Most of the time with crewel embroidery, you will be working with basic embroidery stitches, such as chain, stem and split stitch. However, as you move to fill in you will need to master several other stitches.
This article assumes that you have experience in embroidery and know basic stitches.
Most Crewel stitches are composite stitches, that is you use two (or more!) stitches in a number of steps to create each stitch.
Detatched Buttonhole Stitch
There are several different ways to commence this stitch, but first of all you need to start with your foundation outline stitch. Stem or Chain is best for this foundation stitch, and your detatched buttonhole stitches will “hang” from this.
In this stitch, the actual stitch does not enter the fabric at all, which makes it ideal if you wish to add a little padding to your stitching.
First, outline your figure using either chain or stem stitch. Then, commence stitching your buttonhole stitch by treating the foundation stitches as the “fabric”. As you stitch each row, ensure that you anchor at each end into the foundation stitches.
Each row will hang off the one previous, and when you reach the bottom of your figure, anchor the buttonhole stitch into that row of the foundation outline.
Van Dyke Stitch
This is a deceptive stitch – it looks difficult, but is, actually, fairly easy to do. It is incredibly effective as a filling stitch.
The idea of the stitch is to loop across the outline, coming up at “A”, looping through the previous stitch, and then entering the fabric again at “B”.
To start this stitch, instead of looping the previous stitch, catch a small piece of fabric and create the loop that way.
Again, this is a great stitch if you want to add some padding to your stitching.
Stem Stitch Filling
This can be a very effective filling stitch, and, when done properly, gives a woven look to the filling.
As shown in the diagram, the stem stitch should be done in rows with care given to following the shape of the outline.
Individual stitches should be small and even. This filling stitch can also be used as a shaded stitch.
Couched Filling Stitch (also known as Trellis Couching)
This stitch looks particularly effective if stitched over satin stitch.
The stitch itself is very simple – stitch rows of long stitches over the entire shape in a cris-cross method. Then, at each intersection of the long stitches, stitch a small cross stitch to anchor it down.
In crewel embroidery, often this stitch is done using contrasting threads for the cross stitch anchoring threads, and also for the satin stitch underneath.
Ok – this one is a doozy. It really does take a lot of practice, but once you’ve mastered it, it is a great outline stitch and is especially effective if you use a metallic thread. It also looks very effective using a coarser thread – such as a fine wool.
I have found this stitch easiest to do if you actually manually manipulate the thread after you have put the needle in the fabric.
So – put the needle in the fabric as per the diagram above. Then loop the thread around the needle as shown. Draw the needle through the fabric keeping tension very even and avoid pulling too tight.
Like I said – it take LOTS of practice to get this one down – but once you master it, then you will be able to do beautifully corded outlines.
The New Crewel: Exquisite Designs in Contemporary Embroidery
Encyclopedia of Embroidery Stitches, Including Crewel
A-Z of Crewel Embroidery (A-Z Needlework)
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© 2009 Megan McConnell