HNW - HNW blackwork or embroidery??

Cynthia J Ley cley at
Mon Aug 3 09:14:27 PDT 1998

Blackwork can be taken literally as black embroidery on a ground, usually
linen, or as monochrome embroidery of a ground. black, red, blue, and
green were frequently used in so-called "blackwork." In addition,
blackwork was often jazzed up with incorporating spangles or wire work,
and frequently it was used in combination with other kinds of stitches.

On Mon, 3 Aug 1998 01:40:07 +0000 "Cindy Koepp" <ckoepp at> writes:
>> As a side note, "blackwork" in period was not always done in black 
>> white, although that was the most common.  Red thread was often 
>used, and
>> there are examples with other colours as well, including multiple 
>I've seen pictures with folks who wore colored work on white (or 
>other colors) and assumed that was embroidery rather than blackwork.  
> What distinguishes blackwork from embroidery?  Is it strictly in the 
>patterns?  Is blackwork always the same front and back?

Blackwork is one kind of counted embroidery. While many blackword
patterns are reversible (same on the front as on the back), not all are.
The reversible patterns came in handy though for decorating parts of
garments where both sides of the garment would be seen.

Blackwork patterns are frequently very stylized. The intent of blackwork
was that it was a "poor man's lace," the delicate patterns in many cases
being meant to imitate same. The most common medium for blackwork was
silk thread on linen.


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