After dipping into crewel embroidery with the Crewel Rooster project, and following up on quite a bit of talk about wool threads lately, I thought I’d review some books on crewel embroidery that I think are pretty good.
There are a few book reviews on Needle ‘n Thread that deal with crewel embroidery, in one form or another, already. Here’s a list of them, with links to my reviews:
And here’s another good one to add to the list – in fact, this book has a lot of perks that the others don’t necessarily have, so let’s take a good look at it….
The book is Crewel Embroidery: A Practical Guide, by Shelagh Amor, a Milner Craft Series book.
The book is a soft cover – stiff flexible board for the cover – and the pages are printed on a nice satin-finish paper. It’s a nice-looking book overall. I’m a little surprised at the amount of white space in it, but the content is good.
The book begins with the tried-and-true, typical information: a little bit of history, a section on materials and tools, a section on transferring your design onto your fabric, and a section on framing up the work and getting ready to stitch.
But then, there’s a nice little surprise among the preliminaries:
There’s a very nice little section on color selection – a color guide that explains color relations and so forth, to help the beginner make good color choices. This is a very nice addition to the typical preliminaries in any embroidery book, and though the topic is briefly treated, it is thorough enough to help the reader form good ideas about color.
The bulk of the book is divided into “Crewel Designs and Stitches.” Beginning with very simple designs that are typical of traditional crewel work and progressing to more complex designs, the author presents little lessons in crewel stitching.
For each of these exercises, she includes a line drawing of the design, a photo of the finished product (close up, to see the stitches clearly), a materials list for the exercise, and then a step-by-step method of working the design.
I personally like this approach for beginner work: it’s a textbook-exercise approach that teaches the skill through an incremental sort of development, each stage working on a project a little more challenging, but still giving the stitcher the ability to skip ahead.
Another feature I really like! Progressing through the exercises, we finally arrive at the Tree of Life design, and, rather than just hand you a design and say “Stitch this,” the author actually takes the reader step-by-step through designing your own Tree of LIfe. Nice touch!
She does give her finished design – with a materials list and method of working, just like the previous lessons – but it’s great that she also teaches how to design your own.
And there are pages full of circles, too.
Every book needs pages of circles.
These circles have a purpose, though – an extension of the design-teaching applications in the book! One of the later exercises focuses on a spiral design, and again, the author shows us how to create our own step-by-step.
She gives her spiral design as one of the lessons, and it is really pretty!
So, you can work her design, or, using the principles she gives, you can design your own.
And then, one more step above ordinary! I love this section – it’s called “Design Sheets” and it is six pages of individual motifs that can be combined in heaps of ways to create your own crewel designs. I love resource pages like this!
The book ends with information on finishing your needlework – blocking and preparing for framing, and then the last section:
… a stitch glossary with diagrams of all the stitches she discusses in the book.
This is a good book, and if you’re interested in designing your own crewel embroidery pieces, this book makes an excellent resource. As far as most “how to” needlework books go, it is out of the ordinary, because the author goes beyond simple design copying by teaching basic principles in creating your own designs. It brings to mind the well-known proverb: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day…. teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. While the analogy may limp slightly, I like this approach in a needlework book, don’t you?
Enjoy the book!
For US readers, you can find the book at Amazon, used or new:
For others worldwide, you might try The Book Depository, where you can find Crewel Embroidery: A Practical Guide for US$15.64, with free shipping worldwide.