After finishing up the Crewel Rooster project, I had a few loose ends I wanted to tie up regarding crewel work, but I just haven’t gotten around to it! For one thing, I wanted to stitch up some small samples of the different threads I used, side-by-side, to give you a better idea of what these threads are like. Have I done it yet? No! But since I am still receiving e-mail about the rooster project and a few readers have clamored for a list of recommendations and resources, I thought I’d put together the following list.
The two most obvious needs when undertaking a crewel embroidery project are fabrics and threads, so that’s really all I’m going to talk about here: fabric and thread.
For fabric, I’ve probably over-mentioned the linen twill from Legacy linen that I am quite besotted with right now. It’s not a fabric limited to just crewel work, either – I’m working my current goldwork project on a linen twill ground, and it’s working magnificently. And when I set up one of the flower motifs from Embroidered Flowers for Elizabeth next weekend (yes, I am! and nothin’s gonna stop me!), I’ll be using linen twill for that, too. So this is a versatile fabric, and worth the investment a half a yard or so to have on hand for all kinds of embroidery projects. It’s not inexpensive stuff, though, at $84 / yard. But if you can afford to have a half yard or so on hand, you’ll find it useful and beautiful fabric. You can find it at Hedgehog Handworks, as well as Tristan Brooks Designs.
You aren’t limited to twill, though, for crewel embroidery. You can use a sturdy linen, too. Strathaven linen works well. It is a plain-weave linen, very sturdy, and pretty much an all-around useful linen for crewel work or historical needlework projects. It’s a more economical choice, when compared to the linen twill above, at $46 / yard. You can also find it at Hedgehog Handworks as well as Tristan Brooks Designs.
For threads, here’s my take on what I Really Like, what I Sort of Like, and what (ahem) I don’t really like much.
I Really Like the following threads, in no particular order of Really-Like:
Renaissance Dyeing wool, crewel weight – I found this a pleasure to stitch with, soft, with good coverage, and oh-so-easy to work. No pilling or annoying knotting or anything that comes with rougher threads. It’s dreamy. It’s pretty. I like it! You can find it in the US at Hedgehog Handworks, and you can also order directly from Renaissance Dyeing (in France). They’re really nice folks to deal with. And they take Paypal. The skeins are reasonably priced – the color choices are beautiful! (They’re vegetable-dyed threads). You get a 25 meter skein for $2.05 from Hedgehog. It’s slightly less from the company, but if you’re ordering from the US, you’ll pay the difference in overseas postage!
D’Aubusson – this is a finer sized crewel wool, great for detail. It is easy to stitch with, it retains the traditional look of crewel wool without being scratchy or pill-proned. It comes in a nice color range, it has a nice woolly sheen to it (most wool does have a sheen to it – and in some cases, a kind of sparkle, because the fibers catch the light as they fray about in their wool-like way. True, it isn’t silk, but it isn’t matte cotton, either!). The price is pretty reasonable at $3.50 for 32 meters. Right now, there are about 50 colors available in the States, but if the thread is well-liked, I would imagine that Access Commodities will eventually import more. You can find it at Hedgehog Handworks.
Heathway – this is a soft, beautiful wool. It feels smooth and silky, and it has a very nice sheen. It makes a gorgeous satin stitch. And it is not troublesome to stitch with at all! It comes in 20 color families, with 9 shades in each color family. It’s certainly more expensive than the other wools above – $2.75 per hank of only 10 yards. But it is nice thread. There’s just a wonderful feel to it. I would dearly love to see a whole color card with thread samples on it! You can find Heathway at Tristan Brooks Designs.
Bella Lusso wool – This is an Italian wool that’s very fine, indeed. It’s another one that’s a complete pleasure to stitch with – it’s like working with coton a broder or floche, it’s so smooth. It makes another beautiful satin stitch! It comes in a range of colors – about 78 from what I can tell – and runs about $2.50 for a 45 yard skein. You can find it at Nordic Needle for that price (most other places, it runs around $2.80)
I also did some stitching on the rooster with Gumnuts Poppies, which isn’t 100% wool, so I’m not going to cover that here, beyond saying that it is a beautiful wool / silk blend, and I’ll talk more about it soon, when I take a close look at the range of Gumnuts threads.
The thread I Sort of Like – there’s really only one that falls in this category – is Appleton wool. Yes, I like it. I wouldn’t say I love it. And if someone laid a skein of Appleton in front of me, and a skein of any of the others in front of me, and told me to pick one to stitch with, I’d pick any of the ones above. Still, I like Appleton. There’s something about it that’s “real wool” feeling, that’s a bit on the rough and rugged side, but that, despite the occasional pills in stitching, it always comes out looking pretty darned nice. (The body and wing of the rooster were done with Appleton.) I can’t really complain about this thread! And it is super-economical compared to the others above. It’s about $1.40 for a 27-yard skein. And it comes in over 400 colors. The trick to working easily with Appleton wool is to work with short lengths and the right sized needle. I’m sure I’ll use Appleton again. You can find the range at Wooly Thread, where the folks are very nice and helpful.
I don’t like Paternayan crewel wool. I only had one skein to play around with, and maybe it was the skein, but oh. I have a feeling it’ll never be a go-to thread for me! Everyone’s tastes are different, though – you might like it, so don’t let me turn you off it!
Now, what I would love to see would be a color conversion chart among all the threads listed above! Wouldn’t that be something? But what a job! And of course, you’d have to have the actual threads or real thread cards…. so I won’t be doing that – though I think it would be quite a fun
and challenging project!
And finally, here are a few very random links that have to do with crewel embroidery, off the beaten path. Some inspiration, some projects, some reading – if you want to browse about a bit:
Crewel Embroidery on Sheer Silk Fabric – this is a decorator’s fabric site, but it’s kind of an interesting concept. And why couldn’t you?
Crewel Stones – yes, rocks, covered with felting and then with crewel embroidery
Vintage Crewel – kits worked by the author’s mom. A nice treasure from a nice mom!