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Early 18th c crewelwork

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18th c crewelwork

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17th & 18th c Crewel Woolwork

By the early 18th century the design of the palampores influenced crewel work with similar Tree of Life designs. At the same time that the colourful palampores were being imported, William of Orange from Holland and his wife Mary succeeded the throne in 1689. They brought new ideas of design in architecture, the decorative arts and furnishings with a lighter, prettier and colourful look emerging. During the early 18th century bed hangings worked with crewel wools were lighter and more elegant to reflect this change of fashion. Many depicted two Tree of Lifes with a variety of fruit and flowers on the same tree. Huntsmen, stags, dogs and rabbits are also depicted chasing across Chinese inspired grassy hillocks. It is not suprising that the embroideress back in Britain now wanted to produce polychrome work with elegant Tree of Life designs, rather than heavier and darker monochromatic colouring and repeat designs.

Crewel bed hangings became unfashionable just after the middle of the 18th century when the washable, colourfast Palampores became hugely popular. Embroidering with crewel wools did not became fashionable again until the 1870’s. Four posters were also out of fashion but window curtains, wall hangings, bedcovers and screen panels were worked with the addition of figurative or allegorical subjects. In the 1910’s, again in the 1920’s and 1930’s crewel work was revived and called Jacobean work, because it was first worked during the Stuart period in the reign of James I (1603-25). At this period firescreens, cushions and some large hangings were embroidered.

* Fabric or yarn made from the long fibres of a sheep’s fleece.
** The Reformation 1536. Henry VIII appointed himself head of the Church Of England when the Pope refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who was unable to produce an heir. Most embroidery had been worked for church robes and furnishings, but now there was little demand.

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