Craftsy Class Review: Stitch It with Wool with Kristin Nicholas

Once again, I loved doing an embroidery class! After doing Sue Spargo's class and still having a boatload of butterflies to finish, I figured the next best bet was Kristin Nicholas' Stitch It with Wool: Crewel Embroidery. I assumed it would be pretty easy to incorporate any new stitches I might encounter into the butterflies.

I wasn't positive what "crewel embroidery" was and how it differed from regular embroidery before I took this class. As I've now learned, the only real difference is the thread. With crewel embroidery, you're embroidering with yarn. There is actual crewel embroidery yarn, but you can also use regular yarn as long as it's a smooth yarn that will glide easily through your fabric. I have a couple of thicker perle cottons that I decided fit the ticket, so I was able to practice one or two of the stitches even though I don't have actual crewel yarn. It's now on my shopping list, though. 

Most people likely associate crewel embroidery with Jacobean design, as crewel was hugely popular in that era. Click here for a great Pinterest collection of Jacobean design in fabrics. However, it doesn't have to be Jacobean to be crewel (which sounds like a song title): You can do any ol' embroidery you want with yarn. Mary Corbet has a nice description of crewel on her website. The thickness of the yarn may dictate a bit what stitches you're able to do, but for the most part, it's the same thing. 

I dig Jacobean design, so that was part of what attracted me to this class--if you do the actual class project, it's got a bit of a Jacobean flair to it. Or maybe it just reads that way to me because they're done in wool. Whatever: they are cute projects, but I chose not to do any of them at this stage: I just wanted to focus on finishing those dang butterflies. I have a couple of books on Jacobean applique that I inherited from my Mom and have never used--I'm now imagining them as embroidery patterns instead of applique patterns. I suspect I may be using those books any time now!

  Satin stitch worked in perle cotton

Satin stitch worked in perle cotton

Many of the stitches were the same in this class as in Sue Spargo's, which one would expect; there are certain foundational stitches to embroidery that will show up in any class. It's how those stitches get built upon and layered that can make the difference. That means, of course, that Kirstin Nicholas has few new variations and stitches in this class, even if they were the same stitch "families." Plus, every teacher will have slight variations on technique which are helpful to learn--it gives me more options when trying to figure out which technique I wear most comfortably. Additionally, she gives some tricks to making stitches work as well with wool as with floss, or in terms of helping you learn how to choose the best stitches for success with wool, and so forth.

I enjoyed Kristin Nicholas' teaching style. She's very straightforward and clearly demonstrates each stitch. She also has an excellent lesson at the end about how to keep your skeins of stitching yarn from becoming a tangled mess (something I had to learn the hard way, unfortunately), as well as how to block and steam an embroidery project when it's completed. This wasn't covered at all in Sue Spargo's class, but the difference in materials makes it less necessary for a Spargo-style embroidery project than the Nicholas-style. 

I've only got the one project picture above for this class as now I'm in sort of a free-style mode on the butterflies--just picking and choosing what stitches I want to use from all of the Craftsy classes I've done (another review coming today!), plus a couple of books I've picked up. But the next embroidery project I'm designing in my head is heavily influenced by this class, and I may well end up picking up some crewel wool so I can get a feel for how it works. Unfortunately, most of the yarn scraps I've collected from friends are "weird yarns," or the type that need to be couched rather than used in embroidery.

So, in summary, I did enjoy this class and I feel like it added to my general repertoire and comfort level with embroidery. I don't recommend either Sue Spargo's class or this one higher than another--they have both been great for me!

The Basics

  • 7 classes, ranging from 24 to 34 minutes in length. 
  • The first class discusses supplies, how to begin and end a stitch, how to deal with a mistake (helpful to start right out with that!), some ideas for finishing, and how to transfer a design onto fabric.
  • Lesson 2 is basic stitches and lesson 3 is how to embellish those same stitches to add layers of interest. 
  • Lesson 4 addresses what she calls "fancy stitches," which are largely stitches that involve knots of some kind, such as pistils and bullions.
  • Lesson 5 are fill stitches--I got some good ideas here, although on my butterfly project I don't need much in the way of fill stitches. But they'll likely play into whatever my next project is.
  • Lesson 6 is sculpted stitches, such as Turkey Work and the Spiderweb stitch.
  • Lesson 7 is finishing and inspiration--she has a nice gallery of work, although her examples are all pillows and relatively simple designs. She discusses her focus on beginners which is why I think she only had those examples--they're an "easy bite" of embroidery, so to speak. However, I always like to see what we could aim for as our expertise grows: I'd have enjoyed seeing more complex pieces as well. 

So, my review of Kristin Nicholas' Stitch it with Wool: Crewel Embroidery is definitely two thumbs up. I may actually make a trip this weekend to one of the two places near-ish me that sell crewel wool so I can really go to town!

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