How to Embroider With Yarn

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Embroidery with yarn is called crewel. The technique originated in England during the Jacobean era in the 16th and 17th century. During this time the tree of life, teaming with exotic birds, animals, fanciful flowers and fruits was the favored theme. Crewel has also been called thread painting because it allows for blending colors and shading. Although somewhat time consuming, the basic stitches are easy to learn and even a beginner can achieve beautiful results.

Things You'll Need

  • Pattern or drawing
  • Transfer pencil
  • Tracing paper
  • High thread count linen fabric
  • 3-ply wool yarn in assorted colors
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery needle
  • Template
Crewel embroidery example.
Crewel embroidery example. (Image: Debbie Williams)

How to Embroider With Yarn

Step 1

Choose an embroidery hoop or frame and an assortment of wool yarns, both of which can be found at specialty yarn shops and can be purchased by the strand. Please see the last slide for template and a complete list of materials needed.

Wool yarns are available in many colors.
Wool yarns are available in many colors. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 2

Print the template or make your own drawing. Trace the pattern with a transfer pencil onto tracing paper. Transfer the pattern to the fabric by placing the tracing paper on the fabric and pressing with a hot iron. Pressing ensures that the image stays clear -- dragging the iron will blur the image.

Trace the design with a transfer pencil.
Trace the design with a transfer pencil. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 3

Find the center of the design and place the fabric in the embroidery hoop. Using a thread length of approximately 18 inches, thread the needle by folding the yarn over the needle and pinching it tightly with your fingers. Pull the needle out and press the folded yarn through the eye of the needle.

Thread the needle.
Thread the needle. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 4

Use a stem stitch to do the flower stems and small leaves. Start a stitch leaving a 2-inch tail. Take a stitch and come up at the entry point of the last stitch. Let the yarn hang down and pull the needle up over the entry point. Catch the tail in a few stitches as you go securing the thread. Cut the tail off.

Make rows of stem stitches to fill the flower stems.
Make rows of stem stitches to fill the flower stems. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 5

Use a split stitch for the large areas of the upper flower. Take a stitch and come up through the center of the yarn from the previous stitch. Repeat -- keeping rows of stitches close together.

The split stitch covers large areas well.
The split stitch covers large areas well. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 6

Apply the satin stitch to the center flower, the lower flower, the bee and the large flat leaves. Follow the picture for color selection. Bring the needle up on the line on one side of shape and down directly on the other side of the shape. Keep the stitches straight and with even tension.

Satin stitches are very useful.
Satin stitches are very useful. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 7

Place French knots on the petals of the center flower. Bring the needle up at the placement point, wrap the yarn around the needle three times and then push the needle down close to the original point. Hold the thread taut as you push the needle through and pull the yarn tight.

French knots make accents.
French knots make accents. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 8

Use an outline or back stitch to outline the bee and the lower flower. Come up at one point, stepping back one stitch length and going down again.

Outline the bee.
Outline the bee. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 9

Place the lazy daisy stitch in the lightest area of the upper flower along a center line of stem stitch. Come up with the stitch and go down close to the first entry point leaving a loop. Come up again at the end of the loop and take a small stitch, securing the loop in place.

Place the lazy daisy stitches.
Place the lazy daisy stitches. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a hoop or frame large enough to hold the entire design at one time.
  • Purchase extra yarn and only from single dye lots.
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