True to my word (although somewhat tardy) I post this week’s progress:

I’m filling in the left edge area next to the dragon with narrower bands:

It’s Question/Answer time again. These are from posts left here on String and from my various inboxes:

Rachel asks, “…the very bold patterns on the side, what type of stitch did you use to do those?”

Like the narrow border I just added to the piece, the dark bits in these patterns all use long-armed cross stitch:

I tend to follow this logic. Here’s a close-up of the texture it produces:

When worked back and forth across an area it produces a plaited texture. There appear to be quite a few variants of long-armed cross stitch family, and a similarly wide family of names for it. I’ve seen very similar stitches called:

  • Tent stitch – nothing to do with the common needlepoint technique of the same name. On the front this looks like standard LACS. I’m assuming that the reverse shows verticals. (Looks in vain for the one corroborating photo of this, to no avail.) On historical pieces this stitch tends to march back and forth to fill a voided background, with the stitching direction parallel to the strip’s long dimension. But not always…
  • Punto a spina pesce – obviously Italian in provenance. Hard to tell from the photos (and not being able to see the back), but the angle of the long-leap over may be greater than in tent stitch, but this may be an artifact of differences in warp/woof thread count of the ground. Or it may be possible that the reverse shows horizontals instead of LACS’s verticals. It’s interesting to note that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston distinguishes between tent and punto a spina pesce. The photos do show however that stitching direction for this one seems to vary on the whim of the stitcher, combining horizontal, vertical, AND diagonals.
  • Closed herringbone – also seems to closely resemble LACS on the front, but produces horizontals on the back. LACS forms a species cline (a related continuum) with the herringbone family.
  • Portuguese Stitch, twist stitch, Slav stitch, twist stitch, long-legged cross stitch, plait stitch Greek stitch – all reported names for LACS. Some can be found here.
  • Montenegrin Stitch – A related stitch, but with an additional vertical component. The stitch is used more for foreground stitching, rather than background fill, and the direction of stitching closely follows the design’s lines – merging horizontal to diagonal, to vertical as dictated by the pattern being stitched. (It’s hard to tell but the fifth band down on this sampler, with the strong blue up and down may be Montenegrin, or may be LACS).

There’s a nice piece on historical use of cross stitches, including some members of the LACS family on Northern Needle.

Rachel also asks, “Are all the designs on your sampler going to be in your next modelbook?”

Most of them. Exceptions are the three direct quotations from Lipperheide, and the three small all-over patterns that can be found in Ensamplario Atlantio . Also some of the patterns appearing on my last two large samplers – Clarke’s Law and Do Right – will also be in there. The exceptions being patterns that have already appeared in The New Carolingian Modelbook.

Lisa asks, “I’ve got Ensamplario. But where can I find outlines to fill in that book’s designs? I really don’t want to do a checkerboard.”

The answer is “all over!”

To start, there are sources for outline patterns from blackwork’s heyday. Around the same time as I got this question, Elmsley Rose reminded me that the on line edition of Trevalyn’s Commonplace Book is still available at the Folger. It’s a bit late for inhabited blackwork, but is not out of the question. It contains drawings in it that would be super for it (and even better for spot filled/stippled blackwork). This is the same resource that Kathy over at Unbroken Thread is using for her cap project. Of special note are the plates starting around the 7th page of the display (when 50 per page are shown). These peasecods would be killer; as would these plumes. Thanks from us all, Elmsley!

If you’re not stuck on historical sources, all sorts of motifs and repeats are out there. I’ve done quite well using patterns intended for stained glass, and stencils as inspiration. I don’t have pix (these being from the pre-Internet era), but I did a couple of pieces from a Dover book of Japanese stencils that combined simple florals with the geometric fillings, to excellent effect. Patchwork patterns are also very useful as framing devices for contrasting fills. Also I’d nominate coloring books as outline sources. Yes, coloring books. Maybe not a SpongeBob book or Disney special, but there are quite a few that show flowers, butterflies, seashells, or geometrics.

Late breaking update! I forgot to mention one source for historical and heraldic motifs, simply drawn. It’s the traceable art collection maintained by a consortium of SCA heralds. They use it to simplify the process of drawing up heraldry. But there are all sorts of images in there that would make excellent small blackwork projects. Please contact the artists listed on the images before re-use.

So there are lots of places to look into – you needn’t be forced to do a plain square grid.

Jane asks, “How many threads do you stitch over?”

To date most of my pieces have been on 36-50 count linen, worked mostly over 2×2 threads. But that’s not the way historical pieces were worked. Their ground cloth weaves were in the 50-count and finer range, and they tended to stitch over anywhere from 3-5 threads. Three or four seems to be most common, and I can’t rule out up to 6×6 either. Also, as I graph up more and more from artifacts, I do note that not all historical ground cloths were spot on even weave. Most are off just a hair in one dimension or another, usually compressed along the vertical compared to the horizontal (selvedge to selvedge). Also – and again I work from photographs, so I can’t swear to the pinpoint count that up close and personal with actual pieces would bring – some of them do look as if they were stitched on skew counts. Taking one more thread on the vertical to make the output a bit more square in appearance.

I hope these answers help. Please feel free to ask questions. It makes figuring out what to write about MUCH easier. <grin>

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5 responses

  1. Lol I would have never thought to use long arm cross stitch to come up with the bold patterns. You also gave me another source for patterns with that book, one I hadn’t found yet. At the same time you were finishing your dragon, I had modified the smaller dragon on the same sampler to a lion and used it on a napkin for a local competition. I used the best photos I could find to chart it, if you would be interested in either pattern I could email them to you. I haven’t been doing blackwork very long, so far all the patterns I have been working are double-sided, and I will admit the concept of branching out to the single sided patterns are kinda daunting. There is something I find relaxing about blackwork compared to other embroidery, I am sure it is something related to the simplicity of one color vrs mixing a large amount together. Anyways, I will say it again, the sampler is coming along beautifully and I can barely wait to see the next element.

  2. […] Filling In. More questions from the mailbag, including some unusual names for stitch techniques that appear in museum annotations. […]

  3. Sadly many of the links on this page are no longer working.

    1. Apologies. Equally sadly I do not have time to constantly monitor links on 23 years of older posts and go back to edit or rewrite pages whose sources have died. I don’t even have time to go back and finish cleaning up all the internal links to my own material that broke when I ported the site to the current server, about 12 years ago. If there is something in specific that’s vital I suggest trying to find the link on the Wayback Machine, or alerting me. If I can, I might be able to help. But when another person’s private blog swan dives into concrete there isn’t much I can do.

      1. Oh, yes, I totally understand. I wasn’t criticising!
        Just saying it’s sad those resources aren’t available anymore.
        Thank you for reminding me of Trevalyon’s miscellany, it’s such a great resource.
        I’m actually doing one of your Assisi borders atm, which is why I was looking through some of the links.

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