Year of Samplers

Crewel Shading Sampler – First Heart

Crewel Shading Sampler

Alrighty then, here I go with my crewel shading! I’ve outlined each heart in split stitch, and you can see above that I’ve penciled in arrows to show shading and stitching direction. You’ll see that on most I’ve also divided the shape into three parts – this will help guide me on where to start blending into the next shade.

Now, full disclosure: I have done a little bit of crewel shading before – a little, little bit. Once at a Royal School of Needlework workshop, where I learned the basics of this type of shading, and a little on a big project I will be showing you soon. So I’m familiar with the basics, but haven’t done enough to feel good at it.

Crewel Shading Sampler

I’m stitching the first in the most obvious shading direction – from tip up to the top, working with the curves. As I described in my &Stitches tutorial, the first wave of stitches cover and tuck around the lower outline, then the following stitches work up by coming up through the previous ones.

Crewel Shading Sampler

I’ve filled up to the the first color line-ISH – can you see it peeping through behind those stitches? Some of my stitches go past it, some stop short of it. That’s the whole long-and-short part of long-and-short stitch. Now I will switch to my middle shade and some of those stitches will go below the line, blending the sections.

Crewel Shading Sampler

Around this ‘blending line’, I won’t work with just one shade at a time – I’ll have both shades threaded and just stitch with both here and there until the shift is even and smooth. If you’re stitching along, I know that doesn’t really seem helpful, since I haven’t shown the shading in progress yet, but it’s kind of one of those things that you have to work yourself and see happen.

Give it a go and if you get into trouble, I’ll show you more next Monday!

Sampler #7 – Planning Crewel Shading

Crewel Shading Sampler - Materials

Oy vey, I’m running late this month! But that’s ok, this one will be small. Actually, you might notice my samplers getting progressively smaller, as I try to be more realistic about what I can actually get done in a month – and still have time for anything else! This is something I’m trying to do more of in all areas of my daily life, I’m learning that I am a seriously chronic over-estimater.

Anyway, so above you’ll see that I’m getting ready to start Sampler #7 (halfway done with my Year of Samplers, woohoo!) – though I haven’t really planned much out. As I explained last week, this sampler will be all about long-and-short stitch shading, which is pretty much vital in crewelwork. But coming up with a ‘design’, such as it is, has proven incredibly difficult.

This is the general idea: I’ll make four shapes (to go with my four groups of threads) and shade those in different directions. This should give me a lot of practice in how to work with the thread shades and blend them to get the effect I want, etc. The thing is, the obvious / most common use of crewel shading is in leaves and flower petals. But I don’t want to stitch those as a sampler because that messes with my rules of what a sampler is – and anyway, four petals shaded in different directions would look quite odd.

So, that leaves me with the idea of four simple shapes, preferably rounded shapes because shading curves and direction are things I definitely want to practice. I’ve decided to go with hearts to mirror the fabric I’m using (which, by the way, is a poor quality linen fabric from my stash that I’d like to use up. I’m going to use it doubled to give it enough strength to hold the crewelwork). My four hearts will meet with points together at the middle, and I’ll keep them quite small – maybe about 1.5″ tall. This is my Incredibly Official Design Plan:

Very Official Sampler Plan

If you’d like to stitch along, feel free to pick any four shapes of your liking and arrange them however you please! The only thing I’ll do before the next post is outline each shape using split stitch in the middle shade of each color group. No movement on that one, it has to be split stitch. If you are stitching along, you might read the Long-and-Short Stitch tutorial I previously wrote for &Stitches, which also (coincidentally, I swear!) uses a heart. That’s essentially what I’ll be doing here, but blending shades as I go and changing stitch directions. Don’t do anything beyond outlining yet ’cause we still need to plan the shading, but give it a scan so you get the general idea if you’ve never done any long-and-short stitch before!

(By the way, I’m going to get back to doing sampler posts on Mondays, so they don’t take over all the posting all the time! If you hate these samplers, feel free to skip Monday posts; if you can’t get enough, be sure to stop by at the beginning of each week!)

Sampler #7 – Crewel Shading

Sorry I’m running a little late with the beginning of Sampler #7, if you’re planning on stitching along. But this one will be simple enough to prepare for, because we’re sticking with crewelwork for another month!

I kind of see crewelwork as essentially three different elements: there’s the outline stitches that are generally the same as any other surface embroidery (though with the wool thread, they still take a little practice!), the filling stitches as we played with last month, and color shading.

Crewelwork - V&A Museum

This is one of my very favorite things at the Victoria & Albert Museum (pretty much my favorite place on earth) – I’m sorry I don’t know the year and I can’t seem to find this item by searching the collection online. I imagine it is most likely from the late-1600s to early 1700s, just based on similar items in their collection. If I recall, this section comes from a pair of embroidered bedcurtains, and would you just look at those colors?! Seriously. Those blues, they kill me.

