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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Free Hand Embroidery Pattern: The Crewel Rooster


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For my upcoming comparison of wool and wool blend threads for hand embroidery, I needed a design to embroider. I’ll be working on this design, which I thought I’d share with you.

I’ve adapted the elements of this design from different sources – the flowers come from this embroidery pattern already posted here on Needle ‘n Thread, and the rooster is a loose interpretation – crewel-fied – of a cartoony piece of clipart, for which I no longer have the source. Anyway, it’s quite altered. Once I started thinking in terms of “embroidery pattern” – and especially “crewel work” – the poor bird underwent a shocking transformation.

What I’ll be doing is embroidering this piece on Legacy Linen Twill, using a variety of threads, most of which will be wool or a wool / silk blend. I have a specific color range in mind for the rooster, but I don’t have the color range I would like to work with in any one brand of thread. This gives me a good excuse to use a variety of threads, while at the same time allowing me to make comparisons between different threads.

Here’s what the rooster looks like:

The Crewel Rooster: a design for crewel work and thread comparisons

If you print the following PDF pattern, it fits inside an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper – the height of the whole design is about 8.5 inches, and the width about 5.5″. The whole thing should fit ok in a 10″ square stretcher bar frame, which is what I’m planning to use, but I actually will reduce the pattern (from the PDF) slightly (maybe 10% smaller). Anyway, play with it to find the size you like, that you think would be manageable.

The Crewel Rooster – PDF

I’ll be setting up this project today, and then I’ll walk you through what I do with it in the upcoming weeks, including recommendations on threads, fabrics, needles, and so forth.

Revised Rooster:

After fiddling a bit with the design above, I made some changes, and the following rooster will actually be the one I plan to stitch:

The Crewel Rooster: a design for crewel work and thread comparisons

I prefer the “square” design as opposed to the elongated one.

Here’s the PDF:

The Crewel Rooster Revised – PDF

If there’s anything in particular you’re curious about concerning this project, or if there’s anything in the whole process of completing a project that you would like in-depth coverage of by way of a tutorial, leave a comment below. I’ll try to accommodate requests!

Happy Last Day of 2009!!

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(34) Comments

  1. What a great pattern! You've given me inspiration for a new bird on a flower, now I'll have to go draw and then get out the needle. Thank you Mary.

  2. Hello Mary.
    What a beautiful pattern.
    How nice that you are comparing the threats.Here in Holland it is quit difficult to buy different kind of threats.So I'm quit curious whits threats you are going to use.
    I really enjoy these comparisons, because we don't have something like this in the Netherlands.


  3. Mary,
    Just a quick comment to wish you a very Happy New Year and tell you just how much I appreciate your wonderful stitching blog.

    Even though I had not stitched in years, I was seduced by your marvellous tutorial on long and short satin stitching (which I did not complete because I was in over my head: I was not very good at satin stitching to begin with and the single strand of floss forced me to work under a magnifier, which was not comfortable).

    Every one of your tutorials is most informative and very inspiring. I cannot imagine that there are any basic aspects of project setup and execution that you have not already covered.

    All that preamble to say that your rooster is tempting me to try embroidery again. Which is somehow very fitting: one of my very first embroidery projects as a child was a stem stitched rooster outline on a potholder. However, this time I shall start with one of the sweet Tristan Brooks samplers.

    It is obvious that you put much time and trouble into composing these posts (which I am sure detracts seriously from your overall stitching time), and they are truly inspiring. Thank you.

  4. Hi Mary,

    Best wishes for the New Year and hope that it is Creative, Joyful and Prosperous.

    I am looking forward to the Crewel work tutorial. We dont get wool for embroidery here and I really want to learn this style. So I would like to see if I can use something as a substitute and still stitch along.

  5. Very nice design. I particularly enjoy reading about the analysis and decision-making that goes into your stitching: why you choose particular threads and stitches and what you like or don't like about them, what you decide to change and how and why.

  6. The best for New Year, dear Mary!
    The rooster is great. I know nothing at all about wool threads. Please give us some direction as you usualy do 🙂 and (don't know how to say in a diferent way) a BIG THANK YOU!

  7. It is Beautiful … thanks for sharing it ! I imagine it in very bright colors !
    I haven't done much of crewel work but I like it a lot !
    The only crewel threads I have are a few DMC Medici Wool and a couple of Appleton. I did like stitching with the Medici Wool, haven't use the Appleton.
    Looking forward to your crewel journey !

