HNW - Blackwork

Reid, Andrew (MED_GEN) reida at
Wed Jul 28 17:16:24 PDT 1999

Kris wrote:
"My problem is, I've never done embroidery directly onto a piece of fabric.
I was wondering if anyone could give me some tips on how to go about doing
blackwork on a piece of fabric:: what kind of fabric works best, if that
"tear-away" Adia cloth is good as a learning tool, etc."

You are about to have so much fun <G>.

I LOVE blackwork!  Liadain gave you some excellent advice (too much to
repeat here).  All her (?) advice about working directly onto the cloth was
very good.  That's my preferred method of working, and I don't like Aida,
mostly because I am trying to replicate an authentic period look for SCA
purposes and Aida just doesn't look period.

(Mouse, I know you caught me with a chemise collar done on Aida a couple of
years back, but we all grow and learn...)

I haven't tried 'waste canvas' type of work, where you lay an even weave
fabric or mesh over your work and then pull out the individual threads
afterwards.  I worry about the flatness of the finished stitches and pulling
threads, however a lady in my Barony did a very nice chemise this way with a
lot of success.  She chose this method because she was working on a very
fine fabric.

BTW I never make a stitch any longer than 2 threads of my linen, in part
because I would hate to snag it.  If there is a long line in your design l
suggest you make it out of a series of '2 thread' long stitches, rather than
a long stitch.  I've never been able to see a piece of period blackwork 'in
the flesh' but I've read it reported that that stitch length was small and

What I tend to do is to make my collar and cuffs as separate items which are
then stitched to the chemise, and this is the easiest way to work I find
because you can work on smaller pieces of flat cloth.  (I'm 'Bethan through
and through and all my chemises are blackworked).  If you find even weave
linen too expensive for a whole chemise you can compromise and use a less
expensive cotton for the body of the chemise.  This isn't ideal, but I once
had masses of plain white cotton left over from a poorly calculated project,
I made up a chemise and attached a set of collar and cuffs I already had
stitched a while back.  The even weave linen I use wears really well, so I
have even been able to remove cuffs from a chemise which was wearing out and
re-use them on another.

As an aside, I try to stick to 'Bethan modes of dress and decorum when in
persona so I NEVER walk around in my undershirts...  The only time I broke
this rule was at a demo we did here in Adelaide (South Australia) one
summer, a Medieval Fair, and the mercury was well over 100 degrees F.  Even
then I felt underdressed... and my Barony have never let me live it down...

Have fun and let us know how it progresses.
(SCA - Bartolomeo Agazzari)
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