I won’t be doing anything nearly as grand, but since I have a bunch of crewel projects lined up now, it couldn’t hurt to do some practice with shading in this crewelwork style. I’m dying to get to those other projects, so this one will be pretty small, but I’ll really just be sampling one thing. So if you’d like to join me, keep your crewelwork stuff out: we’ll need a small piece of sturdy linen fabric or canvas and about four sets of three colors that can blend into each other. I’ve ordered some and it’s still on the way, so I can’t provide a photo yet, but I chose four colors and (mostly) bought consecutive shade numbers.*

I have to wait for my order to arrive, so I won’t be able to start until the beginning of next week – plenty of time if you’d like to join me!

(* To be fair, I own the Appleton’s boxed color cards, and with so many colors on offer, it’s really worth it. But it’s certainly not cheap, so for shading purposes, consecutive numbers are a safe way to get a nice gradual shade shift.)

Crewel Filling Sampler FO

Crewel Filling Sampler Finished

And done – all filled in and outlined! (But, arg, how I hate the way the oatmealy linen photographs as such an odd color.)

Crewel Filling Sampler Finished

In an odd contradiction, this was both my favorite sampler (by far!) and I’m not really happy with it at the same time. So I have very mixed feelings about sharing the FO with you.

Crewel Filling Sampler Finished

I absolutely loved stitching it. So so so so much. Those filling stitches in all their multi-stepped glory, the rustic feel of the crewel wool, the different textures in each block! Swoon!!!

Crewel Filling Sampler Finished

But. I made a big mistake in the outlining of it. It’s horrible. I chose the wrong color, or the wrong stitch – or possibly both. When I tested that fuchsia against the sampler, it looked perfect. Maybe using chain stitch and creating such a thick line is the problem. It makes the outline really dominant in a cringey, cartoony sort of way. Blerg.

Crewel Filling Sampler Finished

I wonder if I should’ve split stitched the outline, making a slighter, daintier grid. That would probably have worked better. Or a different color altogether, but I was trying to chose from what I have handy and nothing seemed quite right. Oh well, perhaps I’ll unpick and redo it at some point, but for now, I’m happy that this sampler – and the whole sampler project, to be honest – has officially done what it was supposed to…

Crewel Filling Sampler Finished

… Show me a technique I want to explore more. Friends, I think this crewelwork is for me.

Final Crewel Filling Stitches

Crewel Sampler - Final Stitches

Almost finished! Above you’ll see my finished cloud filling stitch section (such a happy stitch!) and that I’ve started filling the last two stitches. (Also that I’ve somehow managed to pull the weave all out of whack in one area – not sure what’s up with that.)

I’ve started filling that littlest section with burden stitch, which is a fun way to make a gradient effect – lemme show you how to do that!

First, you’ll lay down horizontal lines across the area – including the very top and bottom border! Make sure they’re evenly spaced; mine are about 1/8″ apart. Now, keep in mind here that these lines will not be fully covered up. This thread will show through the rest of your stitching, so make sure it’s a color you’ll be happy with later. For this section, I will use my white, light pink, and fuchsia threads – in that order – over these lines. So light pink should (fingers crossed) work pretty well to help tie the three colors together.

Crewel Sampler - Final Stitches

Then, starting in the middle with my middle color (light pink), I’ll work one long stitch starting just above one horizontal line –

Crewel Sampler - Final Stitches

over one line, and then back down just before the next one. So each stitch will pass over one horizontal line – does that make sense? To start, you’ll actually work two rows at once, so place your next stitch nice and snuggled up to your first, but covering the horizontal line above the one you just worked over. Alternate in this way all across the first two rows, then you can work one row at a time with your stitches nestled neatly into the spaces left open by the previous row.

Crewel Sampler - Final Stitches

After I finish this fourth row in light pink, I will fill in the rows above it with white, and the rows below it with fuchsia. Can you see how that will work as a gradient, with the light pink horizontal stitches peeking through? I don’t see why you couldn’t do those first stitches in the same colors you’ll top them with, so that the areas are more solid, but that sounds like a pain in the ass. We’ll see how this looks once I start using the white and fuchsia threads.

So the last section then! Well, I really did want to make a feature out of this large area, but everything I considered seemed too heavy or too fussy to look right there. I knew I’d have to use the fuchsia thread there to tie it all together but how to keep that from just drowning everything else out?! I’ve decided on a double cross stitch filling, laid out into a pattern itself:

Crewel Sampler - Final Stitches

I drew a large trellis pattern, lines a full inch apart, and I’m placing double cross stitches along those lines – which are worked exactly like they look. Like an asterisk, made of four straight stitches. It doesn’t matter much what order you work those straight stitches in, but do it the same each time for a nice clean look. I might work more than just that trellis, but I haven’t decided yet. You can also just fill the area randomly with double cross stitches, that would be lovely as well.

When all of this is finished, I’ll work a simple outline around the whole thing and along each border line – probably in my dark blue thread, maybe in split stitch or chain stitch – and that’ll be it! I’ll show you my finished crewel filling sampler at the end of the week!

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