One of our design passions is to keep traditional techniques alive; to breathe new life into old ways, and help ensure generations-old skills and crafts continue and thrive. We are delighted to be working with highly-skilled artisans in Kashmir to introduce the ancient and beautiful technique of crewel embroidery to new audiences.
Eternal Toile, which is inspired by powerful, positive symbolism from the Far East, is our first design to be produced as a crewel embroidery wall hanging and cushion. These new pieces have been created using a technique that has a rich history, a form of intricate embroidery that dates back centuries. Each piece is a labour of love: it takes two to three days to hand embroider a single piece for a 45cm x 45cm cushion and 60 days to create our new 6ft x 9ft wall hanging.
Crewel embroidery is one of the finest handicrafts in Kashmir. It is believed the name ‘crewel’ was derived from ‘Krua’ or ‘Clew’, which refer to a ball of yarn. The artisan uses high-quality wool thread and works outwards from one point, rotating the needlework to create a beautiful, luxurious, embossed effect which brings details to life, elevates images and enables a story to be told through design. The stitching style transforms the base material into a lustrous pattern that feels as soft as silk, and there is a wonderful depth and tone to the pattern’s colours.
Our Eternal Toile crewel wall-hanging is created from upholstery-weight background cloth, which is loomed by hand using the best quality cotton. This process alone takes more than 15 hours of work to complete each 10m length of fabric. Once loomed, the fabric is washed and dried before embroidery begins. Wendy’s hand-drawn design is hand-stencilled onto the background cloth, whilst the highest-grade, 2-ply wool is dyed in the colours required. As the multicoloured fabrics in our Heritage Collection feature as many as 14 different shades of colour, the dyeing process required for a single design can take up to 28 hours, while a further 24 hours is needed for the wool to dry before it can be used.
The design is embroidered entirely by hand and, to add to the unique nature of our wall-hangings, we encourage our artisans to embroider their initials on their work too. Between 97,200 and 129,600 stitches per metre are required for each design; embroidering a single metre takes between five and seven days, even for the most-skilled embroiderers. The fabric is then washed, stretched, dried and folded before being transported overland, which takes three days, before shipment to the UK.
This work was traditionally carried out by men in the villages of Kashmir, who also tend the land. Embroidery work was undertaken during the winter months between two harvesting periods of the year. More recently, this intricate craft is being taken on by the women of the house.
Wendy’s intricate design translates beautifully. ‘I love the natural flow of the process behind crewel work. It is very calm and zen-like when you see the master artisans in action. I love the stories of the artisans and the traditional way of working, as well as the lustrous texture created with the wool and viscose combination. Our crewels are handmade products that require great skill, time and patience on the part of the artisan. Each piece takes time and effort, and is made with love and to last. I also love that this is a piece that can tell its own story, just as our rug designs do.
‘As well as our wall-hanging, crewel embroidery is used to create our new cushions. Everybody loves cushions. They are an affordable way to liven up sofas, chairs and beds, and they are a quick and easy way to add instant interiors glam, which in grey January can be very welcome. I am delighted with our new Eternal Toile cushions which are beautifully made, tell their own story and look wonderfully uplifting in every room I’ve tried them in!’
Ready to add comfort, colour and pattern to interiors, our Eternal Toile cushions are available now, but in a very limited number. The new wall hanging is in the final stages of approval – there is a lot of work involved and we want it to be just right – so we will keep you up to date on the launch date via our newsletter and on our social media channels.
We hope you love our new pieces as much as we do! As ever, please do let us know what you think – we always value your opinion.