WHAT MAKES A BLACKWORK PATTERN DIFFICULT?

Yaay! The first evidence of a project using fillings from my blackwork filling collection!

Kathy of Unbroken Thread is posting a series about her current blackwork project, a hearts and flowers theme. You can find her full archive of blackwork related posts here, including a nice piece on the minutae of setting up a project (something I habitually gloss over). Kudos to her! If you are working something using these patterns, I’d love to hear about it, and even to see it. If you give me permission I’ll post a photo of your piece in my gallery of stuff worked using my knitting and embroidery patterns.

Kathy’s latest post, referenced above, describes a mis-count and the subsequent unpicking. Her post made me think about what makes a specific pattern written for double running stitch (aka Spanish Stitch, punto scritto, Holbein Stitch) difficult to do.

Now some people say that large patterns are harder to stitch than small ones. That patterns like those on my current sampler are difficult. I say they’re not especially harder than small patterns. Accomplishing them is a matter of care and perseverence, but a the size of a large pattern doesn’t automatically make it difficult. To me, three things make a pattern difficult to stitch, the type of repeat, length of unadorned runs over bare ground, and the presence of off-count elements.

Eccentric “knight’s move” (multiple of X units over, X units up) type repeats require more attention on my part than do straight symmetrical repeats. Here’s a “knight’s move” repeat next to a symmetrical one:

The one on the left is a very simple pattern with a relatively simple skew, but even so, takes me far more concentration to work than does the seemingly more complex symmetrical pattern on the right.

I also find that long runs of straight stitches over bare ground – especially over diagonals – are a challenge. When I find a part of my design not aligning when my stitching roams back near an established area, it’s almost always because I messed up on one of the long runs. I suspect that historical stitchers had the same problem, and that’s why so many patterns feature little hatching type shading stitches or “hairs” that stick out from long straight lines – these being easier to count. The shading lines around the edges of the motifs in the design below (from my Clarkes Law sampler) are a good example. In addition to provding texture and the appearance of roundness, they make it FAR easier to keep on target:

Finally, off-count elements can drive me batty. This pattern is a particularly egregious example. Not only is it a knight’s move design, the skew-to-the-count little boxes where the four rotated squares meet can throw me off and make me forget where I am.

So thank you Kathy for posting your piece, and best wishes for project success!


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