  8. Cock-a-doodle-dooo. Up and at it everyone, It's the first morning of a brand New Year.
    And what a beaut design (and anticipated workings) to start it off.
    His Majesty looks very proud of his 'shocking transformation'. Good on you Mary.

    Bye for now, Kath.
    Oh… when I see the 'click to unsubscribe' words at the base of the page I have to smile. No way.

  9. G'day again Mary,
    Just looking at your design again and noticed the flowers are like a representation of a hen and chicks.
    The petals are the hen with her feathers nicely fluffed out and the stamens are the chicks.
    No wonder the 'shocking transformation' looks so happy with himself.
    Special New Year thoughts for you and yours Mary.
    Bye, Kath

  10. I really like this design, especially in the more square version. I will be glad to see how he works up.

    I have for many years now (~50) only used handspun threads for embroidery, mostly wool but a fair amount of linen thread, too, so when I see a design now my brain paints its 'finished version' in linen and wool. I always enjoy your use of such a nice variety of threads; it's really been fun to see the progress and end result of all the cool threads you're using.

    SJ, in Maine where we have 10" new snow and 3 days left to go in this storm. Needlework heaven!!

  11. I want to thank you for the shading lessons. In my book that amounts to one huge accomplishment for 2009. I am sure they took much of your time and attetion. Judie

  12. Happy New Years, Mary! Thank you for your wonderful lessons. You are an excellent teacher, and your explanations are so clear!

    I do have a question for you about setting up your frame. What do you do with a piece of cloth that has a stubborn crease in it? It's almost like it came from the middle part of a bolt of cloth, and even after washing and ironing, you can still see it. Do you abandon it, and start over with another piece? Or is it possible to ever remove that middle of the bolt crease?

    Also, do you recommend covering your embroidery work with a another piece of cloth with a hole cut out to keep the edges from getting dirty, or do you just take special care to work with clean hands?

    Thank you! Sheila 🙂

  13. Hi Mary:

    I will be following your rooster tutorial. I don't think my embroidery is very good, and I want to improve. I look forward to it.
    Happy New Year.

  14. G'day Mary,

    The square has worked wonderfully.I like them both. With 2 shapes we are able to choose the best one for different applications.

    I have a 'thing' about squares. When 1st starting into fine art as a 'mature' (? ha!) age student, I proudly took a square artwork to the framer. Only to be berated about the shape. Squares were not the done thing. He rattled off all these reasons why squares in art and design works were a no-no. Talk about bursting the confidence bubble of a new student.

    Once I got further into my studies , and realised that art should be a personal journey, the square became a challenge. I started noticing square art works, old and new, from highly successful artists. And they always greatly appealed to me.

    I've since realised the framer would have been looking out for himself. Left over matte board from squares would not be so easy for him to reuse. Shame on him.

    So, we don't always have to think outside the square to do our own thing. Make sense? Doesn't matter does it. I've realised I don't have to like everyones work but it's benificial for me to appeciate it.

    I won a section of an art prize and when I showed the painting to another artist she said, with distain, "Oh yes, THAT sort win prizes but they don't sell"! I was into my personal art journey enough by then to turn that comment into a compliment. And no, that one wasn't square!

    Woops, better get off my soapbox.

    Looking forward to your tutorials on the Crewel Rooster Mary.

    Bye, Kath.

  15. Happy New Year, Mary. I love your handsome fellow. I know of a Cockrel design for Japanese embroidery that I would like to do one day so I look forward to seeing how you go about it in crewel work.

    I really enjoy your thread comparisons and stitch-alongs. I won't have time to stitch-along with you but will definitly be following.

    If some of your readers stitch the design in DMC or threads other than wool it will be interesting to see those for comparison, also.

  16. Mary
    I have not done crewel since the late 70's when I bought a kit for my son's room and Then I did a garden scene. I will bwe watching this tutorial closley. Right now I am working on a crazy quilt and plan on using your tutorials for inspiration in my embroidery on it.
    thank you

  17. Mary, G'day there,
    While on my soapbox yesterday, I should have mentioned that I include embroidery in 'art work'.
    I like to think there is a very blurred line, if any, between embroidery and art.
    Truely, it is not unusual for both to be found succesfully combined in the same 'square'.

