A stitch in time...

A stitch in time...

crewel embroidery

A stitch in time...
Versatile crewel embroidery is remarkable even today because of the beauty of its design, technique, colour and texture. Stunning designs, glowing colours and lavishing patterns are the essential attributes of this form of embroidery.

This long-standing needle art was developed when people started realising the decorative possibilities of sewing. In crewel work today, we find a variation from traditional material as other types of threads are being included, everything from cotton and silk to wool and blends of fibres.

Here the design ranges from traditional to more contemporary patterns. The traditional category encompasses popular motifs of stylised forest landscapes with imaginary animals, flowers, flowing vines, leaves and sometimes people. This decorative surface embroidery draws inspiration from nature and designs are arranged in a fanciful, flowing or repeating pattern.

Crewel work employs a wide range of stitches and elements of shading. This technique is a style of free embroidery wherein many different embroidery stitches are used to create a textured and colourful effect. It is usually worked in single or two ply crewel wool on a heavy linen or twill ground. These stitches allow the sight of linen through and around the design. The overall appearance gives a thicker feel to the work, thereby imparting a raised, dimensional look to the work. Heavy shading is common in crewel embroidery, providing the designs richness and depth while light, airy filling stitches add texture to the motifs.

Earlier, crewel embroidery featuring stylised designs was commonly used to create elaborate and expensive bed covers, curtains, household goods and to embellish clothing. Recently, several other items such as lampshades, handbags and cushion covers have also been added to the ever-growing list of crewel home furnishings.

Crewel work has a rich history, stretching at least as far back as the early medieval period. Influenced by exotic flora and fauna, this form enjoyed popularity in the Jacobean era, in Europe and America during 17th and 18th centuries. With elaborate designs and patterns, this art was common during the reign of King James I of England in the late 1500s.

Crewel fabric is a hand-embroidered piece of cloth traditionally made in Kashmir. Though popular in all parts of the world, in India, it is mostly done by the skilled locals of Kashmir. Crewel embroidery adds richness to the textile because of its superior quality and uniformity of stitches.