For those looking for a contemporary twist on crewel work, The New Crewel by Katherine Shaughnessy may be just the right book. It’s a small, concise book with a minimalist approach. Herein, don’t expect the flouncy flourishes of Jacobean crewel work or the abundant vine, flowers, and birds of other crewel embroidery projects. Instead, expect little and simple designs that are modern and a little bit funky and fun. Here’s my review…
The New Crewel is a book devoted to “exquisite designs in contemporary embroidery.” In my opinion, it falls into the category of a project book more than an instructional book, but it contains good instructional information, too.
The cover of the book reflects the flavor of the projects enclosed – they are simple and modern.
Though the book is definitely a modern approach to crewel, art springs from something, it has a history, and it can’t be reasonably separated from its history. We learn from the ages before us, and so it is fitting that the book begins by looking back at the history of crewel with a brief and interesting discussion of the origins and development of crewel embroidery.
Then, we have a section on the basics. This is where you find fabric and threads discussed, as well as instruction on setting up a project and finishing it. The information here is the standard basics you would find in most good crewel embroidery books.
For the newbie to crewel, a discussion of stitches is imperative, and the book supplies the learner with plenty of drawn diagrams and stitch directions.
Next up is the gallery of different crewel designs that will be used in the projects following. The names of the pieces crack me up. The one on the left is “Dinner Party.” (I’m not quite sure what was for dinner??) And then there are those really “hip squares.” They’re hip. What more needs to be said?
Ruby Shoots and Sway Days compose my favorite spread of pages, only because I’m a sucker for reds. These two projects practically jump out of the book because of their vibrant color.
The “gallery” images are accompanied by information on supplies and stitches used to complete the featured pieces.
Following the gallery is the project area, where several projects are presented from start to finish, including finishing techniques.
The unique character of the book is seen especially in the projects. Aside from the more traditional uses of crewel – pillows and eyeglass case – there are some non-traditional uses as well. How often do you top your filled canning jars with your embroidery?
And the cover project is effectively put to use as a greeting card.
You’ll find a lampshade project, a small circle sampler, some pillows, a fun and unusual eyeglass case, some greeting cards, ornaments, embellished clothing, an album cover, and more in the projects area.
The book is very accessible for all levels of embroiderers and the projects are definitely different and fun. They’re small projects, too, so they can be worked up quickly.
I like the book! I think it would make a terrific gift for someone with contemporary tastes in decor and in the needlearts.
You can find The New Crewel: Exquisite Designs in Contemporary Embroidery at Amazon for just over $10 new.