A crewel embroidery in blue and white, made principally in
United States of America.
• White fabric
• Blue and white threads
• Stitches and designs of crewel embroidery
Deerfield embroidery developed from the European crewel work in a
small New England village, Deerfield, in western Massachusetts, USA
in 19th century. Here in the 1890s, Margaret Whiting and Ellen Miller,
discovered a few pieces of moth-eaten, colonial wool crewel embroidery
in the local museum and set about learning the stitches in order to
reproduce the original as a matter of record and to preserve the designs
for posterity. This resulted in the formation of the Deerfield Society
of Blue and White Needlework in 1896 which lasted only until 1925.
The first linen used was only a little heavier than a handkerchief.
Gradually linen of different weights and textures was introduced depending
on the purpose. Table linens and coverlets were smooth and firm, while
wall hangings and curtains were often made of Russian crash, usually
unbleached or grey and very coarse.
Attempts were made to match the blues of Canton china, and the English
crewel designs, married to oriental influences of the time.
The original embroideries of the Blue and White Society were done
in three values of blue (light, medium, and dark) plus white. Blue
was an easily attainable color, using the readily available indigo
dye. The number of repeat dips determined how deep the color would
be. Later natural dyes of madder, indigo, fustic and native barks
With an eye toward increasing the longevity of the items they stitched, linen
thread was chosen over the wool threads used in the original pieces.
The Society’s first threads were almost as fine as sewing cotton.
Soon the heavy linen threads from Scotland dyed in the blue tub in
Deerfield, made it possible to approximate the crewels of the 18th
Stitches used were outline and stem stitch, honeycomb, cross stitch,
herringbone, lattice, chain, satin, feather, blanket stitch, fly,
seed, darning, coral, and Rumanian stitch, a couching stitch, which
was always called New England Laid Stitch in Deerfield, is a filling
stitch that is worked so that thread use is economized, thereby making
it typically “Yankee.” Buttonhole stitch, sometimes called
blanket stitch, was referred to as the “spike” stitch
in earlier times. This stitch was used most often for depicting tendrils.
Designs of roses, tulips, pinks, clover and grapes are more easily
recognisable than the acanthus leaf, pineapple and pomegranate.
The letter’D’ in a spinning wheel, became the mark of
all Deerfield reproduction pieces.
Howe, Margery Burnham, Deerfield Embroidery, Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1976.
Clabburn, Pamela The Needleworkers’ Dictionary, Macmillan, London,
Batsford Encyclopedia Of Embroidery Techniques, Batsford, London,
© Valerie Cavill 2011