Blackwork embroidery seems to be having an Official Moment right now, with tons of new interest. I’ve got a lot of resources here that might be useful to folk beginning or continuing their journeys, but it’s not well indexed. So I post this round-up of on site resources in the hope of lending a hand. And to be able to point to the whole set if asked. Image at the end for the eye candy effect. List below has been updated since it was originally posted.
- Double Running Stitch Logic. One of many times I’ve tried to explain double running stitch and two-sided work. This post led to the tutorial series listed below.
- Assorted Blackwork Hints. Answers to questions about my working methods. Making mistakes; guidelines; where to start; simple tracing using “the poor person’s light box”; multicolor; equipment hints (frames, needles, wax); and a list of tricks for path planning in double running logic.
- Blackwork Thread Thickness and Grounds. One strand or two for double running? Why is it sometimes hard to keep your lines straight and even.
- Blackwork Heresy. Back stitch, double running, and the hybrid that floats between them, which I nicknamed “Heresy Stitch.” Useful but not something I’ve documented in historical works. Can be easier for people who get lost when working double running, and saves thread when compared to back stitch.
- What Makes a Blackwork Pattern Difficult? Cautions and mitigations for three challenges, that might help simplify those trouble spots.
- On Charting. How to look at a photo and then translate the design to paper.
- Determining the Thread Count of Small-Gauge Linens. How to use a penny (or other tiny thing with a known and stable diameter) plus a cell phone camera to figure out the count of a hard-to-see ground.
- Cornered Again. One way to handle placement of bands on a band sampler and a wrap around frame edging, with minimal advanced planning.
- Filling In. More questions from the mailbag, including some unusual names for stitch techniques that appear in museum annotations.
- Proofing. How I check alignment as I stitch, to make sure I’m not wandering off count.
- Turning a Strip Repeat into an All-over. This one also belongs under the free linear stitch patterns heading below. A couple of ways to make a single width strip into a double, and how I ended up turning it into a Green Man square.
- Travel Cover for a Flat Frame. How I made mine, and how you can make one, too.
- Elizabethan Blackwork Smock. Photos of the famous Victoria & Albert Museum smock (1575-1585), Accession T.113 through 118-1997, plus my redaction of some of the fills used on it.
- Blackwork Inspiration. Some sources for folk looking for project ideas for original pieces of contemporary blackwork
- Digression – Blackwork Embroidery. Lots of links to portraits and other artworks showing blackwork. Some of them might still work.
- More Inspiration from Historical Sources. Another link roundup of countwork appearing in paintings and portraits. Some of these links may still be live, too.
- Forehead cloths. The coif’s companion. Much easier to wear in modern context (see Bragging, below).
- Ironwork at the V&A. These pieces sing “outline potential” to me.
- Voided Grounds. A roundup of various treatments for voided work, where the background is overstitched but the foreground remains (mostly) unworked. This is the style that was reborn in the 1800s as Assisi work, and is also known as reserva stitching.
- Voided Pieces and Outlines. Do historical voided pieces always sport outlines? Were they done first? Were they always on the count?
- Voided Narrative Panels. A style cluster of voided works probably done by drawing the foreground designs freehand, then working the background up to those lines.
- Meshy! Working that hard-pulled mesh like voided style that totally encapsulates the ground fabric’s threads.
History, Speculation, Pattern Clusters, Printing Block Migrations and Other Musings
- The Twain do Meet. Introduction to Kasuthi Kashida. Blackwork’s Indian cousin
- Looking East Again. Double running stitch pieces from the Wardak Hazara people of Pakistan. Another example of a South Asian stitching tradition that may be one of blackwork’s lesser known Eastern cousins.
- A Missing Link? A curious family of Egyptian Islamic artifacts of the 10th to 15th centuries, that have no proven relationship to inhabited blackwork (the kind with hard outlines and geometric fills), yet presage its aesthetic.
- The Azemmour Cluster. A group of patterns that in the time I’ve been paying attention has had their commonality and point of origin increasingly recognized, moving them from late 19th century source annotations that identified them as Renaissance era products made everywhere from Greece to Spain, and placing them in Morocco.
- The Spider Flower. A design that is probably part of the Azemmour Cluster
- Revisiting the Stupid Cupids – Multiple versions of the cupid and oak leaf meander.
- A Pattern’s Pedigree. Random thoughts about a specific family of patterns that shows up both voided and unvoided.
- The Leafy Family. A wide leaf-bearing meander that shows up multiple times in artifact inventories.
