Fruitful Abundance crewelwork

A New Crewelwork Piece

A summer Crewelwork piece

With the long summer holidays, and time away from the RSN, I decided to make good use of the time, and practice some of the things I have learnt whilst completing my first two modules at the RSN. And so, my new crewelwork piece was born!

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Getting Started

In the same way I drew, and then coloured my Jacobean piece, with this piece, I followed the same steps. First, a sketch of my design, followed by printing a couple of copies of it. One I used to colour in to get an idea of the colours I would use, and another with my initial stitch ideas for each element.

Despite needing to use a large number of stitches in the RSN piece, there were still some stitches I hadn’t used and I was interested in learning them. The main stitches I was keen to use in this piece that I hadn’t used before were burden stitch and battlement couching. I also managed to get Pekenese stitch worked in too.

One thing you learn at the RSN is the importance of planning your piece carefully. This is still something I need to work on, but I did make sure I had thought through the piece before placing the first stitches. There were some changes to my initial plans which we’ll talk through, but it was nice having an idea of what I thought I wanted before starting.

The Pomegranate and Burden Stitch

To learn burden stitch, I decided to use it on the pomegranate. It took me a few attempts to work the stitch out, but eventually I got the hang of it!

The first error I made was not keeping the bands close enough together. I found the stitch seems to work best if the bands are reasonably close together. I settled on a distance of about four millimetres. This was of course made more complicated by the shape, so perhaps this wouldn’t be the case if it were a regular shape. More practising is required!

Once I’d established the ideal distance of the bands, my next problem was to not get confused about where I was up to with the stitches! The first row was always ok, but after that, I would get myself into quite the pickle! Most of it would be correct except I’d mess it up somewhere and need to start again. I found the best solution for this was to start each subsequent row on the edge, rather than in the middle, which was where you start the first row. This helped me keep the ‘one up one down’ pattern for some reason.

And my final problem was more about the shading than anything else. It basically just took a few attempts to get this to work in a way I was happy with it. There’s still a bit of a jump in the colour at the bottom, but that is all there is available in the colours, so I just had to go with it!

pomegranate worked in burden stitch


The Grapes

I was really keen on using a few different stitches in the grapes. I thought it would be nice to have a mixture of whipped and woven wheels, along with padded satin stitch in a ‘pattern’ around the bunch of grapes. But despite all attempts to get this theory to work, the whipped and woven wheels just didn’t work. The shape of the grapes wasn’t right, and they looked more like flowers than grapes! So after stitching and then taking out about six grapes, I finally came to the conclusion this wouldn’t work, and I opted for padded satin stitch for all the grapes. A much better result! I still got my variation I was after, just with colour rather than stitch choices.

This is also where I’ve been able to work in my battlement couching. What a fun stitch! And you could have so much fun with different colours as well. I’ve stuck with the greens I’ve used throughout the piece, but you could add some lovely colour variations by mixing up your colours used.

I quite enjoyed working the trellis work on my Jacobean piece, and this was a great way to expand on this. By using the technique of sewing ‘through’ the thread once laid in position, I was able to get evenly spaced trellis work to begin with. The point to remember with battlement couching seems to be to make the initial trellis large enough to allow the subsequent ‘layers’ of trellis work to be placed on top. All in all, I was quite happy with how it worked out!

Grapes on this crewelwork piece are enhanced by beautiful colour choices


Leaves and Acorns

I didn’t try any new stitches in this element, it was just a good opportunity to practice.

I used heavy chain stitch for the stem. Another stitch I love to use!

The acorns saw yet more padded satin stitch, and some French Knots for the caps.

The leaves I completed in long and short stitch. I learnt here the importance of keeping the split stitches as small as possible. My first couple of attempts gave some very messy and unbecoming results! After a bit of contemplation I decided the fault may not necessarily be the fault of the long and short stitches, but perhaps my split stitches. So after more unpicking, and some very small stitches later, I started again. Almost immediately I could see the difference it made! A very good tip to have learnt the long way before starting my silk shading piece.

The leaves I found also had some tricky directions lines to take. But after drawing in a few lines, I was more comfortable with it, and it seemed to work better. I’m looking forward to learning more about this over the coming weeks! Perhaps what I should have done is drawn them on a paper version first, but in the end I managed after remembering from the online classes I did with Tanja Berlin (the fox and the pansy), that sometimes on the first row, a very short stitch is required to help change direction.

Oak leaves and acorns worked on a modern interpretation of crewelwork


Butterfly and Bees

The last two elements were quick and easy, again after some changes to the original plan.

My initial decision was to stitch the butterfly in coral stitch. But I just couldn’t get a nice result with that stitch. After a look through the RSN’s book on Crewelwork (available at places like the RSNthe Book DepositoryAmazon and Abe Books), I settled on Pekinese stitch, which interestingly according to the instructions, is also known as blind man’s stitch, as Chinese embroiderers are said to have gone blind stitching this stitch on such a small scale!

