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Category Archives: Crewel embroidery

As I was hunched over the soft shading of the ribbon on this piece (from Trish Burr’s lovely book – Crewel and Surface embroidery:Inspirational Floral Designs) and doubtless muttering to myself,  Bill, who has watched me work through many different fiber disciplines (the more complex the better) came over and said: “You’ll probably hit me for saying this, but that looks pretty easy.  Doesn’t the needle just go up and down through the fabric?”  When I did not respond, but rose and headed for the kitchen to get more coffee, he added anxiously: “You’re not going to get a knife, are you?”  My refilled mug in hand, I explained gently that yes, the stitching itself is simple, but getting just the right effect is rather a challenge.  Especially for those of us without artistic training to ‘see’ the subtle transitions in light and color.

It would  have helped had I finished Mary Corbet’s long and short stitch shading tutorial last summer.  I would not be quite so far out of my depth.  At the time, I panicked because I found I needed to work under a magnifier when using a single strand of embroidery floss, and it took me two hours to stitch the first square.  You don’t want to know how many hours I have into these two little bits of ribbon!  All of them under a magnifier.

Being in a  tearing hurry to set this project up, and using  28-count linen from Michael’s, when I really should have ordered some 32-count, didn’t help either.  As it happens, on 28-count, the single strand shading tends to be a little too sparse and I  have to go back to address bald patches.  Continuing to stitch with two strands after the first row is too bulky (see the top half of the exterior face of the top ribbon).  Of course, like Bill, you may be scratching your head and saying: “Ribbon?  I’ll have to take your word for it.”

That said, I can see improvement in my technique as I work,  and this is just an exercise between Jacobean projects.


These little gems come in kit form from Tristan Brooks and are called ‘Newbury Smalls’;   NAC 3a and 3b, respectively.

They represent my return to embroidery after a very long hiatus; and my first foray into crewel which, as it turns out, I absolutely love!