HNW - Re: HNW Quick question - way off present topic.

Larsdatter, Karen Karen at
Sat Sep 19 08:42:01 PDT 1998

Isabeau wrote:

> A question has come up on another list asking for a simple 
definition to
> distinguish embroidery from crewel work.  We fully realize that one uses,
> almost exclusively, wool, but embroidery likewise, sometimes, uses wool.
> We've also heard that crewel was established much later - 1800's where
> embroidery has been around longer.  However, what makes something crewel
> and not embroidery with wool? 
> Any simple answers or are the lines blurred here?

I'd have to say that crewel is a *form* of embroidery, in the way that 
needlepoint is a *form* of embroidery, etc. ...

Here's a bit from Thomasina Beck's "The Embroiderer's Story:  
Needlework from the Renaissance to the Present Day":

- ----

Elizabethan parents and teachers were stern, demanding constant 
diligence and absolute obedience, and children's "sluggishness" 
was not to be tolerated.  'It grieveth me to see you so sluggish,' 
says another governess, the fictional Mistress Clemence, to her 
charges Fleurimonde and Charlote in "The French Garden," a lively 
conversation manual written in 1605 by Peter Erondell, a Huguenot 
refugee.  Mistress Clemence hreatens to tell the girls' mother of 
their idleness, which puts them in a great flurry of activity:  "Sister 
where be our workes? I forgot my needlecase, take the silke ... the 
crewel is not untwyned, it is all one .... I have not my silver thimble, 
it is within my workbox."

Summoned by their mother they show her their efforts 
apprehensively.  Poor Fleurimonde's atempts at cutwork are 
immediately criticised: "Methinks I espie a fault in it."  Fortunately 
the edge at least is reasonably well made, and she turns to her 
other daughter, "And you Charlote, where is your worke? Are your 
tapestrie cushens ended?"  Charlote answers that she has only 
one left to do, and is quick with excuses, "I lack silke, I knowe not 
what is become of the cushen canvas, all of my gold and silver is 
done, I want more black yarne, I have not enough cruell."  "Cruell," 
or crewel as we call it now, was handspun from long staple wool 
(worsted) similar in character to the yarn used in making the 
Bayeux Tapestry (which is, of course, not a tapestry, woven on a 
loom, but an embroidery, stitched with crewels on linen.)  There 
was just as much confusion between the two words in the 
sixteenth century as there is today, and Charlote's "Tapestrie 
cushens" were certainly not woven, but embroidered on canvas.  
The endearingly scatterbrained sisters appear to have passed the 
sampler stage, and the materials suggest that htey were working in 
several different methods.

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