Crewel Embroidery, a stitch as old as time

Crewel Embroidery, or Crewel work, is a decorative form of surface embroidery using wool and a variety of different embroidery stitches to follow a design outline applied to the fabric. This beautiful form of embroidery is done by skilled locals of Kashmir and is famous all over the world due to its quality and uniformity. Here are some interesting facts we bet you didn’t know about the craft form-

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Photo courtesy: Needlenthread.com

The technique is at least a thousand years old

This technique has very rich history dating back to around 1st Century BC but got its due fame and recognition only in 16th and 17th century. It was used in the Bayeux Tapestry, in Jacobean embroidery and in the Quaker tapestry.

The term ’crewel’ refers to the wool yarn used for stitching and not the style of embroidery

The origin of the word crewel is unknown but is thought to come from an ancient word describing the curl in the staple, the single hair of the wool. Crewel wool has a long staple; it is fine and can be strongly twisted. Modern crewel wool is a fine, 2-ply or 1-ply yarn available in many different colors.

It uses a special kind of pointed hook

Special Crewel needles or Chenille needles are required for this technique, with large eyes and sharp points. The crewel technique is not a counted-thread embroidery (like canvas work), but a style of free embroidery. It is usually worked on a closely woven ground fabric, typically linen or cotton. More recently crewel is being made on Cotton Duck, Cotton Doosuti, Matka Silk, Cotton Velvet, Rayon Velvet, Silk Organza, Linen, Net Fabric and also Jute. A firm fabric is required to support the weight of the stitching and should be done only on framed fabric as it offers distortion free embroidery.

Various embroidery stitches are used in crewelwork to create a textured effect.

Unlike silk or cotton embroidery threads, crewel wool is thicker and creates a raised, dimensional feel to the work. Some of the techniques and stitches include (but not limited to)-

Stem stitch, Chain stitch, Split stitch, Satin stitch, Long and short stitch, Couched stithes, Knots,Tufted stitches etc.

Due to its sturdy nature, crewel embroidery is a great option for upholstery

Crewel embroidery has found its place in bedspreads, throws, cushion covers, duvet covers, Shams, curtain drops, upholstery and drapery.

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Photo credits: Crewelfabricworld.com

References:

http://www.kashmirvalleyarts.com/content-crewel-fabric-87.htm

http://www.discoveredindia.com/jammu-and-kashmir/culture-in-jammu-and-kashmir/handicrafts/chain-stitch-and-crewel-furnishing.htm

https://www.craftsy.com/blog/2015/05/crewel-embroidery/

Cover photo courtesy: Kashmir Box

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