- More Cousins. The Leafy Bricks group.
- Cornered! Possible working direction and four different corner treatments of a famous, oft photographed handkerchief in the V&A.
- Italian Leafy, Occasionally Multicolor. Another design family of large panels and edgings that have curiously similar design elements, and a direct association of one example with the Jewish community of Rome, hard dated to 1582/1583.
- Long Lost Twins, Part I. That ubiquitous urns and piping harpies design. (I revisited this one in Part V, below)
- Long Lost Twins, Part II. Oak branch, leaf and acorn design, executed in both monochrome and polychrome, multiple versions.
- Long Lost Twins, Part III. Another very common pattern with multiple iterations, in multiple museums, two instances of which may have been cut from one original piece.
- Long Lost Twins, Part IV. Multiple instances of a simple Y and wrap meander.
- Long Lost Twins, Part V. Lots more on that harpies/urns design; found in many museums, many iterations, and even multiple stitching modalities.
- Long Lost Twins, Part VI. Two instances of a column design, very probably once cut from the same artifact. Fragments of which are held in two museums
- Long Lost Siblings? Another case of a single source artifact probably cut in two, now held by two different museums.
- When is More of the Same Not More of the Same? Examining differences among different editions of various modelbooks, trying to parse out whether they were reprinted from the same block, hand tinted, or recarved.
- Modelbook Blocks: Acorns and Chickens. A classic. Was the block simply traded and reprinted, or was there copying afoot?
- One Design’s migration. Another look into multiple printings of the same design, and differences/similarities among those iterations.
- Early Marketing? Or Not… Speculation set aside by actually looking at the when and where of a pattern published both with and without religious mottoes.
- Repeating On and On on Repeats. A summary of the types of rotations and mirrorings commonly seen in long strip patterns
- Ocular Proof? My argument that Othello’s strawberry speckled handkerchief used in the play to implicate Desdemona might have been conceived of by Shakespeare as a countwork piece.
- A Curious Applique Technique. Not embroidery, but often appearing in modelbooks alongside it. Take a strip of leather or cloth, cut it with precision into a pattern that duplicates itself on either side of the bisecting line. Twice the yardage and no waste. Wildly clever.
Talks and Classes
The Stitches Speak
These are the slides from a round-up of historical counted styles I presented at a Society for Creative Anachronism needlework and textiles gathering in 2012. Mostly eye candy, and divided for ease of posting, not by subject area. However sources are listed.
- My post-event summary
- Part 1. The rest of these are my slide deck as presented. No script, just the images.
- Part 2.
- Part 3.
- Part 4.
- Part 5.
- Part 6.
This is the broadside I hand out when I teach workshops on double running stitch. It’s pretty much a self-paced tutorial, with the simplest designs at the upper left, and progressing in difficulty to the lower right. If you work these at your own speed as a band or jumble sampler, by the time you’ve done them all you can tackle just about any linear design. And although I do use this to teach double running stitch logic, no one will say you sinned if you decide to complete it in back stitch.
- Class handout. (Also available on the Embroidery Patterns tab).
Linear Units (Line Segments)
- Ensamplario Atlantio. A collection of blackwork fills from my doodle notebooks, some my own, some from artifacts, but when I started this I didn’t intend to publish, so I didn’t keep track. Some of the larger ones work well as all-over designs, or for small projects like biscornus or holiday ornaments. Presented in four chunks because at the time I issued it people had bandwidth usage limitations, and preferred smaller bites of content.
- Ensamplario Atlantio Volume II. More fills, plus some strip designs and yokes. 90% original (exceptions are footnoted). In one file this time, as technology marched on since publication of the first.
- My Embroidery Patterns tab. Most but not all of the designs below also appear there, plus more.
- Rose Chart. Outline for a heraldic style rose
- Ganesh Project. How to replicate my blackwork method Lord Ganesh, done as a present for a family friend in India.
- Crowdsourced simple diamond interlace, with small motif fills provided by String’s followers. Use some or all. (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab).
- Dancing Pirate Octopodes. The design that led to the crowdsourced project. (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- Leopards. (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- The Epic Fandom Stitch-Along. 19 bands, 9 of which are quasi-traditional, 10 of which are wildly anachronistic, with spaceships, dinosaurs, pirates, references to Star Trek, Star Wars, and Dr. Who. Guidance for the whole project is included.
- Cat and Mouse. A large panel with Art Deco style cats, mice, and yarn balls. (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab).
- Bands from a 16th century Camica. Hem, collar, seam bands, and striping. (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- Those Snails. They crawl all over my work. I share some.
