Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind II

Welcome Back Everybody! Last time we looked at the history of crewelwork, this week we’re going to look at contemporary examples. I have to admit, I keep collecting books on the technique, but I haven’t found time to try it yet. (Sad Face) I found so many amazing contemporary pieces, I *almost* put off writing this article while I attempted to give wool a go. It’s research, right?
Anyway, first up we have this piece by mellow_stuff.

Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind IICrewel Embroidery Pillow by mellow_stuff

I know! Look at all that texture! Wool is so sprong-y, I love that these flowers burst out of the pillow. Also, there’s a whole lot of different stitches in there, but instead or it looking overworked, it’s like a celebration of embroidery. I really, really want to touch this piece.

These pincushions by wooly fabulous knock my socks off. Want! Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind II

Crewel pincushions by wooly fabulous

And take a look at these brooches! I love the contrast between the pretty crewel and the  teeth of the razor. Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind IICrewel brooches by wooly fabulous

Full disclosure- I own one of her pieces, a cuff, and it’s pretty much my favorite pieces of jewelry ever. Ever.

Moving on we have this necklace by lemongrovejewelry.

Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind IICrewel and beaded necklace by lemongroovejewelery

This piece makes me want to wait till my computer isn’t looking, reach through the screen, and snatch it. I love the mix of beading and stitchwork, and there’s something about the pallet that feels calming and subtly surprising. There’s a lot of work in this piece without it feeling overworked. Love it.

Okay. Backing away from my thieving daydreams.

Next we have this portrait by one of our favorite artists around these parts, Alexandra Walters. If you haven’t seen her work before, or checked out her blog… well, shame on you.

Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind IIAbsence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder by Alexandra J. Walters

Not only is Alex a genius embroiderer, but when it comes to her crewelwork, she often spins and dyes her own wool yarn to use in concert with commercial materials. I interviewed her last spring and she said, “The great thing about working in fiber is that there is no end to the medium. The day I started spinning my own wool for embroidery, I cried for the first half hour of stitches because it was so frickin’ exciting to me.” I can relate! Alex’s work masterfully uses each stitch and strand the way a painter uses a brushstroke. The overall effect is arresting and alive. Love that lady.

This next piece by broken press is called “Valentines”, and that day is right around the corner.

Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind IIValentines by broken press

I like this simple triptych, the way the red pops and the black on the oatmeal colored cloth makes it feel like one of those paper shadow portrait silhouettes. When I see pieces like these, they feel like a secret code. Let’s see. “Valentines”…. Like, “Hey! Don’t forget to meet me under the tree so I can give you the key to my heart!”

Finally we have this piece by our much loved Drucilla Pettibone. Needle Exchange: Crewel To Be Kind IIChaos Reigns by Drucilla Pettibone

This piece is worked with commercial floss, tatting cotton, and handspun llama. Yes, I know llama isn’t wool, but it is a protein fiber and it is my article and I do what I want and that’s not the point. The point is, one of the things that’s so great about crewelwork, is the depth and texture it produces, almost like bas relief. And if we’re going to look at texture and depth, we have to look at Ducilla’s work. I admit, I love this piece. It’s like the Platonic Form version of chomping animal. It’s visceral and dynamic, and I feel like I learn more about this creature looking at this piece than I would find in a photograph. It’s a rendering of its essence. It is the abstract quality of an animal.

So thank you all for stopping by and looking at fuzzy wuzzy work with me! I’ll see you next third Friday of the month!


Penny Nickels is a printmaker that started playing with needles with tremendous effect. She and her husband, Johnny Murder, have been described as the “Bonnie and Clyde of Contemporary Embroidery” and you can discover the power of her creativity at her blog.


All photos are property of the cited artist. Please click the link under their photos to learn more about them.