Crewel is a type of decortive surface embroidery featuring stylized shapes inspired by nature, including plants, animals, trees and sometimes people. The designs are arranged in a fanciful, flowing or repeating patterns.
Crewel embroidery is usually worked in single or two ply crewel wool or other wool embroidery threads on a heavy linen or twill ground, this type of embroidery is worked in a variety of surface embroidery and filling stitches, but is also commonly found worked solely in chain stitch, as shown in the example in the photo.
Heavy shading is common in crewel embroidery, giving the designs richness and depth while light, airy filling stitches add texture to the motifs.
Crewel embroidery has been commonly used to make bed coverings and curtains, household goods, and to decorate clothing, and was popular in both Europe and America during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Stitchers today use a wide variety of embroidery threads including cotton, silk, wool, and blends of fibers when working crewel embroidery. You can work one of the motifs from the coverlet shown by printing and stitching the free Crewel Bird on a Branch pattern.