Needless to say, my stitches are not that small. Big enough to be able to see what I’m doing, and work the stitch! Despite the threat of blindness, this is a lovely stitch!

The little bees saw the return of satin stitch, just on a smaller scale!

crewelwork butterfly worked in pekinese stitch
bees worked in padded satin stitch


The finished piece

And so, my Crewelwork piece was finished. I enjoyed learning some new stitches, refining others, and just generally exploring designing a piece on my own without the comfort zone the tutors offer.

Whilst not all of my original decisions worked out, I did like having a plan of stitches and colours before I started. It was worth the time and helped me make decisions when the first idea didn’t work!

Fruitful Abundance crewelwork


44 thoughts on “A New Crewelwork Piece”

  1. I always enjoy the learning process, though I am not good at the planning part. My stitching is almost all times random and I get into trouble for the same reason. I should try the way you executed this piece.

    1. One thing they are (trying!) to teach me at the RSN is the importance of the planning stage. I have to say it does make for a smoother process, but you can still change, alter and be random if you please at that point in time!

  2. Very nicely done. Battlement Couching is a lovely stitch. I don’t use it much, but I often wish I could find more occasions to do so. In fact, now you’ve reminded me……

    1. Thanks Rachel. It is definitely a lovely stitch, although you are right in saying it has limited areas it could be worked from what I can see. But now I know a bit more about it I will look for more ways to incorporate it into certain designs!

  3. Gorgeous work as always Catherine! I love the threads you’ve used – the pale green and one of the purple/heather shades seems to be ever so slightly variegated which gives it a gorgeous depth. Lovely mix of stitches too.

    1. Thanks Bella! I didn’t realise there was that slight variegation in the threads until I had used them, but there is that ever so slight variegation which is lovely.

    1. Thanks so much Karen!I really enjoyed this piece, and being able to put into action some of the things I’ve learnt at the RSN already.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Jessica! I’m a slow learner, but I’ll eventually get there with the planning 🙂 I’m sure it could be improved, but it was a fun way to learn a few new things, and practice what I’ve already learnt!

  4. Wonderful to see you consolidating the skills you have learned from the RSN course. So often it is easy to move on to the next thing, and miss the step of consolidating and reinforcing the knowledge gained. Great job and wonderful explanations.

    1. Thanks Sally, and that was one of the reasons I thought I would use my time off over summer to practise and reinforce some of those points learned! I now just need to find more hours in the day so I can keep up both current RSN work and other pieces!

  5. Just beautiful! You make me itch to try a crewel piece. My sis was always able to do this easily, but the shading always gets me…looks like a robot stitched it! Your shading
    , especially the smoothness of it is just spectacular!

    1. Oh I’m sure you are being too hard on yourself Kathy! I’m sure you could do it quite easily. I’m considering making this into a kit and pattern download, as I’ve been asked to do a beginners embroidery class locally and thought this might fit the bill! So if you were interested, do let me know! I’ve also got a number of other kits I think I’m going to part way with as there is not enough time to do everything, and there are a couple of crewel kits in that collection too. If you are interested in either option do let me know!

    1. Thanks Dima, I loved picking out the colours, but didn’t want something to bright red for the pomegranate with the bright purple grapes!

  6. Beautiful work Catherine.

    Almost 20 years ago we visited China and one of the places we visited whilst there was a needlework factory, which was attached to a needlework school. None of the girls working there were much over 20 as apparently by the age of 25 there sight is just not good enough for the tiny stitches. One young girl was stitching a double picture which had princess Diana on the front and prince Charles on the back and we just couldn’t work out how that was possible as the stitching was so fine.

    1. Good grief Helen! I’m pleased to say that whilst the stitches at the RSN are generally smaller than I would have done before, I can still see them! That project you saw sounds most intriguing. I’ve heard of both sides alike, but not creating different images on both sides before. Very talented young ladies by the sounds of thing. A shame they had to stitch in such a way.

  7. It’s beautiful, your stitching is so neat! I’m doing crewel work at Denman college next year, I’m hoping it will set me up for an Inspirations project I have on my to do list! Looking forward to it after seeing all your crewel work 🙂

    1. Thanks Margaret. I’m sure you will love every Crewelwork. I’ve got a number of Inspirations projects on my to do one day list! Do let me know how you find Crewelwork!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Deborah! I’ve always wanted to stitch a pomegranate, and I don’t think this will be my last either.

    1. Thanks Teresa! They are definitely ‘my’ colours, and I’m really pleased with how it worked out.
      Thanks for hosting and I hope you enjoyed your break!

  8. This is just a lovely, lovely piece. I love the colors you’ve chosen and it was so interesting reading you creation process and then your stitch choices.

    Thanks so much for linking up to last week’s Stitchery Link Party. Aloha hugs!

    1. Thanks Deborah. This was something I worked over summer, now the RSN is back up I won’t be able to do much else! I also get up early and go to bed late a couple of days a week. And then complain I’m too tired to do anything!

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