end through the needle. Take the length of wool that you are getting ready to use and run it gently between your relaxed thumb and index finger. Notice one way that the yarn feels smooth. Reverse the yarn and notice how the yarn feels scratchy. Feed the smooth end through the needle so that the smooth nap goes into the fabric. You will see the difference immediately in your work—a very subtle difference but vitally important, especially to Long and Short Stitch!
  • Always use a chain stitch or a split stitch edge for areas to be worked in Satin stitch or Long and Short Stitch. This gives the stitching a smooth, firm edge. This is also a subtle difference but a very important one for these areas. It gives your stitching a raised appearance, and it ensures that all design markings are well covered by smooth stitches.

Top 5 items of essential equipment.

  • A comfortable wooden hoop is essential. Find one that suits you. Many people prefer scroll frames, for example, but I cannot use one conveniently. You can find round and oval wooden hoops of all sizes. Fanny hoops can be wonderful, as they leave both hands free to work.
  • The correct needle will probably be provided with most kits. If not, be sure to choose a crewel needle with a very sharp tip that is the right size in diameter. A needle that is too thin will wear out your yarn; a needle that is too big will create "holes" as you stitch and will also be unwieldy. You want to create a stitch hole that is large enough for the needle to pass through but that will snug up against the yarn as it passes through.
  • Good lighting is essential. Daylight is best for stitching, especially if you are working stitches into each other such as Long and Short Stitch.
  • A pair of small, sharp embroidery scissors is helpful, especially when you need to snip out stitches for correction.
  • A thread organiser is essential in order to keep the shades of colour in the proper order, especially since you will often have 3-5 shades that are closely related to each other in one colour series.

A crewel work book ideal for a beginner

I like Jane Rainbow’s Beginner’s Guide to Crewel from Search Press. I also like The A-Z of Crewel Embroidery by Country Bumpkin Publications. Both of these books are beautifully illustrated and offer plenty of inspiration for the needleworker. Both are generally available in fine bookstores or through Internet booksellers.

I hope you find this useful... and remember if you are looking for crewelwork kits, then do pop into my store.

Sara @ Sara's Texture Crafts

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