Crazy about Crewel Work: A Medieval Tradition

crewel

17th century British crewel  work panel 
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Crewel work is a specific type of embroidery that features wool designs on a tightly woven linen or silk.  The origin of crewel in England dates back to the 13th century, and it is thought that the technique began in Egypt before spreading to Greek and Roman cultures.

Detail of the Bayeux Tapestry

Detail of the Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the most famous examples of crewel work, despite its title as a ‘tapestry.’  This seminal piece tells the story of the Norman Conquest, and the design is executed in dyed wools on a linen ground.

Crewel work became extremely popular in Jacobean England.  Throughout the 17th century, crewel work designs became more elaborate and exuberant with the development of richer colours.  In the following centuries, crewel work continued to be used in different styles, with a preference to lighter designs during the reign of Queen Anne and a resurgence of the bold, large patterns during the Georgian era.

A William and Mary Ebonised Armchair with Crewel Work Embroidery Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

A William and Mary Ebonised Armchair with Crewel Work Embroidery
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

We are delighted to have this William & Mary ebonised carved armchair with embroidered crewel work designs, which is particularly fitting for the period.  The traditional tree of life pattern is executed with richly dyed wools with bold decoration.

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