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  • Publisher: Search Press
  • Edition: BE Spiral bound
  • Publication: 29 September 2010
  • ISBN 13/EAN: 9781844485505
  • Carton Qty:
  • Size: 155x215 mm
  • Illustrations: 400
  • Pages: 96
  • RRP: $21.95
  • Series: RSN Essential Stitch Guides
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RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Crewelwork


by Jacqui McDonald

Edelweiss Buy Now
Book Description

In this invaluable stitch guide, Jacqui McDonald, Graduate Apprentice and tutor at the Royal School of Needlework shows you detailed instructions on how to work basic and more complex stitches.

The Royal School of Needlework teaches hand embroidery to the highest standard, developing techniques in new and innovative ways. This book includes an extensive stitch guide, covering all the stitches necessary for crewel embroidery, a design section, and a history of the Royal School itself.

The history of crewelwork
Although it is commonly thought of as a woven tapestry, the Bayeux Tapestry is in fact the oldest surviving example of crewelwork. The illustrations on the piece tell the story of the events leading up to the Norman Conquest, and are embroidered on to the linen surface with a two-ply worsted wool. Laid stitches (see page 43) were used for the characters and scenery; couching (see page 60) for outlines and stem stitch (see page 58) to define detail and to render the lettering.
Worsted wools are thought to have originated in the farming village of Worstead in Norfolk. This native resource, most appropriate to the British climate, was manufactured into clothing and became one of Britain’s most successful industries. To this day the inhabitants of Worstead continue the tradition of spinning, dyeing and weaving fleece from local sheep.
Although primarily spun to produce woollen cloth, at some point it became popular to use this yarn to embroider. At first, monochrome motifs stitched in wool, with a small number of different stitches, such as stem and seeding, (see page 50) were the most common, but embroidered curtains and bed hangings that resembled designs inspired by woodcut prints are known.
Foreign trade created by Elizabeth I, initially devised to bring back valuable spices, found a foothold in Northern India where English merchants picked up coffee in Mocha and cloth in Gujarat. Egyptian trade was found to be profitable as they too welcomed cotton cloth in exchange for silver, which reduced the drain on English silver, while the Persians provided a market for the English woollens. Inevitably some of these Indian and African fabrics made it back to Europe, where they were well-received. Pampalores and pintadoes, painted calicos that came to be known in England as chintz, were produced on the Coromandel coast of India and became very popular in the now-furnished households of Britain.
By the late seventeenth century, cheap, washable cotton cloth and luxurious woven silks were in huge demand and contributed to the changing fashions in Britain. Fine, beautiful fabrics encouraged less padding to be worn and instead more to be added to the furniture, which during the Tudor period had been fairly stark.
Furnishings obviously called for something a little more durable than clothing and designers began to create textile furnishings with easily accessible and more resilient materials such as dyed wools and heavy-duty linens; their designs inspired by the fashionable tree of life patterns found on the pampalores.
After the Protestant Reformation there was little demand for ecclesiastic work, so it was more common to see embroidery used for secular and domestic objects. Crewel embroidery thus became more popular, and professional craftsmen, laden with pattern books, travelled the country redesigning the interiors of the wealthy; adorning country houses with cosy furnishings, panels, fire screens and bed-hangings embroidered with exotic illustrations. The lady of the house would then embroider these patterns with colourful crewel wools.
Crewelwork reached its peak in popularity during the following Stuart period, after Elizabeth I died and James VI of Scotland acceded to the throne of the United Kingdom as King James I. Increasingly, amateur embroiderers took up needlework for pleasure and to furnish their own home, and it became the done thing for a young lady to accomplish.

Table of Contents

The Royal School of Needlework 6

Introduction 8

The history of crewelework 10

Materials and equipment 12

Design and using colour 18

Framing up 24

Positioning the design 28

Transferring hte design 29

Starting to stitch 30



Essential stitches 34

Filling stitches 36

Outline stitches 56

Surface stitches 70


Building up your design 84

Index 96

About the Author

About Jacqui McDonald

Jacqui McDonald's background lies in the conservation and restoration of antiquities and she spent seven years caring for the contents of some of the most beautiful houses in the National Trust. It was here that her passion for embroidery was born. Having been constantly surrounded by stunning textile furnishings such as tapestries, bed hanging's, tassels and furniture upholstered in the most exquisite petit point, her inquisitive, artistic and practical nature inevitably led her to recreate items for herself.

The passion for her new hobby was so powerful, that it was not long before she made the decision to sacrifice the perfect job to join the Royal School of Needlework's three-year apprenticeship. The long-term plan was to combine her conservation skills with all the traditional hand embroidery techniques she was learning, to preserve textile heirlooms for the future.

On graduating top of the class and attaining a triple distinction, Jacqui decided to become a freelance embroiderer and now works from her studio in Hampshire as well as attending the RSN in a teaching role where she enjoys passing on her skills and experiences to others passionate about embroidery. Jacqui's designs are still heavily influenced by traditional interiors and historical architecture that she enjoyed during her time with the National Trust and whilst studying at Hampton Court Palace.

