Developing a new crewelwork project: Pineapple

There’s a new crewelwork project of my own design in the works here in Berlin, as part of a series of three called “Symbolic Fruits: Pineapple, Pomegranate and Pear”. It’s been too long since I did a project that was mine from start to finish. In fact, the last crewelwork piece I did that was really my own was for the RSN Certificate. I’ve learned a lot since then, embroidering pieces by other great designers and feel confident of my abilities to design and embroider something that begins in my imagination.

pineapple drawing

The temptation is, after creating the outline pattern, to begin stitching with the stitches you think will work. I know, from past experience, that usually doesn’t work out the way you imagine in your head. I always make a colored drawing of the piece, mimicking as best I can the texture of the stitches. I also make a black and white copy of the colored drawing where I label the stitches I’m planning to use and the thread color numbers for each element of the design. I quite enjoy this process because I can quickly see how the finished piece will look. At the drawing stage I often make changes.

Pineapple crewelwork

With this particular piece, I’m also embroidering a test or sample version of the design. The sample version is the same size and uses the same threads and stitches, but I don’t always finish every element. Once I am sure it will work, I stop testing and embroider the successful element onto the real thing.

pineapple crewelwork

You can see, in the photo above, that I tested two ideas for the center vein in these leaves. Earlier I wrote about this briefly and have decided that I prefer the leaf on the right. The center stitch is the same as on the left but worked larger and with a different color thread and the border is completely different and worked with three colors of thread rather than one with contrasting holding stitches.

pineapple crewelwork

In the photo above you can see my experiments with shifting the deep rose color to a lighter shade at different points in the design. Can you guess which I prefer and am going to use?

pineapple crewelwork

In this photo, the top center leaf was my trial for a new filling for the leaf that I found in Tracy A. Franklin’s book Crewelwork* on a piece from the RSN Collection. I always look in books for stitch and stitch combination inspiration! ( * If you are interested in this book – one of my all time favorite crewelwork books! – you must contact Tracy A. Franklin directly. Information is on her web-site at the link above.)

Once I decided that I liked the filling and it would 1. look good and 2. not be too tedious to embroider, I stitched it onto the real thing (prototype) and added the other elements in the middle of the leaf.

pineapple crewelwork

Working this way allows me to experiment and play – always fun! – but also to finish with a prototype that’s embroidered beautifully. If I didn’t use a test piece to trial things, there would be all kind of holes in the fabric from pulling out unsuccessful stitches and combinations.

For this project I’m using linen twill fabric from Weddingen Weberei and wool from Heathway Wools. Both are finer than the usual materials traditionally used for crewelwork and I am really pleased with the clarity and lightness of the piece so far!

Do you trial things as you work on a piece? Please share your process with us – we all can learn from one another!

5 thoughts on “Developing a new crewelwork project: Pineapple

  1. The pineapple design is lovely. Yes, I use a ‘practice’ piece of fabric in a second hoop or frame. One of my teachers referred to this as a ‘doodle’ cloth. Love that name.

    It helps with auditioning threads, colors, stitches, etc. When doing needlelace, I always have a grid couched so that I can ‘warm up’ my fingers and get the tension consistent on whatever stitch I’m going to be using before I move to the actual piece.

    BTW – Earlier this month, I came across Tracy Franklin’s book Crewelwork on the RSN website, and immediately bought it. It’s under Shop – Books – Techniques.

    • Hi Katrina,

      Good to know the book in offered at the RSN shop! Thanks!

      I like the idea of warming up your fingers as an embroiderer. I do that as a musician and never thought that I also do as an embroiderer. My stitching is always smoother the longer I embroider.

      Liebe Grüße,


  2. What a beautiful piece in the making Kathy! Thank you for sharing your designing process with us. I have attempted to design and stitch a couple of crewel work embroideries but have a very long way to go! And I agree – Tracey Franklin’s book ‘Crewelwork’ is quite simply the best. Sheer inspiration on every page. Thank you for another wonderful post! 🙂

  3. Such fun work! I love the bullions in the pineapple itself. Thanks for sharing your process with us.

  4. What a wonderful project to be working on, and I am quite excited to be able to follow you along as you develop all three of the designs! I am seriously considering completing the certificate course at the RSN, so your comments on your process of design and how you work through stitch selection are greatly appreciated, as I have never attempted anything where I have had to design the piece myself, and am finding the thought very daunting. I love Tracey A Franklin’s book, and purchased it after you last mentioned it. I’m thinking I will complete a sampler to test things out – she has some wonderful stitch uses and colour ways. I love your pineapple filling and your bullion knots!

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