Crewel embroidery; 7 enchanting designs inspired by fairy tales

Popova, Tatiana
Crewel embroidery; 7 enchanting designs inspired by fairy tales. Tunbridge Wells, Search Press, 2020
ISBN: 978 1 78221 722 0
160 pages

Search Press has been prolific this year! I’ve just reviewed two books of crewel work projects published by them – neither of which use wool, the traditional thread for crewel, although one does have a conversion chart from DMC to Appleton’s crewel wool colours. Both books have the usual Materials and Tools section. Both have well illustrated, extensive stitch dictionaries which include some interesting variations on familiar stitches and some stitches which look challenging. I suggest that you have your doodle cloth handy. Do read the introduction in both books. They reveal so much of the authors’ passion for what they create.
The first book is… Crewel Embroidery

This is my favourite of the two books, partly because I love Tatiana’s colour palette. She is a young Ukrainian embroiderer. Most of her projects are of a fairly typical, traditional crewel work style but with such a freshness. The first is a delightful Tree of Happiness. This is the largest project from either book. The superb balance and apparent airy simplicity of this project belies its complexity. As with all the projects, it starts with a brief explanation of the tale behind it. Then comes the list of threads needed, all DMC, both stranded cotton, pearl 8 and a few more which in New Zealand, we may have to find substitutes for. There are also some beads needed. Each project is divided into numbered ‘zones.’ The numbers relate to threads and stitches used in each zone. That sounds a bit clumsy, but given the clarity of the photos and instructions and the way the projects are divided up, it seems like a nice way to work. There are so many projects in this book that I would like to embroider but given time constraints, if I have to choose one, it will be ‘The blue bead.’

Both this and Hazel Blomkamp’s Crewel Birds have templates in the back which can be photocopied and transferred onto fabric. Having tested them, Hazel likes Frixion pens. So do I. I was surprised at the size of the templates in both books. Tatiana’s are slightly larger than Hazel’s but except for Tatiana’s Tree of Happiness design, none need to be enlarged. Both authors encourage you to change colours and/or stitches. Given the complexity of some of the stitches, especially in Hazel’s projects, which include needle weaving and needle lace, it’s nice to feel one has that freedom straight from the designers’ pens.

Do have a look at this and Blomkamp’s Crewel Birds. They both offer unique, fun but challenging embroidery projects. Even if you aren’t fussed on the projects but would like to extend your stitch repertoire, the wonderful stitch dictionaries in each book are worth a perusal.

Erica Marsden