    Enjoy the journey,
    Yours Crewelly, Kath

  18. Hi, All! Thanks for your comments on the rooster fellow. He's kind of fun, actually – I started stitching on him last night. Well, I started stitching on the flowers last night, anyway!

    I'll try to answer some questions and comments here….

    Kath, yes, I agree – embroidery and art go together. They absolutely go together!

    Joey – I like the Legacy linen twill! I started stitching on this piece last night, and the twill very nice. I love the color, and it is "light" (that is, lighter than "upholstery weight" linen twill) but not as light as … well, lighter linen, if that makes sense. It's a nice medium weight, very crisp, with a beautiful "hand". I really DO like it. But I think I'll harp on that more later…..!

    SJ – I hope the snow has stopped???

    Anna – I picked out the threads last night for this project. The majority of them are Appleton wool. I'll also be using a few other wools, though, for the sake of comparison, and I may order a few…. We'll see….

    Suzanne – Funny about the rooster coincidence! If you want to backstitch it, you're welcome to!

    Carrie – I'll include sources for threads in upcoming blog posts!

    Sheila -Well, if you're working with linen or cotton, this is what I do: I soak the piece of cloth in water, hot and then cold. And then hot and then cold. And then I leave it at hot, until it cools down to room temperature. This will shrink the fabric, so the threads are obliged to move a bit! Then, I take the fabric out of the water, and I arrange it on a bath towel, laying it out flat. Then I roll the bath towel up, rolling part of the towel into the linen, like you would if you were rolling up a jelly roll cake. This way, the linen isn't touching itself, and it's "padded" – and it's rolled, not folded. Then, I press out (not wring….) the excess water by applying pressure to the jelly roll. Then, while the linen is still damp, I iron it with a dry iron, on the setting for linen, but be careful not to scorch it! I iron mine all the way to dry. You'll get some "ruffles" on the edges as it's drying, but that's ok.Let the iron do the work, don't push on it hard or anything. Eventually, as you work the edges and the whole thing dries, the ruffled will smooth out, and you'll be good to go.

    If that doesn't help, I'd look for another piece of cloth. There's nothing worse than putting the time and effort into a piece, and being bothered by a wrinkle or a spot that can't be removed!

    No, I don't cover my work with another piece of fabric. There's nothing wrong with doing that, and it does help protect work in a hoop, but if I'm using a hoop, I never leave my work in the hoop if I'm not stitching and I don't put my hands on my work, unless it's necessary. I don't rest the side of my hand, for example, on the fabric as I work.

    Francoise – Yes, I'll be working this rooster and posting my progress, with tutorials and information on crewel work, as I go! You are very welcome to follow along!

    To everyone – thank you for your kind words, happy new year, and do join in on the crewel fun, if you can!


  19. Hi Mary,

    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! That wrinkle was really going to bother me. I plan on getting some supplies tomorrow when the kids are back in school to follow along on the rooster.


  20. Thank for your great tutorial. I am new at this at the tender age of 65. I quilt a lot but do not embroider, With the help you give,
    I know I will succeed.

  21. gracias por las explicaciones.me encanta bordadr, me podrian ayudar donde consigo las puntadas y como se hacen.soy de colombia y me encanta bordar, patchwork- mil gracias. por favor enviemen por correo alguna informacion. grcias

  22. Is it possible- in September – to follow the directions for the rooster? If so, how do I do that?
    Thank you.

  23. Hello!
    I absolutely love this pattern. I am a colonial re-enactor and my only comment is that I wish to see some slightly colonial themed patterns.

    Love the site,

  24. I did a lot of crewel embroidery in the ’70s, and I’m delighted to see that it is still available. I love the rooster!

  25. Hi Mary,
    I love the Crewel Rooster and wouldm like to embroider it on black Trigger Cloth.
    I would like to know how to transfer it to the black material.
    Hoping you can help me.

  26. very nice.Your instruction for sewing also helps me very much. Thanks.Please can you draw peacock & swan for hand embroidery or saree border.

  27. Hello. I’ve been looking for a design of 2 (antique) french ladies , hats , beads, high heels. Sipping coffee ( pinkie in the air) at a french cafe table. Big enough for the back of a jacket. Can you design it and or do you have anything like it? Thank you. Jenni

    1. Hi, Billie Jean – if you go to needlenthread.com, you’ll see a newsletter signup line in the left column. If you’re on your mobile device, just use the “hamburger” menu at the top right, and scroll down the menu to the newsletter sign-up form. Hope that helps!

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