- Jesters at the Fence. A snippet from TNCM (see below).
- Bead border. (Also available on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- Ring of Rats. Another Art Deco style chart (also available on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
Box Units (squares)
- Unicorn. Box unit (not linear) chart for a unicorn, courtesy of Elder Offspring.
- Castles and Caravels. Box unit design featuring a three-towered castle, and its relationship of that motif to some Spanish pieces.
- Knot More Knots! Simple interlaces in box units (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- Simple Geometric from 1546. This one is also box units, and works well for stitching, knitting, and crochet.
- Da Sera Bud Interlace. Another box unit pattern. (Also available on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- Fun with Odonata. Another box unit design, this one for dragonflies. Note that they can be used for knitting, too. (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- Fun with Lagomorphs. A box unit design for a leaping rabbit. (Also on the Embroidery Patterns tab)
- A Simple Interlace. I lost the source annotation for this box unit design aeons ago.
- The New Carolingian Modelbook: Counted Patterns from Before 1600. Also known as TNCM. Sadly out of print. It’s in queue for update as scholarship has advanced in the years since it came out. There are corrections aplenty! You might be able to find it on the used market, but at a wildly inflated price.
- The Second Carolingian Modelbook: A Collection of Charted Patterns for Needleworkers and Artisans. Also known as T2CM Link to Amazon page is on the indicated post.
These are also accessible via the Tutorials tab at the top of every page here. but below they are listed in the correct chronological order
Double Running Stitch Logic
- Double Running Stitch Logic 101 – Two Sided Work and Baseline Identification. Basic logic of why baselines matter if you want to work something either totally two sided, or using two-sided logic for thread economy
- Double Running Stitch Logic 102 – Working from the Baseline. How to follow one, step by step.
- Double Running Stitch Logic 103 – Accreted and Hybrid Approaches. Breaking down a large non-linear chart for easier stitches.
- Double Running Stitch Logic 104. A review comparing back stitch and double running, and how to determine if a design can be worked totally two-sided or not.
Charting Linear Designs using GIMP Drafting Software
I found commercial charting software treats linear charts as an afterthought, so with help, I invented my own graphing method which I have used for all of my books. This series is for folk who want to move on to designing and drawing their own charts, and doing so using the dot and bar method I invented. GIMP is freeware, and if you’ve ever used Photoshop or Illustrator, and are familiar with layer-based drawing logic, the learning on-ramp for this method will be familiar. Although this was prepared for an earlier version of GIMP, these instructions are still relevant, although the GIMP menu screens now look slightly different.
- Charting. A comparison of my dot-and-bar method with the traditional drawn-on-quadrille-graph-paper method.
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 101. The logic of a layer-based drafting tool.
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 102. Getting started, basics of working with GIMP.
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 103. Building the dot layer of your template.
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 104. Layer management and building the design and mask layers of your template
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 105. Drawing the design.
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 106. Additional tools including those for erasing, flipping, alignment, and rotation
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 107. Hints on printing
- GIMP Charting Tutorial 108. Preconstructed templates to save you time.
- My big underskirt forepart. Why I stitched it
- Forehead cloths for modern wear. Kind of like a kerchief, works well and keeps the hair out of my eyes in seaside winds, adapted from the companion piece often seen with a matching coif.
- Trifles wall hanging. Made as a “mom nag” for my younger spawn, done using blackwork techniques and fills.
- Blackwork sampler done in 1983. Musings on why this piece is not entirely successful in terms of stitching density distribution.
- Two Fish. No astrological connection, just two koi circling on couched gold water. Indigo and deep green silk on 40 count linen
- Fangirl Sampler – A key phrase from the science fiction series by my Resident Male, in an off-world language. It translates to “Life’ll kill you”. I am after all his fangirl army of one. Alphabet from an old Sajou leaflet, but the rest is all my design. The dancing skeletons border is available on the Embroidery Patterns tab.
- Grape Sideboard Scarf. An artifact-based main field with a self-designed companion border.
- Blackwork sampler done as the cover for T2CM, finished in 2012. Below.
That is a truly epic post, full of useful material. I’m going to find somewhere to keep the link for later perusal at length!
Thank you so much! This is a fabulous resource.
Thank you for the index!
I think you’re right about an increase in blackwork interest. It seems to me that at the recent EGA show I went to, there was more on display. If not as an entire piece, included in combination with other styles. However with no shows in the last 2 (3?) years, my memory might be faulty.
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