Monday, July 18, 2011

My Mother, My Teacher

Crewel Embroidery is a form of surface embroidery using worsted wool yarns worked on linen. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is an art form over 1,000 years old, and has been used by women across time to embellish the most mundane of household linens and clothing. From huge pieces of antiquity such as the Bayeux Tapestry ( and which chronicles the Battle of Hastings in 1066, to small and simple kits for children of modern time, embroidery has provided an important outlet for human creativity and historical record alike.

In the early 1970's, my mother sought an outlet, something to learn and keep her busy as her children were beginning to move out of the house. She answered an ad in the local newspaper, placed by a woman offering classes in crewel embroidery. From that simple beginning, my mother grew in her knowledge and skill over decades of study and practice, to become extremely accomplished needle-artist. She is shown here several years ago at a small display of her work, including Japanese Silk Embroidery. Over the years, I became interested, and with her help and instruction, have steadily improved. With an instructor of her calibre, who wouldn't! She inspired me with her dedication to crewel, and her focused attention to detail and patience to execute at the highest level. As a member of the Embroiderer's Guild of America ( for over 45 years, she always enjoyed learning other skills and techniques, but she always returned to her beloved crewel. My mother died this past April, but her love crewel and her passion for excellence live on within me. I only hope that I can become as skilled as she was! (She claimed that I am already better than she was, but I'm not sure I believe her.)

Several years ago, I began to pursue the Master Craftsman Certification in Crewel offered by the Embroiderer's Guild of America, to demonstrate mastery of a technique in needlework. I am currently half way through the six-step program, working on step #4 to be submitted by October 1st for judging. I am committed to completing all six steps and obtaining the certification, not only to learn more about this wonderful art and improve my skills, but also to honor my mother's memory. I hope some day to teach others as she taught me, to continue the tradition of needle arts for future generations.

This blog is my way of sharing my experiences as I work toward my Master Craftsman Certification, and to pass along the knowledge I have. I will use The Doodle Cloth for what a doodle cloth is used for in stitching -- a place to practice, to think things out in tangible ways, to look something over and decide if it's good enough. I hope others will enjoy my doodling.

Susan Haire MacRae and Jean Haire, 2009, with Susan's latest blocked and finished Jacobean Crewel piece