Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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A Crewel Weekend


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Yesterday, I actually got to do some stitching on a wee little crewel piece (appropriate called a “small”) from Tristan Brooks Designs (Barbara Jackson is the designer behind Tristan Brooks).

Ahhh – to be snowed in is not such a bad deal!

I want to show you this piece of crewel embroidery in a bit more detail later. My intention is to compare and contrast some different wool threads available on the market, but I’ll await the sun before venturing into detail photos!

In the meantime, I’ve had a bit of fun with this piece, a tiny bit of which is shown here:

Crewel Embroidery

This is from one of the Charleston Smalls designed by Barbara Jackson. I had no intention of actually buying kits when I bought these (heh heh – are you with me here? do you know where I’m coming from?!). I went to Barbara’s website looking for something unrelated to crewel wool. But oh – these little kits! They caught my eye. No, actually – they didn’t just catch! They caught, they latched, they tugged. And golly. I gave in.

What I like about these particular kits is that I had the opportunity to use, side-by-side, two distinct threads suitable for this style of embroidery: Heathway merino crewel wool and Gumnut poppies. There are also some little spots here and there worked in Pearsall’s silk, for variety – like the French knot center of the flower above.

Heathway merino crewel wool and Gumnut poppies (a silk / wool blend) are quite a contrast. Heathway offers a matte finish when stitched, while Gumnut poppies throws in a very nice sheen. In the flower above, the three similar petals are worked in Heathway; the other two are worked in Gumnut poppies.

So, coming up, I’ll be showing you this little project in a bit more detail, and doing some comparisons on threads. If you have any specific questions about crewel work or similar embroidery, or if you have particular resources, threads, or supplies that you like for this type of needlework, leave a comment below and tell us!

In the meantime, being somewhat snowed in has its advantages! No, I’m not “stuck” (thanks very much for the many e-mails asking how I survived the recent storm!), but I don’t mind staying inside to get some work done!

My House after Christmas Snowstorm, 2009

This was after the front steps had been cleared a few times. It’s not “tons” of snow, but for Kansas, and for Christmas in Kansas, it was a good amount, and in the aftermath, it’s very pretty! The wind swept the roof fairly clean, which is always a disappointment when it comes to picture-taking!

I hope you’re enjoying your weekend, wherever you are! Hot or cold, snow or sunshine, may you find a little extra time to spend with your needle and thread!


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(23) Comments

  1. What a cozy weekend! I have been eyeing those small kits at Tristan Brooks Designs as well. But I am also thinking about Jane Nicholas Stumpwork kits as an intro into stumpwork! What to do? In the meantime, I need to commit to finishing a longstanding cross stitch project.

    Thanks for your great blog and the picture of your home.

    Enjoy the weekend indoors!

  2. I never knew that Kansas got snow like that! Very pretty picture. Would make a nice personalized XMas card.
    Mary, I'm glad you mentioned Crewel work. I love the idea of it. Can you help answer these questions, since I have been baffled for years over it.
    What is the definition of Crewel work?
    What is the difference between German Work or Berlin work? and finally, what is crewel thread? A designer friend of mine said that DMC used to sell them and that almost no one has heard of it.
    Thanks if you can supply any answers at all. I tend to research alot but to no avail, so any enlightenment is appreciated.

  3. I forgot to comment on the piece! The yellow matte wool thread is so beautiful that it looks like soft fur of pale lemon color. But on the other hand the gleaming curls in the center are mesmerizing! I guess that means each component needs separate consideration.

  4. Sorry to comment, again! But I forgot to tell you, Mary, that I bought from Lacis these teeny tiny crochet hooks in sizes 16, 15, and 14, 13, etc. These are so small that I was thrilled to find them! Haven't used them yet but I will. They are to be used for my authentic Irish Crochet Lacework using teeny tiny threads size 100, 80, etc. Can't wait!

  5. Dear MaryMentor:

    Since I have been "growing" enough in my needlework (thanks to you !) and developing in my own directions of taste, it is abundantly clear to me that Crewel and Stump work are where "It's At" for me….at this juncture. For this reason, I'm going to purchase this piece that you're working on, since my crewel/stump skills need much honing. And I've learned from you to "start small" (as with the rosebud you gave me guidance on)…as sorely tempted as I am to jump in with the biggest piece they offered on the link you mentioned.

