Crewel (the earliest examples of which are 1000 years old), refers to a basic broadcloth textile embroidered either by hand or by machine with a yarn to produce a pattern in relief. Thought to originate in the Mesopotamian crescent, crewel made it’s way into fashion among the privileged in England and France by the 17th century and was brought to the United States by settlers. Today, most crewels are produced CAD looms in India or China. Wool was the earliest fiber used to make the embroidery thread; while cotton, silk and rayon are also employed in modern versions. From my point of view, some of the anglophile examples with floral motifs are a bit stuffy. That said, there are many designs with flowers, animals and incidentals that are fresh and exciting.
Exactly 10 years ago this month, P. Kaufman announced the purchase of Clarence House. Many in the interior design industry expected a routing of the brand by the considerably “lower brow” parent company. Quite to the contrary, a decade later, Clarence House remain a destination for the discerning decorator. My favorite crewel in their collection is “Polly” #34434, a vividly colored aviary of primitively rendered birds on a background trellis of branches. The design is witty, fresh, and exuberant. Use it as an accent, or draw the theme for a room from it; this fabric reminds me not to take myself too seriously… something I need to be reminded of.
To the trade