Crewel and cross stitch are two very different embroidery types because the crewel involves wool yarn to embroider. Cross stitch normally uses cotton floss to embroider using stitches in the form of an x.
Cross stitch may be the more popular in the household type of embroidery. But you must also know that crewel is an embroidery style that goes way back centuries ago. Usually, it is the type of stitch that makes an embroidery style different from others. But for crewel, the materials used to embroider are what makes it unique; the wool threads or yarns.
The traditional crewel embroidery uses a two-ply wool thread called crewel, thus used for this embroidery style.
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Is cross stitch and embroidery the same thing?
Cross stitch is under the huge umbrella of embroidery. What makes it unique among the embroidery styles is the specific stitch that it uses, which is in the shape of an x. On the other hand, embroidery has many different forms such as canvas work, crewel work, blackwork, and counted thread embroidery, to name a few. Cross stitch is one of the popular counted thread embroideries.
In cross stitch, most of the stitches made are in the form of an x stitched using a blunt needle on an even weave fabric. Cross stitch is commonly stitched on a block weave fabric, making it easy to keep stitches the same size. For some embroidery techniques, you use a sharp needle to pierce the fabric to create a design. Stitches are also usually not counted in some embroidery, unlike in cross stitch.
What is crewel embroidery?
Crewel embroidery, also called crewel work, is a type of surface embroidery which uses a two-ply wool yarn. The crewel embroidery style is traced back to Medieval times, maybe even earlier. The earliest surviving crewel embroidery is the Bayeux Tapestry, a crewelwork on linen fabric with worsted wool. It is believed to be a thousand years old.
Crewel became prominent in England in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Many embroidery displays are made in traditional crewel with motifs famous in that era. Crewel then made a huge comeback in the 70s, using this embroidery style to stitch huge flowers in bold colors. Favorite childhood characters were also famous themes for crewelwork during this period.
Crewel embroidery may have come in and out of style many times since it became popular centuries ago. Modern day crewel work is used on curtains and wall hangings. Crewel embroidery can also be used to decorate cushions, lamp shades, handbags, and clothing. Wool thread used in crewel work makes it ideal for upholstered pieces.
You can use crewel to embroider any design, but the designs you will create are expectedly larger than the other types of embroidery because of the thickness of the wool fibers.
What kind of thread is used for crewel embroidery?
The type of thread used to stitch makes crewel embroidery crewel. The wool thread is what identifies crewel from the other types of embroidery. You can find crewel wool in craft stores labeled as such. Crewel wool yarn is available in one-ply but is most often found in the 2-ply form.
Crewel wool is different from the wool used in tapestry. The 2-ply crewel wool has two strands twisted to make one thread. You can now choose your modern crewel wool yarns, which are now available in many different colors.
With crewel wool, you can still create fine details on your embroidery. Although, expect your work to have thicker stitches.
What are crewel needles used for?
As crewel embroidery uses a specific thread material called wool, it also has a designated needle to use. You would know that they are crewel needles because of the large eye and a sharp end.
The large eye of the needle allows the thick crewel wool thread to pass through. With crewel, you get to work with either one-ply or 2-ply threads. Wool is also a thick thread to start with.
Crewel needle has a sharp point to go through the different fabric types and pierce through wool threads from previous stitches.
What fabric do I use for crewel embroidery?
Crewelwork is usually done on woven linen twill, which has a looser weave than other woven fabrics. The looser weave of linen twill can accommodate the thickness of crewel wool yarn. You will also find linen twill ideal to work crewel embroidery because it is a firm fabric that can support the stitching’s weight.
You can use any type of fabric other than linen twill for crewel embroidery. It does not matter what type of fabric you use as long as you use wool thread; you are working crewel embroidery. Otherwise, you are just making regular embroidery.
You can use tightly woven fabrics for crewel work, but your yarns will wear quicker. You can use shorter thread lengths to help you with this issue.
How do you do crewel stitches?
There is no difference between crewel stitches and stitches used in other types of embroidery. You can even use your favorite stitches to make your crewel embroidery. But keep in mind that you only have to use wool thread to make your work a truly crewel work.
When choosing your stitches, you must consider the thickness and texture of your wool thread. Crewel wool is thick and smooth and can give you more coverage if your design requires it. Your choice of embroidery stitches for crewelwork is unlimited. You must know that some stitches have often appeared in crewelwork for centuries that are still used to this day.
- Line Stitch
- Satin Stitch
- Long and Short Stitch
- Seed stitch
- Laid Work and Couched Stitches
- French Knots
- Tufted Stitches
Line stitches most often used in crewel embroidery are outline stitch, stem stitch, chain stitch, and split stitch. These line stitches are perfect to use as stems and tendrils designs on your crewel embroidery.
When you use line stitches to fill the designs on your fabric, having various shades of color can enhance your crewelwork’s beauty.
One of the most commonly used solid filling stitches in crewel embroidery is the satin stitch. The satin stitch is usually used to cover small spaces that need a solid filling. Satin Stitch is recommended to fill spaces that are less than an inch in their longest span. Make sure that the space to cover is not too big because the stitches may loosen over time.
You can make the edges of your satin stitches smooth by outlining first, then make a split stitch before stitching the satin stitches. Padding the area you are filling before you stitch the satin stitches makes the stitches lie smoothly and parallel to each other.
Satin stitches can also be used to fill large spaces if the stitches are somehow anchored. An additional stem stitching over the satin stitch can support the satin stitches, which could become loose over time.
A long and short stitch is used for soft shading in crewel embroidery. The wool threads are used to create a gradual shading effect on small or large filled areas.
The shading created by the long and short stitch looks like an advanced technique is used. But in truth, the thickness of the wool thread makes the long and short Stitch ideal to use in filling areas that need shading. The long and short stitch is easy to learn but creates a stunning effect and adds depth to your crewelwork.
You can find the seed stitch in most crewel embroidery. You can use it as a light space-filling technique by working small straight stitches randomly. The seed stitch adds intrigue and texture to your crewelwork.
You can achieve certain effects by using a seed stitch on your work. When you work your seed stitches closer together, they will give the effect of a heavier filing. When you stitch them farther apart, the filling in a certain space will look lighter.
Couched stitches are important in crewelwork, where the pattern has long threads that crisscross over each other. Couch stitches are small stitches that are used to secure longer threads onto the fabric.
Couched stitches are typically used for laid work. Long lattice stitches are couched down at the intersections with another thread. Couching is useful in filling patterns with latticework or creating a trellis effect within a design area.
French knots are also commonly seen in crewelwork. French knots are used for added texture. They can also serve as a light filling similar to a seed stitch. Crewel embroidery is not particular with the stitches you use as long as you stitch only with wool threads. So, if you think your design looks better with Chinese knots or bullion knots than French knots, then no one is stopping you.
Tufted stitches are used to add fluffy details to animals and flower designs in crewel embroidery. Some popular tufted stitches are the Ghiordes knot, velvet stitch or Victorian tufting.
When it comes to crewel embroidery, there is no limit to the stitches you can try using as long as it is wool; else, what you are doing is common embroidery. Creating crewel embroidery is both interesting and exciting when you have no limit to try various stitches on your project.
Since crewel can use any embroidery stitch, you can use patterns for standard surface embroidery. But keep in mind that crewel wool yarn will make thicker stitches. It would be best to choose designs with large areas to fill as crewel wool thread gives more coverage for fewer stitches. You can always look for patterns specifically made for crewel embroidery, of which there is plenty.