Borrowed Embroidery–What to do with Vintage Crewel

Crewel is a surface embroidery, stitched with wool.  Darker, bolder, more vivid and dramatic than thread embroidery (or counted cross stitch),  free-form crewel was very popular in the 70s when I was coming of age.  

I remember ace-ing the sewing section of high school Home Economics with a crewel medallion guitar strap made for my hippy boy friend. 

It took months to design and stitch. 

These days I prefer to “harvest” vintage crewel from pillows and scraps I find at tag sales. 

Here are two recent projects–

A band of vintage Crewel trim becomes the focal point in this reclaimed fabric scarf.  70s green, orange and gold have never looked so good–the surrounding colors tone them down. 

Motif from a crewel seat cushion adds punch to this fabric covered garden notebook. 

A few hints on working with vintage crewel:

  • If the piece is very soiled, wash it in cold water and hang to dry.  Expect some fading.  It will be less noticeable if you cut the motif out.
  • ZigZag stitch around any motif you plan to cut out.  I go around twice to keep threads from raveling (all motifs tend to be linked).

Finally, if you see vintage crewel, snap it up.  Handworked fabrics are special in this age of mass production.  Showcase them. 

For more on my rewind designs, shopping and fabric, go to

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