    At any rate, you certainly are my guide and clearing house, regulating my impulses to buy buy buy and go in over my head…too often to be frustrated due to lack of experience and skill. Thanks again so much.

    I LOVE the photo of your house!!! In Pittsburgh we also had snow but Nothing Like the Mid-West! But "Tis the Season"….yes??…meanwhile, have a holly jolly holiday season and a Blessed New Year….as my Polish heritage would put it. "Wesolego Bozego Narodzenia Swiat"

    Looking forward to so much more on your website this coming year ….Hugs…Judy in Pittsburgh.

  6. What a cute house, and so festive!

    I like the way the different threads work up, showing off the different textures and finishes. I am interested to read about what you learn as you work with the different threads, and seeing the kit as it develops. After seeing your kit, I am thinking of ordering one to work with the different threads also. I like her designs, and the small size is nice. Sandi

  7. Oh, Mary, the picture of your home solidifies this notion of mine (and, I daresay, at least a few others) that you are, indeed, an embroidery fairy godmother. How lovely!

  8. Mary – Your house looks like an enchanted cottage! I used to live in Wisconsin and the worst thing about the snow is driving in it. However, the best part is being snowed in and being able to curl up with a stitching project or a wonderful novel for hours without any guilt!

    In the upcoming postings on crewel, I am hoping you will give us some guidance on fabric choices, fibers, and so forth in terms of what is best for wall decor, pillows, bedspreads, etc.
    Thanks! ~Betsy

  9. Hi Mary,
    Your home is charming, and the snow is like icing! (No pun intended…)
    I enjoyed the link and would love to make the pencil box.
    Your work is lovely.

  10. G'day Mary,
    Was thrilled to see the 'home' pic. Beautiful. Brings old home memories.
    I grew up in a snow area of NSW but have lived in a warmer part for many yrs now.
    For the last mth have been visiting in the Centre of NSW. 40+ degree heat and going into 10th yr of drought. But have had rain, starting Christmas day. Not drought breaking but very welcome. Lovely to see dams and tanks filling and a some green grass coming.
    I,too, find crewel work very appealing. I think it's the variety of stitches complementing the graphic style.
    Thank you Mary for your kind reply to my Christmas comment.
    Bye for now, Kath.

  11. Hi Mary,

    Your house looks beatifull, even if is a little late to wish you a happy christmas, I am sending you my christimas wishes anyway and all the best for the new year.

    Thank you for everything that you have teach me through the year. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

    A big hug


  12. HI Mary,

    Yopur home looks beautiful. Nothing like the weather to nudge us into doing what we love best. I love the little crewel piece that you have stitched.

  13. Hi, All – Thanks for your comments!

    Concerning upcoming info on crewel, I will certainly take all your questions into consideration and try to cover… um…. well, everything I can cover!

    Stay tuned!!


  14. I am very excited! After doing the long-and-short lessons, I had decided to try some crewel and received for Christmas the two smaller "newbery" kits from Tristan Brooks. I will be greatly interested in following along on your progress as i do mine – I'll stay "one step behind' so I can learn from you!

  15. A picture perfect Christmas card greeting from your warm, cozy, snow piled house to all of ours. Thank you Mary.
    Karole King

  16. Your home is sooooo pretty!

    I can't wait for crewel information. I guess if I can find the right threads in our local shops…we'll see 🙂

  17. You really have a beautiful place to live and yes very beautiful embroidery work is done inside 🙂

    Wish you a very happy new year Mary.

  18. As I sit here tonight (5 Jan) the wind outside is howling away much as it did as a child in Kansas. The difference in this situation is that i am NOT in KS but Eastern Massachusetts. I saw you photo and it brought me right back to winter as a kid and lots of snow. But you can keep the wind!

    1. Hi, Debbie – I just made those out of purchased (fake) garland. I use two lengths twisted together. Then I twist white lights in them and add large bows using wide ribbon. Sometimes, I use pre-made bows, which will usually last a couple years. Nothing too fancy! 🙂

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