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Crewel Birds
BY Hazel Blomkamp

Search Press
18 March 2020/ ISBN 9781782218340
How-To Books / Needlework

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde


This is the fourth in this author’s stunning “Crewel” series that updates crewel/Jacobean embroidery for the 21st century while losing none of its beauty and unique style. I love these books; not only because the projects in them are so gorgeous or the stitch diagrams so clear but because they use mostly cotton or silk threads rather than wool which I am allergic to. That was the main type of thread available back in the 17th century, but now we have many more choices and look at what you can do with them!

There are six beautiful bird embroideries to stitch in here, depicting a phoenix, mallard, two pheasants, flamingo and rooster. You get to use not only cotton floss, perle, cordonette, silk ribbon, metallic thread and seed beads, but have the option of an unusual method of displaying your work. If you have walls filled with pictures like the author (or too many large windows like this reviewer) you might like to make a quilted “rag book” to house them and instructions for this are given. To begin the author goes through what you need to buy and how to do things like transfer patterns, wash embroidery if you need to and other useful tips. This is followed by a section of pale green pages containing all the stitch diagrams and instructions. There are quite a few, but all the stitch diagrams are easy to follow and mostly of a good size. Learn the basic freestyle and crewel stitches, various bead stitches, needle weaving techniques and needle lace. The latter tend to look quite involved but the written instructions are a help and if you go at it slowly it is surprising how easy it really is. The rest of the book contains those glorious bird projects and in case you were wondering no, this is not a suitable book for total beginners. It is aimed squarely at experienced stitchers who can tackle quite large involved patterns with mostly text instructions with a few small inset photos showing what section is being done. There are many good books on the market for beginners, so it is great to see something for those of us who are up for a challenge! One of my favorite things about the designs is their muted backgrounds of ecru leaves, grasses, chicken wire, etc recalling the unpainted backdrops to the hand colored natural history books of the 18th and 19th centuries. They perfectly frame and set off the lively colors of the birds providing just enough detail to place them in a setting but not vie with their beauty. At the back of the book are all the templates which need to be enlarged before use, or if you want to buy printed panels, just the materials you need to make a project or a full kit you can do so from the author’s website. Even if you just want to learn the stitches and make up your own designs you can find out most of what you need to know in here. Another winner from this hugely talented author.

If you cannot find a good range of embroidery and needlecraft materials locally try for a list of suppliers.

Kits, printed panels and more available from Worldwide shipping.

Full range of DMC threads available from
Presencia Finca #12 available from
Presencia Finca #12 and #16 available from

UK Reviewer: Rachel Hyde's work can be found in The Bead Magazine, Making Jewellery and
Reviewed 2020