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Very little in the nature of specialized equipment is
needed to design and work crewel; and other than obvious
advancements such as electric light and improvements in the manufacture
and standardization of materials, the creation of crewel has remained unchanged for millennia.
Crewel was originally developed and brought to the level of high art by needleartists living primarily in relatively rural isolation in a much less populated world than we now know. Whether they were empresses or noblewomen, serfs or slaves, very few were artists or designers as we understand the term, yet they had more personal creative input in the production of their embroidery than the majority of contemporary needleartists do.
One doesn't need a computer to create crewel, or software, space in the house or apartment dedicated to the working of it, magnifying glasses, artistic ability, or even a designer, and it's completely portable. The very little one needs to produce heirloom quality crewel is relatively inexpensive and readily available.
So, where does one start? It begins with a line drawing...
You may begin with a simple drawing of your own, or if you can't draw, a tracing of a blossom or bird, for example, from a wallpaper or fabric you like, or even a porcelain plate. Experiment with size by reducing or enlarging on a copying machine, make all the amendments and adjustments you like, then do a clean, simple final copy on a sheet of medium-weight drawing paper. This will be your patter and is called the cartoon.
Using the almost five hundred shades of commercially available crewel wool, the needleartist "colors" in the transferred cartoon outline to create a lovely crewel work.
The cartoon is transferred to the base fabric upon which it will be embroidered. There are several methods for transferring. We find using artist's tracing paper, as opposed to sewing tracing paper, is the easiest method.
The cartoon is a simple line drawing of the design with little detail and no color or stitch information. It resembles a page in a child's coloring book, completely open to the needleartist's imaginative and decorative impulses.