The Embroiderers Guild of America publish a regular free projects under their Stitch-to-Learn series. The series is delivered as pdf files so you will need Acrobat Reader to open and read these files. You can download a free reader on the Acrobat site.
An Introductory Program to Surface Stitchery is written by Judy Jerory and is a 19 page booklet which covers the basics of both crewel and surface stitchery.
Topics such as tools, thread, hoops, and needles are covered. Stitches are the basics and include a section on working long and short stitch. (Something some people feel is tricky) The project is traditional but ideal to introduce a beginner to all the basic stitches.