Crewel work is embroidery on practically any fabric in wool. It was traditionally worked in a two ply variety known as "crewel" which really gives the needlework its name.
Crewel embroidery was commonly worked for bed spreads, valances and curtains for four poster beds, wall hangings, pockets (two of which would be tied under the waist, underneath a dress) and petticoats. Crewel embroidery reached its peak in 17th century England and 18th century America.
Crewel embroidery is also distinctive because of the stylized shapes and motives used. Many crewel worked designs typically feature trees, fruit, flowers, birds and dragonflies. Shapes are usually filled with a variety of stitches to represent solid blocks of colour. Some common stitches used include Chain stitch, Roumanian stitch, Stem stitch (sometimes referred to as crewel stitch), Split stitch, Block Shading, Long and Short stitch, and Laid work. Although crewel embroidery is certainly not limited to these.
Needles should be medium length with long eyes. These are available at most craft stores and come in a variety of sizes. They will be labelled crewel or embroidery needles.
I have included some samples of crewel embroidery. They have been taken from "The Craft of Crewel Embroidery" by Erica Wilson
If you enjoy hand embroidery click here for some original designs.