To see more of Jacqui's work visit


New Stitches

Feb 11

The Royal School of Needlework is renowned for its superlative teaching of hand embroidery. You can now take advantage of the wealth of expertise from the RSN with these Essential Stitch Guides. Written by graduates and tutors from the RSN, the first two publications feature Crewelwork by Jacqui Carey and Blackwork by Becky Hogg. Each is a comprehensive guide to the stitches and techniques with step-by-step colour photographs and instructions, so much so, it is like having a RSN tutor in your own home! The books are spiral bound so they stay open and flat as you work from them.

Mary Corbet's Needle 'n' Thread

The Royal School of Needlework has begun publishing a series of “essential stitch guides” for various needlework techniques. The first two to come out in the series are on crewelwork and blackwork, and it looks as if two more will not be long in coming.

The title of the series indicates exactly what the books are: guides to the essential stitches used in the given technique. Keep in mind that they are not project books – you won’t find any practice projects in them, or anything of that nature. Rather, you’ll find the essential information for getting started (and progressing) in the needlework technique.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork



The Essential Stitch Guide to Crewelwork is small (about 6″ x 8″), hard bound, with a spiral binding hidden in the spine, so that the stitch guide lies flat.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


The book begins with an introduction to the author. All the authors are graduates of some level of the Royal School of Needlework. Incidentally, you can see that there are two more stitch guides announced here – one for stumpwork and one for silk shading.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


Like most technique-specific needlework books, the crewelwork stitch guide begins with an introduction to crewelwork. You can see that there are plenty of colored photos of crewelwork throughout the book (the photos are actually very clear and colorful – not dark – that’s just my bad photography!)


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


There’s also a brief bit on the history of crewelwork. Don’t expect super-detailed history here; it’s the bare bones of the development of crewelwork, which I think is fine for a technique manual.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


Again, like most embroidery how-to’s, there’s a nice section on equipment, focusing mostly on the traditional equipment used in embroidery, and still used by the Royal School of Needlework. There’s talk on frames and hoops – you won’t see Q-snaps here!


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


Next up, there’s good information on threads and needles, with a handy diagram of needle types.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


There’s also a brief section on designing and color choice – again, the information isn’t in-depth and detailed, but it is enough to get one started in the technique and to help guide various choices the stitcher would make when considering a design.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


Well, I happen to like the color section… It’s those balls of wool threads. They’re threads, they’re colorful, and I am a sucker for pictures of thread. The information is good, too!


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


Many technique books address the setting up of the project – framing, transferring, and so forth – and this book is no exception. I really like the detail here on setting up a slate frame. Good information!


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


And the information on transferring the embroidery design is also excellent. There’s a good bit on using the prick-and-pounce method, which is good to know, especially when working on heavier fabrics that may not trace well on a light table.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


More start-up info here – something not necessarily addressed in every technique book. This is a nice spread on handling the skeins of crewel yarn, pulling the thread out from the correct place, measuring a stitchable length, and threading the needle.

All this introductory information is quite helpful for getting a project underway correctly.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


But the meat of the matter in any technique book is the technique. Using clear step-by-step photos, the book focuses on all the essential stitches used in crewelwork, arranging them according to type – filling stitches, line stitches, etc.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


Did I mention that the photos throughout the book are beautiful? While the book may not feature specific crewel projects, it certainly features plenty of inspirational photos. I just love this pomegranate! And next to it, you can see the lattice work filling demonstrated step-by-step.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


Plenty of stitches are demonstrated, and I have to admit, this is the “lushest” tutorial on Turkey Work!

The tutorials are all clear and concise, with easy to follow text instructions that correspond with the photos.


Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guide for Crewelwork


And in case you’re afraid that all the pictures of serious subject-matter for serious embroidery, there’s this lion-monkey piece in the back of the work that’s perfectly whimsical!


1. I’m glad the book doesn’t devote heavy duty coverage to history and so forth. It’s a stitch guide, and that’s what I bought it for. There’s enough there to satisfy, but not enough to weigh down the reader in the details.

2. It covers just what it promises – essential stitches for crewelwork – and it covers them well, with clear step-by-step photos and text instructions.

3. The information on framing up and transferring is excellent – it’s everything that you need to know to get started on a crewelwork project.

4. I like the format of the book – a small book, with a spiral binding, meant to be used while you work.

5. The price is right – it can be found for under $15 new in the US.

Cons (and they depend on what you look for in a technique book):

1. The book does not get the beginner started with a project. If you are expecting that, this is the wrong book for you! Many of the Search Press books (for example, The Beginner’s Guide to Goldwork by Ruth Chamberline) feature projects or samplers to get the beginner started. But the book doesn’t claim to be that. It’s a stitch guide, so I don’t really find this to be too much of a problem.

Overall, I really (really!) like these stitch guides so far. I think they’ll be a worthwhile series to have on your reference shelf. They give you enough to get started well in a given technique, and they do it for a good price. While I love Country Bumpkin’s A-Z series for different techniques, I usually have to look for them on sale, as the price tag can be somewhat prohibitive. The RSN books run less than half the price, but admittedly, they don’t have as much content.

East Kent Embroiderers' Guild

Dec 10

This is a perfect guide to crewelwork. Compact in size, handy to fit into a bag or pocket, with a lay-flat spiral binding, the book contains full colour photographs of great clarity. Jacqui, a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework, covers every aspect of this traditional technique and the detailed instructions will inform and encourage all embroiderers. An excellent, value-for-money volume.

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