HNW - Blackwork - Backstitch vs. DRunning - Long

Linn Skinner skinner02 at
Fri Aug 7 23:23:12 PDT 1998

>Where?  Are there photos?
The V&A Reserve Collection.  There may or may not be photos.  Believe it or
not, my real interest is not mainly blackwork <G>

>My question specifically excluded the reversible stitching of bands usually
>seen in costume ruffles (like Jane Seymour's ruffle in the Holbein
>and on samplers>
Then I assume you are talking about soft furnishings such as cushions, etc?

> filling stitches without an outlinewhat you mean?>>
I've found a good many of the filling stitches which were used in costume
and on cushions, etc, on samplers as little splotches of the design.  Enough
to use as a reference.  On those I don't have to look at the backs, I can
see the compensating stitches from the front with a good magnifier and I've
seen some backs as well, to get the general concept.  You get to know these
little filling designs well when you've charted over 250 of them.  Another
way of knowing the stitch used from the front of a textile is simply by
examining the stitches very closely.  The pull on the textile is quite
different in double running and backstitch.  They also age differently.
Sometimes the textile is worn and threads are broken so that you can see
their original placement and direction.
><< and in backstitch if not intended to be seen.>>
>That is what I am seeking to prove or disprove, with examples.  :->

I'm afraid, I'm not your best source then.  I've looked and made general
observations, but not having a point to prove, not made those specific
observations.  I am more interested in the travel of the design motifs
themselves from culture to culture, period to period.  Sorry.
>Again,  do you mean the bands of Spanish Stitch?  I'm reasonably certain
>of the bands were done in either double-running or stem stitch, both of
>leave a line on the back in the same shape as the one on the front.

I'm not certain what you are calling "bands" or "Spanish Stitch".  I find
the same designs used on all sorts of items.  If you mean using monochrome
linear designs on 16th century costume ruffles, cuffs, etc or 17th century
samplers, then I will say they are done in double running journeys that
leave them completely, duplicatively reversible.  Many double running
fillings can be done so they are reversible, but are not duplicates of the
reverse side.  You wind up with two different designs.  Both complete and
charming, but different.
>If you mean that the filling stitches  (such as the fillings used in the
>flowers and leaves) were done in double running stitch, please, please cite
>specific example.  What piece where was done this way???

When I see the filling stitches on samplers they are in double running See
e.g.  V&A Museum, 516JA 1877 (Frame G44a) - A sampler with a cluster of
filling stitches.  By contrast, a coif  V&A T12 1948 (Frame G15A) has many
common filling motifs which are obviously done in a combination of
techniques (some double running, some backstitch and some plain old jumping
about)  One of the motifs on this coif (a pomegranate) is often found on
samplers in true double running which leaves a reversible but not duplicate
reverse side.

I've had my nose right up to one of the most famous pieces of "blackwork" -
the Falkland Cushion (V&A T.81 1924)  It is obviously stitched in backstitch
and not in a counted technique.  The curatorial notes on this piece confirm
this.  I quote them in their entirety:  "Long pillow cover.  Vine leaves and
grapes.  Late 16the or early 17th century.  Linen embroidered with black
silk in back, chain, braid and buttonhole stitches.  19 x 34 in.  (48.5 x
86.5 cm).  From a set of coverlet and pillows formerly in the Lord Falkland
Collection."  You can get a look at this in many books including "Victoria &
Albert Museum's Textile Collection, Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to
1750".  Plate 37.

Plate 38 another cushion cover with many typical filling stitches (in both
red and black) likewise uses "stem, chain, back, cross and speckling

Lest you think the V&A textile dept. doesn't know the difference between
back and double running.  The sampler with filling motifs (516JA 1877) is
noted to employ the following stitches "stem, double running, Roumanian
cross, detached filling and Montenegrin cross stitches"
I hope some of these observations may be helpful......



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