Crewel stitching project Part 1. Creating an heirloom of a family vacation.

The stitching project that got me hooked a few years ago.

Framing needlework and textiles happens fairly frequently in my shop but in the last few years I have begun to work in stitching myself. So it follows that creating an original from concept to pattern to completion is my latest challenge.

In keeping with the idea of art combined with family story I have chosen a family vacation to pick a memory from and create a story pillow.

A couple of summers ago we were invited for a visit to family on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. It was everything a vacation should be, catching up with family, relaxing and we were invited to bring our dog, Daisy, who spent the entire time alternately chasing critters and dispensing unconditional love to the humans. Her favorite quarry was chipmunks—abundant and speedy.

My plan is to create an image to transfer to linen and stitch in a Jacobean crewel style, my current stitching favorite. While I am fairly new to serious stitching the freedom of crewel embroidery should be a good fit for my first design experiments. On to my subject: Daisy chasing chipmunks.

Using simple representative shapes from some of the photos from the trip was the starting point for the design.

I chose a few images to work with and began to experiment with sketches and layouts in Illustrator. This will make any printing of patterns and future pattern downloads really easy to produce.

Daisy on the hunt
Daisy on the hunt. The finished pillow is to be a reminder of Daisy chasing a chipmunk around the native blueberry bushes at the lake. This ground cover is not a blueberry bush but stylization is all about artistic license.

On to Illustrator…

Now its time to pick the elements which work well in the Jacobean style. This style dates from early 17th century England beginning just after the reign of Elizabeth I with the era of James I. The features I find most appealing are the richness of color even with a fairly simple palette, and the freedom of decorative style used to illustrate flora and fauna. A common subject of traditional work is the Tree of Life.

Daisy, first draft

In Illustrator I can take pieces of photographs and use them to start sketching outlines which represent the main areas of the design.
Giving the areas general colors I can start to plan the fibers I will use for the stitching. I am keeping the image simple so I can emphasize the stylized exaggeration which is one of the hallmarks of Jacobean crewel.
The wool yarn I am using is from two companies.
Renaissance Dyeing Wool and Silk & Ivory, a 50/50 silk and merino wool blend.

Renaissance Dyeing Wool, top and bottom right. Silk & Ivory, bottom left

Next I get my general materials together, hoops, linen, tracing tools. To trace I am using my drawing printed and outlined in sharpie to make it really black. I’ll then lay the linen over the drawing, maybe use a lightbox, and lightly trace onto the linen with a superfine point Micron pen from Faber Castell. I will draw in light even strokes, the minimum to transfer the image needed for stitching. As I choose colors and stitches for the design I will be developing a pattern which will be available at the end of this project. For now I will have fun choosing the elements and posting as I go.
Some of the supplies:

double embroidery hoop
Double embroidery hoop – 12″ and 14″. The design is for a 14″ pillow so the hoop is perfect for keeping me on target.
The opposite side from the work can be covered with fabric to create a surface for ease of setting on your lap while working. I’ve never used one like this so I will post how I like it.
Hoop covered
Hoop covered

So now I am off to finish the tracing and begin the first colors and stitches and will be back in a week to write the next phase of this project.

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