With its spindly form and distinctive blooms, the sarsaparilla plant comes to life in textural crewel stitches.
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  • Natural linen (plain weave or twill): one 24" square (pillow front) and two 16×20" rectangles (pillow back)
  • 8" embroidery hoop
  • Crewel wool thread: 1 skein each of Appleton #441, #442, #443, #445, #481, #992
  • Chenille needle: size 24, or comparable crewel needle of your choice
  • White cotton fabric for lining: one 20" square and two 16×20" rectangles
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Sewing thread
  • 18" square pillow form
  • Tracing paper
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Ruler
  • Embroidery pattern (download it at the link above)

1. Trace the embroidery pattern onto the center of the linen square. Hoop the pillow front.

2. Stitch the stem and branches using chain stitch and #445. Split- stitch the leaves, alternating the uses of #441, #442, and #443. Stitch each blossom using circular couching stitch and #992 (see diagrams) and double-wrapped French knots on the ends. Use quadruple-wrapped French knots and #481 for the flower centers. (See how to embroider these stitches here.)

3. Block your finished crewelwork.

4. Trim 2" from each side of the pillow front, leaving a 1" border on all sides. The linen fabric with finished crewelwork should now measure 20" square.

5. Lay your crewelwork facedown on a flat surface. Lay the 20" square lining piece on top of your crewelwork. Pin the two pieces of fabric together and baste with sewing thread and hand-sewing needle, using a series of 1- to 2"-long straight stitches in diagonal rows spaced about 3" apart. Stitch loosely, so stitches will be easy to remove later; set aside.

6. Lay one 16×20" linen rectangle on a flat surface. Place one of the 16×20" lining pieces on top of the linen rectangle. Pin together and baste as described above. Repeat for the second piece of pillow back and lining fabric.

7. For each pillow back piece, fold one long edge 1-1⁄2" in toward the lining. Press with a hot iron or finger-press. Fold in again another 1-1⁄2", press, and pin along the folded edge.

8. Using sewing thread, blanket- stitch along the inside folded edge on each of the back pieces. Remove the pins. You should now have two 13×20" pieces of basted, lined, and hemmed fabric that will be used to make the backing for your pillow.

9. Lay your basted and lined crewelwork face-up on a flat surface. Lay one of the small pieces facedown on top of the crewelwork with the fold in the middle and the left edges lining up. Pin the left edges together. Lay the other small piece in the same manner, matching the right side edges of the crewelwork; pin edges together. The two folded and hemmed edges now overlap in the center.

10. Pin the top and bottom edges, and place a few pins through the center where the two smaller pieces overlap. Flip your work so the lining side of the crewelwork is facing up.

11. Machine-sew the three pieces together, leaving a 1" hem on all sides; remove pins.

12. Trim the seam allowance to 1/2". Snip corners, being careful not to cut too close to the seam; remove the basting stitches. Turn the pillow right side out.

13. Using the end of a blunt scissors, a knitting needle, or chopsticks, gently push out corners from inside the pillow. Slip the pillow insert into the opening in the back of the pillow cover and adjust as necessary.