Jacobean Crewelwork: Day 3

Day 3 of the Jacobean course came around a lot faster than I had expected. I was a little behind as framing up had taken slightly longer than it should have (tip: when sewing the webbing to the linen twill, it helps to put your stitches through both the linen and the twill.) Today though was all about the stitching.

I had dutifully laid all the ladders along the main trunk of the tree for homework which had taken a surprising amount of time. The main thing is to follow the line of the curve of the design and, in areas where things like the trunk splits in two, keep the design looking matched and continuous.

Today was all about learning as many stitches a possible so I would be able to independently complete various parts of the design. As you tend to stitch back to front, I was quite restricted on what areas I could stitch with the main trunk not being completed. However, we managed to find more than enough to keep us busy.

The main trunk is being worked in raised stem band, which is a really fun stitch to do. After laying the ladders, you then weave the needle over and under each subsequent ladder. It’s a bit easier with a blunt tapestry needle but the fat, fluffy nature of crewel wool means that it’s very easy to accidentally stitch through a ladder rather than around it. The key thing is keeping the tension even in the stitching, enough that the stitches don’t become huge loops but not so much that you distort the bars.


Fortunately, my little flower was in a fairly isolated area so I could also make some progress on this. Three of the petals are filled with tiny seed stitches and will be outlined in a whipped backstitch. Whipped backstitch is really easy to do and I love the finished ‘candy cane’ effect to it as well, though it makes it even more important to keep an even stitch length otherwise the whipping looks uneven2

I enjoyed the fly stitch but it did give the moment where I realised I’d managed to buy two skeins of 568, rather than the 566 I needed, so I couldn’t finish with a smooth colour gradient. I wish I had remembered my tekobari, a tool normally used in Japanese embroidery for poking, holding and generally forcing stitches into submission, as it was difficult holding back the previous rows to get the stitches in nice and tight.


The stem is a mixture of heavy chain along the outsides and stem stitch down the middle. I’m not sure the RSN is going to approve of that volume of lurid orange ‘accent colour’ but oh well.  The problem I’m finding with the colourways available in the crewel wools I’m using is that the greens are all a little dull so it’s hard to get them to stand out at all. This is partly because I’m supposed to be using traditional colours but I do prefer working with more intense colours.

The crewel wools are also posing a few other challenges. My favourite thing in the world to sew with is silk. It’s relatively durable, has a fantastic sheen if you lay it well, it tends not to snag (except for maybe badly treated flat silks.) The Appletons wool explodes into a haze of fibre as soon as it’s near the linen, and typically the bright orange seems to be the worst culprit for this, making the nice clean linen a fetching shade of red. They break and thin easily and, if you’re not careful, they’re really easy to unply as well. This is the first time I’ve stitched with wool, so I am trying to keep an open mind, but I’m not a fan just yet.


The design has already changed a little from original colour drawings and stitch plan under the guidance of my tutor. One thing to take into consideration when making a stitch plan is ‘where can you hide the beginning and end of stitches.’ I had originally planned to work the centre of the main flower as an open area with bullion and French knots in it but I’ve changed this to something with a solid fill as it’s a very convenient place for stopping all of my raised stem band.

It looks like pittance when I look at the entire volume of stitching achieved today but I am enjoying seeing some progress on the piece and actually being able to stitch.  I loved the designing process, and am looking forward to having the opportunity to do it again, but for now it’s stitch stitch stitch!


  • Finish the raised stem band on the main trunk
  • Finish the small flower
  • Finish the front stem

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