Experiments in stitching: Blackwork

11 Jan

OK, so I am a little obsessed now. I may just be transferring my passion because I’m on a yarn diet, but I think it runs deeper than that.

Emboldened by finishing my first ‘proper’ cross stitch sampler last week I’ve embarked on something more ambitious – blackwork embroidery.


Blackwork was made popular in Tudor times and if you look at paintings of wealthy people from that era, you can see it all over their clothes.

Having done only a smidgeon (the work of several evenings) I’m now rather in awe when I see it in that context, like in this portrait of Elizabeth I. Just imagine how long all those flowers would have taken…

Anyway, here’s a close up of my somewhat feeble attempt by comparison…


Once again, it’s a project from Alicia Paulson‘s lovely book, the Embroidery Companion. It was immediately my favourite design when I was given the book, but seemed a bit much for my first ever project!

I like that it looks modern, but is actually very old. When I sit working on it, I feel a strange connection to all those women throughout history who sat and stitched by candle light (although my preference is a strong reading lamp and new Danish series Borgen for company).

Storm has been keen to join in whenever I’ve taken it out of the rather unceremonious blue market carrier it’s residing in, so it’s a strictly evenings only project. I suppose I’ve only got myself to blame after getting her interested in sewing recently.

If you’re experienced in embroidery you’ll probably be slightly concerned that I’m stitching so close to the edge of the fabric (28 count evenweave) – that’s because this was all I had left after my last project. I am very definitely breaking the ‘rules’ but hopefully I’ll be finished before the embroidery police come get me!


2 Responses to “Experiments in stitching: Blackwork”

  1. justsomestuffimade January 11, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    Love your blackwork progress! And I wouldn’t worry about being so ‘close to the edge’… with your edges bound it won’t affect your stitching, and then when you make up your finished design, you can patchwork a border onto it in another fabric 😉

  2. Marybeth P. January 13, 2012 at 2:52 am #

    I have enjoyed blackwork for decades. It’s also enjoyable to mix redwork designs with blackwork when making small quilt or pillow designs. I find it so relaxing and such a creative form of artistry. keep stitching

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