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How to Create Crewel Embroidery on Net

Try bold stitchery on a delicate foundation
Threads #189, Feb./March 2017

Fine cotton netting embroidered with lofty wool yarns presents a delightful and unexpected dichotomy of fibers. This example is from the 1940s, but the look is thoroughly modern, with similar bright, bold florals on dark backgrounds appearing in many designer collections today. Float a weightless embellished chemise like this one over a basic black slip dress to add color and individuality for a special occasion, day or night. To learn how to cultivate a crewelwork garden on English netting, read this article from Threads #189 to learn more.

From the Collection at Western Costume Company
From the Collection at Western Costume Company

It’s an unusual pairing: a sheer ground fabric adorned with lofty wool embroidery. This technique’s charm resides in the unexpected contrast. The filmy foundation makes the heavy embroidery wearable, and the embroidery gives the black net a playful, buoyant effect.

The meshlike ground fabric shown is called English netting, and it is made of cotton. Because of its relatively robust body, it is best for dress designs that don’t involve yards and yards of gathered, layered tulle. 

The crewel embroidery can be stitched with scraps of lightweight knitting yarn. If you knit, your yarn stash may provide a palette that echoes your wardrobe and adds a variety of textures. Alternatively, you can purchase crewel embroidery yarns in hundreds of colors. We shopped online (WoolAndHoop.com). Note that wool threads are thick, but they’re relatively lightweight for their bulk, so you can make densely stitched designs.

This project’s challenge is to add the bulky embroidery without overpowering the net. I’ll show you how.

Support with waste canvas

Trace the pattern onto waste canvas.

With a marker, copy your embroidery pattern onto a piece of waste canvas cut larger than the motif. Waste canvas is designed to add support while you’re stitching;…

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