I have just bought Katherine Shaughnessy's book "The New Crewel" (I just LOVE the contemporary designs). I went along to Spotlight (the NZ/Australian equivalent to Jo-Anns, I think), thinking they would have exactly what I needed. It was really difficult, and because none of the staff are familiar with the craft, they couldn't give me very good advice.
The book says you need Linen Twill to embroider onto. This was $90 per metre (very expensive), so I just bought a small piece, but I figure there must be something cheaper I could use. Does anyone have any ideas? Mostly I'm just doing small pieces for greeting cards etc.
I also struggled to work out what the correct wool was. There seemed to be 2 kinds of embroidery thread, the fine floss for cross stitch etc., and a much thicker sort of tapestry yarn. I bought the tapestry yarn, but it is 4 ply. I've split the yarn into 2 threads of 2-ply, which seems to work ok, but I wonder if that is still too thick, and perhaps I should split it again so that I have 4 threads of single ply.
I just started crewel embroidery. The instructions in the book I'm following said to hold the needle in your left hand, and loop the wool around the outside of the needle once. Pull the needle tight and 'pinch' the end of the loop with your thumbnail. Slip the needle down and out of your loop.
Now use your thumbnail to push the tiny, tight loop into the needle's eye.
I found this really helpful, as crewel wool is quite thick and fuzzy.
As they were inspired by Denyse Schmidt, I'll have to respect her copyright and say go get her book if you want to see a detailed tutorial, but really, they are very simple, and the biggest skill is in selecting the right fabric/colour combinations.
They are basically just strips of fabric, sewn straight onto card and trimmed around the edges.