This is new for me. I’ve had projects that spanned years (decades, even), but never before have I had one embroidery project that I worked on without stopping, that has taken more than a year. Even my blackwork underskirt was done in 10 months. But as of mid December, I have now spent an entire year working on my big blackwork sampler. I’m not quite done. Almost, but not quite:

You can see that I’m filling in the area to the left of the dragon. I’ve finished the first dark band, and am now on a lighter one just above it. Two more to go, balancing the progression of shade values on the dragon’s right. Then it’s a sliver of the voided leaf panel at the top of the work, to finish that off even with the edge of the strips below. And finally – I will sign the piece in the strip beneath the dark panel on the leftmost edge. And it will be done. Maybe two more weeks? More if work deadlines intrude.

Here’s a close-up of the latest two strips:

The sharp-eyed will note that the voided one on the bottom is included in TNCM, on Plate 28:4. It’s from Jean Troveon’s Patrons de diuerse manieres…, published in Lyon in 1533. Those of long memory may remember that I’ve used it before. It’s doubled, and appears on the left and right-most edges of my filet crochet dragon window curtain.

The Troveon’s original is shown single width, but the halved fleur-de-lys motifs seemed to beg use as an all-over pattern. Also, the graph of the original is shown in reverse of mine color placement, with the foreground emphasized rather than the background, more like the treatment in the crocheted piece. (Come to think of it, that knot strip along the top of the curtain might be a candidate for the dark strip at the top of my current sampler section. Hmmm….)


The lighter strip I’m currently working on will be in TNCM2. It’s adapted from a non-graphed (but oh-so-obviously-intended-to-be) design in Ostaus’ La Vera Perfezione del Disegno…, Venice, 1561 and 1567. I’ve chosen to augment it here with the frilly edge treatment.

In any case, the holidays have departed here at String. The tree is undecorated, the cookies, panforte, goose, cassoulet, and other goodies have been consumed or distributed. And the long slog through the year commences.

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4 responses

  1. The more patterns I see that you are charting and putting in TNCM2 the more excited I get about getting both the first one (should be here this week) and ordering the second one. I swear I could pick your brain for hours regarding how you do certain things/techniques. Every pattern gets more and more beautiful and I will admit that I look forward to seeing each new one almost as much as finishing my current project and starting my new ones. I do have one question that I can’t help but ask about your skirt, did you do counted stitches or did you outline your pattern with something like a stem stitch then just do counted on the inside of the outline? It is something that I have wanted to know and have been kinda scared to start expiramenting with because the rules seem quite different and I still feel like I am trying to get a hand on the rules for counted blackwork, lol.

  2. To answer Rachel – To work the underskirt, I sketched the scrolling pattern onto the linen, drawing one flower-scroll at a time to limit smearing. Then I did the counted geometric infills. Because I was a starving student, I did that project in cottons using a hand-held hoop frame. As each flower outline or in-hoop area was filled (standard DMC floss, two strands), I outlined it in dense chain stitch using DMC perl cotton, also in black, done freehand – not on the count. That allowed me to go back and cover up all of the edges of the filled in areas. But that’s not how I’m working my Forever Coif (you can search for that one here using my search box).

    For the Forever Coif done at a finer thread count, using silk and silver, I used a flat frame. I mapped out the motifs on the count, then stitched their outlines using plain old cross stitch – no drawing on the cloth at all. After my outlines were established, I did the fillings and worked the silver bits, then I overstitched the POCS outlines using a heavy, raised twisted chain stitch, so that none of the POCS showed, and all the edges of the fillings were covered.

    Which way is "right"? Both and neither. Use whatever stitch you like for the outline, depending on what look you want to acheive. Thin, fat, raised, twisted, embellished, or flat. With or without historical precedent. Unless exact replication of historical method is important to you, then I’d suggest deferring to Jack Robinson, blackwork’s patron Saint. Other than that, there are no embroidery police. 🙂 -K.

  3. ROFL I imagine that the cotton would make it easier to care for as well and a bit more durable, I really doubt that most people would even notice the difference. I admit I use a hand-held hoop as well for the napkins and like the weight that it keeps off me. I have an injured wrist so I can’t hold weight very well. I have also tried the stretch square frames and they don’t keep the fabric taught enough for me, which is very important when you are working with 40/50 threads per inch.
    A question on the silk, is it woven like the linen so it can be evenweave or close there of? I have always wondered that.
    Other then that, I will keep an eye out for Jack Robinson and replace my pieces with authentic pieces of blackwork when he is around, lol…. *grin*

  4. Silk is thread only, I stitch this stuff on linen. Forever Coif is on 50-count, underskirt was on 24 count (half a tablecloth, actually), current project is on 38-count.

    Jack Robinson is a British living National Treasure (I sincerely hope he is still with us). He wrote 3 books on traditional blackwork, "Blackwork Embroidery: My Methods and Techniques," "Traditional Blackwork Design, Style and Construction," and "Blackwork Embroidery: My Methods and Techniques Revisited." All of which are near unobtainable. I am lucky in that he mailed me a copy of his first work shortly after TNCM came out. But I was unlucky enough to have moved to a new state and among multiple addresses at around that time. In a comedy of errors achievable only by the US Postal Service it took the better part of three years for his package to finally catch up to me. My note of thanks and apology to the address listed on his package was returned. It’s something I’ll always regret.

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