Mace and Nairn
Crewelwork is often referred to at Jacobean embroidery and associated with the 17th century, however the Bayeux Tapestry (the most well known piece of Crewelwork) was believed to have been stitched in England in the 11th century.
Crewelwork it is a surface (free) embroidery technique which uses a variety of stitches worked in crewel wool and is traditional worked on Linen Twill.
Historically used for bed spreads, hangings and curtains and in 17th century often stitched in unnatural looking designs of birds, animals and oversized leaves. Elements of the ‘Tree of Life’ often influenced designs. Realistic shading of these designs was achieved by stitching in muted colours, produced by natural vegetable dyes.
Stitches include Long and Short stitch, Satin stitch, French and Bullion knots, laid and couched work and a variety of Buttonhole and Chain stitches.
The Bayeux Tapestry is over 70 metres long and uses less than 10 colours, it is preserved and displayed in Bayeux, in Normandy, France. A replica, the idea of Elizabeth Wardle, is on display in the Museum of Reading. Thirty-five women members of the Leek Embroidery Society worked under Elizabeth Wardle's direction stitching the replica in less than a year (1885-6).
Another embroidery inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry is The Overlord Embroidery, the centrepiece of the D-Day Museum, was commissioned by Lord Dulverton in 1968, as a tribute to the sacrifice and heroism of those who took part. It was made by the Royal School of Needlework and includes 34 panels which together measure 83 metres in length. Twenty five embroiderers worked for four years to create the embroidery.
The traditional fabric for Jacobean/crewel work fabric is Linen Twill, recognisable by the diagonal weave and usually oatmeal in colour. It is heavier than most surface embroidery fabrics.
For a lighter weight fabric Linen Union 52% Linen /48% Cotton.
Or finer still Zweigart Normandie, 55% Linen/45% Cotton has a close weave; lovely to stitch on using stranded cotton.
Appleton’s 2ply crewel wools are the natural choice for Jacobean/crewel work. 100% pure new virgin wool spun and dyed in the United Kingdom. There are 59 colour ranges with 421 available shades.
A range of books are available, some with projects while others are more technique orientated. The most recent publication from the Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide range Crewelwork, covers all the basics including history, material and equipment, design and colour, framing up and an array of stitches, with detailed instructions and photographs. It has a lay-flat spiral binding.
For crewelwork it helps to keep your work taut and either a slate frame or embroidery hoop are useful equipment to have. Slate frames are available in different sizes to suit your project and Seat frames or Table clamps with an embroidery hoop allow you to stitch ‘hands free’.
Fabric pens are useful for transferring your design; a transfer pen allows you to trace your design and iron the tracing on to the fabric, alternatively a water erasable pen is ideal for drawing straight onto your fabric.
For crewel work the needle of choice would be a Chenille needle, as it has large eye and a thick body to make a hole big enough for the crewel wool. The alternative would be an Embroidery/Crewel needle but these are much finer bodied.
Good quality Embroidery Scissors are essential.