What is "Crewel" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 02-Apr-2023 (1 year, 20 days ago)
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Crewel Embroidery: Discovering the Timeless Beauty beyond Needle and Thread

The Art of Crewel in Textile: Exploring the Rich Embroidery Tradition

Embroidery has long been celebrated as a form of artistic expression, and one technique that stands out for its intricate beauty is crewel embroidery. In this article, we will delve into the detailed meaning, history, types, tips for handling, and profiles of top international users and manufacturers of crewel embroidery. Discover the captivating world of crewel and its enduring legacy in the textile industry.

Introduction to Crewel Embroidery

Crewel embroidery is a traditional form of decorative stitching that involves the use of wool thread on a fabric background. The word "crewel" originates from the Old English word "cruel," which means a fine, curly wool yarn. The distinguishing feature of crewel embroidery is the use of long, twisted wool fibers, known as crewel wool, which create bold and textured designs on the fabric.

History and Origin

The origins of crewel embroidery can be traced back centuries ago. It gained prominence during the medieval period in England and later spread to other parts of Europe and the world. Crewel embroidery flourished during the Jacobean era in the 17th century when it adorned luxurious furnishings, clothing, and accessories. The intricate designs often depicted nature-inspired motifs such as flowers, leaves, vines, and animals.

Types of Crewel Embroidery

Crewel embroidery offers a range of styles and techniques, each with its own distinct characteristics:

  1. Jacobean Crewel: This style reflects the traditional designs from the Jacobean era, characterized by large-scale, densely stitched motifs with vibrant colors.
  2. Contemporary Crewel: Contemporary crewel embraces modern interpretations, combining traditional stitches with innovative design elements, and often incorporating a broader color palette.
  3. Minimalist Crewel: In contrast to the intricate Jacobean style, minimalist crewel focuses on simplicity, using fewer stitches and a limited color scheme to create a clean and understated look.
  4. Folk-inspired Crewel: This style draws inspiration from various folk embroidery traditions worldwide, incorporating regional motifs and patterns into crewel embroidery.

Tips for Handling Crewel Embroidery

Working with crewel embroidery requires attention to detail and proper handling techniques to ensure the best results. Here are some useful tips:

  • Fabric Selection: Choose a fabric that complements crewel embroidery, such as linen or cotton, with a tight weave that can support the weight of the wool threads.
  • Needle Choice: Use crewel needles with a sharp point and a large eye to accommodate the thickness of the wool thread.
  • Thread Management: To prevent tangling and breakage, separate the crewel wool into individual strands and smooth them with beeswax or a thread conditioner.
  • Stitching Techniques: Familiarize yourself with various crewel stitches, such as the stem stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch, and long and short stitch, to create texture and dimension in your embroidery.
  • Finishing and Framing: Once the embroidery is complete, gently wash and block the fabric to remove any markings or hoop creases. Consider framing the finished piece to protect and display it effectively.

Top International Users and Manufacturers of Crewel Embroidery

Several renowned companies and artisans specialize in crewel embroidery, showcasing its artistry and craftsmanship. Here are five notable names in the industry:

  1. William Morris & Co.: Known for their exquisite textiles and wallpapers, William Morris & Co. continues to produce stunning crewel embroidery designs inspired by the legacy of the renowned artist and craftsman, William Morris.
  2. Crewelwork Company: This UK-based company is dedicated to preserving the tradition of crewel embroidery by offering a wide range of kits, patterns, and materials for both beginners and experienced stitchers.
  3. CrewelGobelin: With a focus on contemporary crewel designs, CrewelGobelin creates unique and artistic embroidery kits that blend traditional techniques with modern aesthetics.
  4. Annie Morris: Annie Morris is a talented artist and designer specializing in bespoke crewel embroidery. Her exquisite pieces have garnered recognition and are sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.
  5. Crewelwork Company of Australia: Dedicated to promoting crewel embroidery in Australia, this company offers workshops, supplies, and resources for individuals interested in learning and practicing the craft.


Crewel embroidery is an art form that continues to captivate and inspire textile enthusiasts worldwide. From its rich history and diverse styles to the skillful handling tips, crewel embroidery represents a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation. As top international users and manufacturers uphold the legacy of this craft, the artistry of crewel embroidery finds its place in contemporary design and personal expression.

A hand embroidery technique from Kashmir in which fine, loosely twisted two-ply yarn is chain stitched on cotton cloth. Imperfections, color variations, irregularities, natural black specks, dye marks and dirt spots are characteristics that label it as genuine. These fabrics are hand woven by natives in India and the beauty of the cloth is in its natural, homespun appearance.
A type of embroidery using a loosely twisted 2 ply worsted yarn.
A true crewel fabric is embroidered with crewel yarn (a loosely twisted, two-ply wool) on a plain weave fabric. Traditional crewel fabrics are hand-woven and embroidered in India. The design motif for crewel work is typically outlines of flowers, vines, and leaves, in one or many colors. Modern weaving technology and inventive designers create traditional "crewel" looks with weave effects alone, without the use of embroidery.
Chain stitch embroidery made with a fine, loosely twisted, two-ply worsted yarn on a plain weave fabric. Done by hand, for the most part, in the Kashmir Province of India and in England.

Some other terms

Some more terms:

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The outer edge of both sides of a woven fabric where the weft turns to go back across and through the warp. This is a stiffer and denser woven area of about 1/3-1/2 inch and is usually trimmed off...
Achkan 559
In the realm of textile, an achkan is a traditional garment worn primarily by men in South Asia. It is a long, knee-length coat with a straight, tailored silhouette and a buttoned front. The achkan...
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(douppioni) silk yarns made from the cocoon of two silk worms that have nested toghether. In spinning, the double strand is not separated so the yarn is uneven and irregular with a large diameter in...

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