Spring 2024: Google ended its email subscription service in 2021. I believe I've found a replacement, but haven't had time to test it. I have been stitching a little bit here and there and have some posts ready for when the email subscription is active again. Fingers crossed, I'll have time to rouse this blog out of its dormancy sometime this year.

27 October 2017

The Sampler is Finished

The crewel sampler is finished...at last! The final motif was a rose in the lower left hand corner.

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): Rose detail

The centre of the rose--the green buttonhole stitching--is not symmetrical. It is drawn that way. In fact, the entire piece has the feeling of being hand drawn. If I had thought about it I probably would have adjusted the centre a bit to make it more symmetrical, but it's fine as it is. I kind of like the fact that the design is a bit informal.

In working the rose I used a new-to-me hoop from Japan. I needed a small hoop and it was handy. It's quite a bit lighter than the Hardwicke Manor hoops I usually use, but it did a decent job. I think I could crush it in my hand if I tried, but it maintained sufficient tension on the fabric and the screw is slotted so I could tighten it with a screwdriver.

Oh, yes, and it's purple!

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): Purple embroidery hoop

Once all the motifs were completed it was time to finish off the border around the central part of the design. It's embroidered with whipped chain stitching. I ended up having to use the back of the needle for the whipping because I couldn't quickly find a tapestry needle. (I really am a sharp needler!)

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): Detail of whipped chain stitch

I like the purple border.

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): Central motif with purple border

Finally, it was on to the blue dividing lines. The kit called for chain stitching, but I decided to do stem for a slightly finer line. I stitched the lines in hand rather than in a hoop. Given the lack of extra fabric around the design I didn't think I had any way to easily mount the entire height or width of the piece. I'm fairly comfortable doing certain stitches in hand although I always prefer taut (i.e., mounted) fabric, if possible.

I don't care for the blue lines. I would prefer something like brown, but that would have meant incorporating brown into other parts of the design. I tried to embroider the kit as designed so I let the brown go.

Here's the completed project:

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): Completed embroidery

Some of the lines don't appear as straight as one might like, but it hasn't been ironed. The above photo shows the sampler taped to the top of my washing machine and it's still quite wrinkly.

This is a comparison of the actual stitched piece with the colour image provided in kit #2.

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): Comparison of embroidery with photo of original

Then there was the photography assistant... I tried to keep her away, but she was very insistent upon participating.

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): Siamese kitten (Suki) helping with photography

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this project, the crewel sampler kit is fairly easy to find on ebay. Recently, a JCA version even showed up. So, this kit was available for many, many years!

From left to right: my original kit (no colour photography), my second kit (with colour image), JCA version (year unknown).

Crewel Sampler (by Elsa Williams): The kit over time

The JCA version even uses green design lines like the originals. (Oh dear, this is getting really geeky!)

I did not buy the JCA version. Two kits are quite enough!

My plan for the completed sampler is to make it available as an example of traditional crewel when my EGA chapter does needlework displays. I haven't decided what to do with the second kit. I'm thinking about stitching it with finer crewel wool and changing up the colours.

However, I think I need to set wool aside for a bit and do some silk embroidery.


  1. It’s a very pretty sampler, though I do agree with you on the point of the blue not quite looking right.
    For Crewelwork, blocking it is a great way to square it up and get rid of creases. It takes longer than ironing it, but gives a much better result.

    1. It just so happens that I ironed it today and it came out fine. No blocking necessary....this time. :-) Now all I need is to dig out a sewing machine and zig zag the edges so it can be used as a display piece. (Display pieces are not mounted or framed since they are pinned to fabric backings.)

      Oh, those blue lines! I think that even green would have been a better choice if Elsa had wanted to stay within the palette. If I do stitch it again the lines will definitely not be blue!

  2. (Small voice) I kinda like the blue....

    Maybe a different blue would have worked better. Or even a deeper subdued purple, darker than the one used on the center motif. The purple would ground the whole piece more, at least to my imagination's eye. But in any case, the blue works to some extent, and can also be too distracting at the same time. It's a dilemma.

    It's a pretty piece but would be interesting to see it stitched with finer wool. You stitch exquisitely, whatever you use!

    Cute kitty, that Suki. :)

    Sandy (the Rev)

  3. The kit is in a B&W photo in Elsa's book "Heritage Embroidery". It also has photos where: the centre piece is a mirror, the centre piece alone is a small cushion, the centre piece is a box top the other elements being on the side, as well as showing it as a cushion & as a book cover.The book does not have this design as a "project" I got my EW book thru Abe books and its a treasure. JD, New Zealand

    1. JD, thanks for mentioning this. I have the book, but haven't looked at it for quite some time. I need to go take a look at it again.

      The original kit that I bought has only a black and white photo with the mirror, cushion, etc. that you describe.

  4. It seems here in the States that embroidery takes a distant second to knitting which is a shame and makes getting decent kits hard to come by. I often find that I have to make up my own sometimes to not great results- hate wasted time and thread. You seem to have much better luck; also nice to see another embroidery blog. That photo assistant you have is mighty cute!
    Karen (from NC)

    1. I know what you mean about being frustrated with finding surface embroidery kits. I have a fair number of old and newer ones in my stash so I don't need any more, but when I look around at what's available commercially it's kind of disheartening.

      If you're looking for new kits I think the best options are ones that are available directly from designers such as Tanja Berlin.

      If you stick around with this blog you'll probably see assorted commercial kits pop-up. I like to find ways to change them in an effort to challenge myself. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's all about learning and having fun!

  5. Just discovered your blog and am excited to see this project develop. I just started working with Jacobean style embroidery and this kind of sampler is exactly what I love about it. I'll be looking for some Elsa Williams patterns. Thanks for sharing your beautiful work!

    1. Thank you, Erica, and welcome to my little corner of the embroidery world. (I love Alaska, by the way!) There are several more vintage Erica Williams kits in my stash that I hope to work through in time. Her kits are readily available on sites like ebay and etsy. She also produced some books that are easy to source.

  6. I LOVE the sampler and like the Blue lines. Since I like color over neutrals
    I'm not sure I would like the sampler with brown lines. Maybe purple lines would be nice. Looking forward to showing off the sampler at the Del Mar fair in 2018. I have most of Elsa Williams books and a number of her old catalogs given to me by her daughter. I am happy to loan to you. They were given to me as resources for the Elsa Williams presentation I have.Margi

  7. Came out nicely!