HNW - Blackwork thread counts

Linn Skinner skinner02 at
Tue May 4 10:13:32 PDT 1999

>If surviving Elizabethan blackwork embroideries were on 40-60 count
>linen, were they generally worked over four?  (Over *gulp* one?)
Actually, they were seldom (if ever) stitched in a counted thread technique
on costume pieces.  They are mostly neatly stitched over approximately 2-3
threads.   I have not to date seen any costume pieces I can with certainty
say were stitched in a counted thread technique.  When the filling designs
began to appear on samplers (17th Century), then they were counted and
sometimes worked over 3 threads.

The other issue is the relative weight of the spun linen used for weaving
these fabrics.  We don't weave with such fine threads today so even our high
count evenweave fabrics for embroidery (currently 45ct is available 50 is no
longer produced) are really not "authentic" as the relative values of thread
guage/space between thread is not reproduced.  Also the quality of our
linens is much inferior as to slubs and uneven spinning.  You need also to
remember that linen used for shirts, etc. was quite different weight than
that used for coifs and the sleeves which carried heavy embroidery with
stitchery encrusted with metallic purls and twists.

Linn Skinner
Skinner Sisters
skinner_sisters at

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