Erica Wilson demonstrates crewel embroidery and needlepoint in this 1970s video

Here is another fantastic video from Erica Wilson, the Queen of Stitchery, this time showing us how to create richer, more 3-D needlework designs by erica wilson needlepoint tennis racket cover imagecombining needlepoint with crewel embroidery. I am no needlecraft expert, but my take from this video is that crewel embroidery is typically done on fabric, while needlepoint is done on a canvas with holes. In this video — which comes directly from her PBS TV series “Erica” — Erica shows us how to mix the two crafts to lovely effect.

erica wilson from video Of course, she makes it look soooo easy. Why do I think my attempt would be a bloody mess.

“Understand the principle of it,” she says as she does a wicked complicated loopy thingie stitch, “you’ll be able to remember it easily.”

Ha. I love the video nonetheless. Erica Wilson is so gracious, so soothing, stitchery is a quiet pastime — and who couldn’t use more quiet. Is she doing these shows in one take? That’s all the more amazing. And, I love hearing her talk about all the fancy knots and stitches — in this video, we get encroaching goblars (?), tent stitch, turkey work. This gives me more appreciation for the vintage needlework I have collected for my house.

Finally, these videos really take me back to a day when women seemed to have more time — no: when they seemed to find more time — to create pillows and purses and tennis racket covers and yes, even dog collars — with love, from scratch, with the idea that they are creating beloved family possessions. I don’t think we’ve really “needed” to make our own blankets or pillows for well over a hundred years — the Industrial Revolution mostly solved for that. No: We make these things by hand out of love, out of a need to create, and from a need to connect with our surroundings. My most valued possession is the granny square afghan my Lur Lur (my grandmother) made for me when I was about 10. It has no monetary value. It is priceless.

Thanks to Erica Wilson Nantucket for permission to feature this video here on Retro Renovation. You can see more of the series on YouTube.

I adore Erica Wilson. Here are some of my other stories about her:

Erica Wilson Kits on ebay — abundant

A selection of Erica Wilson needlework kits are available at Erica Wilson Needlecraft. In addition, you can find them on ebay. Tip to using the ebay carousel: To go to a particular item, click on its photo (NOT on the ebay logo) — then, click on the lime green “View and Bid” box, which will take you to ebay. Disclosure: When you buy anything from these ebay carousels or after you click into ebay here, it nets me a teensy commission.

  1. Arletta Robinson says:

    I used to sell Creative Circle. I loved teaching the people at parties how to do the different projects. I still have lots of kits. I just gave one of my daughters the Elf advent calendar I had made. I gave another the Christmas Tree 3 piece set of a 8 x10 and 2 5×7’s. So many favorites. I still need to finish the Bengal Tiger needle point picture.

  2. Debbi Hamilton says:

    Erica, yes I remember The Creative Circle! ! In fact I have a box of kits in my craft closet! I used to sell it forever ago!!:-)

  3. wendy says:

    i grew up with my mom doing needlepoint, embroidery, hook rugs, etc., whenever she was watching tv. I now have the dining chairs with her needlepoint seats. I will eventually have her wall pieces (when she downsizes).

    i love the style of crewelwork flowers so much, i got a large tattoo of the birth flowers of women in my family in the style of crewel on my back.

    i wish i could do handwork while watching tv, but i can’t. i can barely fold laundry at the same time. heh.

  4. RetroGal says:

    I so enjoy watching these videos. I, sadly, am of the generation that doesn’t even know how to sew on a button (give it to the dry cleaner to handle!) But yet find the videos so incredibly relaxing… I have actually fallen asleep while watching! I hope those who know how to do this pass it along to younger generations… it’s very much a beautiful art!

  5. Heather says:

    Your stories about Erica Wilson have inspired me to learn to do crewel embroidery! I have been slowly teaching myself the stitches from library books, and recently i bought a whole stack of crewel books and bargello books (of course Erica Wilsons!) from our library’s used book sale. It is like painting with thread! I enjoy watching the images take shape as I add stitches, and it is very soothing to do while I watch t.v. I am an avid football fan, so my current favorite pastime is to embroider while I watch football – ha! Thanks for opening my eyes to a craft that I didn’t know much about.

    1. pam kueber says:

      This is SO GREAT to read, Heather! Send me photos of some of your completed projects, if you’re game. Use Contact form to connect.

  6. Marta says:

    Do any of you remember Creative Circle needlework? It was a party plan like Tupperware. They were so fun. The ‘consultant’ would instruct everyone on the stitches in some small piece the guests would complete at the party. Needlework projects were sold in kits with everything you needed to complete the work.

    The featured a lot of crewel project, and mixed crewel and embroidery. Crewel, of course, is really just embroidery with yarn. You can still find the kits on ebay and etsy.

    1. Peggy says:

      Used to have Creative Circle parties all the time. Had so many kits and some done, some started, and some undone. I did an Elves Advent calendar about 30 + years ago and am looking for another kit. Have looked and looked but wanting to find some place that I can ask loads of people out there or where I can find a kit. Is there a Creative Circle site I can go to? Thank you ….

  7. Suzanne says:

    Sigh. This makes me long for the days when I was a stay-at-home mother. When the kids were at school (or napping), I would cross stitch and embroider while listening to the radio. One Christmas, I made everyone something. It all stopped when my ex insisted I start working outside the house. I still have half finished projects packed in a box. I gave all my skeens of floss, needles and loops away to a lady who had more time than I did. Sad, sad thing.

  8. tammyCA says:

    I never really knew what crewel was. I LOVE to do hand embroidery (have a large collection of vintage transfer patterns)..my MIL taught me about 15 yrs ago in my 30s. I tried needlepoint and cross-stitch but neither took with me…I think I like the simple coloring book type graphics of embroidery, like coloring with thread…plus it is so easy! But, I am a craftin’ fool and everybody gets something handmade from me…I’m working on Halloween creatures now. Crafting/sewing is essential for my nervous system…it relaxes & soothes me. I recently read somewhere that the repetitive hand motion or working with your hands really does have a relaxing effect. The world moves way too fast for me and this is more my speed.

  9. Sarah g says:

    My entire house is decorated with vintage crewel art!! Love it! I always think of the lovely ladies who took the time to make them! I’ve always just called it ‘yarn art’ nice to know the appropriate name.

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