HNW - Blackwork

Linn Skinner skinner02 at
Tue Jul 27 18:28:45 PDT 1999


I think you know my opinion on all this by now, so I won't beat a dead
thread <G>.  Technically, blackwork is just that - embroidery with black
thread.  If anyone who hasn't read it wants my views they can let me know
and I'll send them an archive copy of our blackwork issue of Stitch On Line.

BTW I've been having fun teaching a blackwork master class at the Heart
festivals using a classic period coif as a starting point for design.  What
a batch of innovative stitchers there are out there.  We've also been doing
samplers from pages of Quentel's 1527 Modelbuch.

Linn Skinner
Skinner Sisters
skinner_sisters at
- -----Original Message-----
From: Carolyn Kayta Barrows <kayta at>
To: H-Needlework at Ansteorra.ORG <H-Needlework at Ansteorra.ORG>
Date: Tuesday, July 27, 1999 5:43 PM
Subject: Re: HNW - Blackwork

>>As with many things in costume research, nomenclature can be a problem!  I
>>agree that what you are doing sounds like a form of blackwork.  Even in
>>period the use of the various names for 'blackwork' were frequently
>>interchanged and confused, so I wouldn't worry to much about a specific
>>name, blackwork sounds like it would be fine.
>>So, is your cross-stitch blackwork?  I would say not.  The one common
>>characteristic of the 3 (and a half) techniques which are commonly called
>>blackwork is that they are made up of simple running stitches.  This is
>>arguable in the case of the geometric infil variety, where stitches do
>>indeed cross over each other, but it seems that in most cases this is
>>achieved by stitching a pass or several passes of running stitches all in
>>one direction, and then later passes crossing them in different
>> The tendency in the few pieces of sixteenth century cross stitch I have
>>been able to examine is to form each cross individually, and in any case
>>there is a shift in direction between stitches if you use the tent stitch
>>method.  (i.e. your stitches are in parallel rather than continuous
>>lines.)Cross stitch is however, appropriate for the sort of garment and
>>time you describe.
>My Faire and SCA characters are German.  I 'always' do cross stitch because
>the usual blackwork styles 'read' English not German.  I usually work in
>red so it 'reads' more peasanty and Eastern European, even tho that's more
>a 19th-century look than a 16th-century one.  This is the first black and
>white cross stitch piece I have ever done.  So suddenly people have started
>asking me if I am doing blackwork and I don't know what to tell them.  I
>knew what I was doing wasn't English Blackwork.  So how should I answer
>when people ask me if it's 'blackwork'?  Yes because it's black, but no
>because it isn't in the traditional English style?
>BTW, Mr. Holbein (from Basel, Switzerland) mostly painted/drew English
>sitters, because he was Henry VIII's court painter.  That's where most
>people get the idea 'Holbein stitch' work is English (and why we call it by
>that name).  So when the tourists at Faire see this kind of blackwork, they
>think English.  Holbein's German sitters never wear 'Holbein stitch' work,
>with the exception of the painting somebody mentioned which includes Jacob
>Meyer's daughter Anna.  The Germans wear smocking instead.  The best
>example of this is in an eariler Holbein painting of Jacob Meyer's second
>wife Dorothea Kannengiesser (she also appears in front of his first wife in
>the painting with daughter Anna in it).  The smocking on her shirt is
>     ////.\\\
>    ////-@@\\\
>   ((((   7 (((
>     |   -- ))))
>     * )   (((((
>  /----\   /---\
>Go to to perform mailing list tasks.

Go to to perform mailing list tasks.

More information about the H-needlework mailing list