So you want to make beautiful crewel embroideries. I’m assuming here that you want to stick to the original idea of wool thread. That said, I’m also going to take a looser definition of “crewel wool” and discuss some threads that aren’t technically crewel wool, but are absolutely lovely when stitched as if they were!
Let’s start with an overview of some of the threads on the market. These are only the ones I have experience with! If you love (or manufacture) something not listed, I’d love to hear from you. I am very much a thread junkie.
Appleton Crewel Wool
Supposedly the Cadillac of “authentic” crewel wool, this thread is loose-spun, fluffy, and fuzzy. I find it a bit difficult to work with, and although it is marketed as traditional, the older (200 years) embroideries I’ve seen appear to have a tighter spin to their threads. While this might be due to their age, I still have questions. This thread is quite fine in size, but by combining strands and utilizing its fuzziness, you can get a very good coverage from it. Pull skeins of approximately 27 meters.
This wool is comparable to Appleton, but with a slightly tighter twist and a bit less fuzz. When I am working traditional crewel work, I prefer to use this. It’s dyed in France by a very personable family using natural dyes and antique methods, including doing their rinsing right in the local river! 25 meter single strand pull-skeins.
Bella Lusso Pure Merino
I’ve had a few skeins of this lying around for a while and only recently got to stitch with it. Oh. My. It is soft. It is smooth. It is VERY fine. It works well with multiple strands. All in all, it is a dream to work with, challenged only by the silk blends. 45 yards in a large circular skein. You will need to either cut the skein or wind it onto a bobbin to use.
Fine D’Aubusson wool from Au Ver á soie
This is lovely stuff. very fine, with just a smidge of fuzz, this is fantastic thread for tiny little crewel pieces. You could print my little Jacobean tree of life with Rabbit at its smallest size and have one strand of this thread suit perfectly. It is marketed as tapestry wool because of its sturdy twist. Bundles of four fine strands in an 8 meter pull skein (so about the same size as the Appleton and Renaissance Dying skeins, all told).
I am SO happy this thread is again available! It’s a bit thicker than the actual “crewel” wools, so it covers larger designs faster. Created originally for needlepoint, it has a comfortable twist and not a lot of fuzz. I like it for larger (but not huge) projects without a lot of details. Comes in three strand, 8 yard, 40 yard and 160 yard hanks.
Impressions by Caron Collection
Technically, this is not in any way, shape, or form, a crewel thread. It has a nice, smooth twist, and is of what I would call a medium-fine weight. Why doesn’t it classify? It’s made of a 50/50% mix of wool and silk. For me, this makes it a dream to stitch with. Ease of stitching, strong threads, and deep, saturated, shiny color. But please don’t enter it in a competition for historical accuracy! (Silk and Ivory is similar to Impressions, but I find it a tad less smooth, and a bit thicker when stitching.)
I’ve mentioned uses for these brands above. They all work just fine on traditional designs, although you may need to resize your pattern or add additional strands to your needle depending on the thread thickness.
As usual, my recommendation is to invest in a skein of each as you can, and play with various stitches on your doodle cloth/sampler to decide which you like best. (You’re going to get tired of hearing me say this. I won’t apologize. The best way to get comfortable with a tool – including threads – is to use it!
Have I left any of your favorite crewel threads out of this list? DO you disagree with my loves? Let me know in the comments!