Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review: (A Handbook of) American Crewel Embroidery

Title: (A Handbook of) American Crewel Embroidery 

Author: Muriel L. Baker

Date: 1966

Publisher: Charles E. Tuttle

ISBN: none

Length: 67 pages

Illustrations: many drawings and black-and-white photos

Quote: "While mounds sometimes occupied only a small part of the whole design...they other times formed the whole base of the design. Very often the latter was the case with petticoat borders."

Crewel embroidery is defined as embroidery done with relatively thick "crewel wools, which are slackly twisted two-ply worsted yarns," rather than fine cotton thread or silk floss. Historically, this relatively fast and cheap kind of embroidery was often used for very fancy "painting with yarn" effects. Crewel is not unlike drawing and painting--it can be used to make simple line doodles, or elaborate three-dimensional pictures with subtly shaded colors.

Baker found dozens of garments, linens, purses, chair cushions, and framed pictures that were not only attractive enough to be preserved in museums, but also clear enough to be documented in black-and-white photos. This limits her selection to relatively simple colorwork.

She explains briefly how the basic embroidery stitches are formed, and provides clear, traceable templates for embroidering birds, flowers, animals and even a mermaid in the sizes and styles found on the museum pieces dating back to the eighteenth century. No templates are provided for motifs used in the more recent pieces, which might still have been considered subject to copyright.

This attractive little book was successful enough in its day that it's still available for its original price, or even less, so you may buy it here for our minimum price of $5 per book + $5 per package. Although Muriel Baker no longer needs a dollar, we can probably squeeze four or five Fair Trade Books into the package, which may make this price quite competitive.