HNW - Blackwork thread counts

Betsy Perry betsyp at
Tue May 4 12:08:45 PDT 1999

Thank you.  If I want to make a shirt with blackwork cuffs and collars,
would the best period-correct approximation be to buy good-quality
sewing linen and work the blackwork freehand over it, concentrating on
keeping the motifs even in size rather than on the number of threads
under each stitch?  (This would be a relief, actually; the thought of
buying embroiderer's high-count linen in shirt yardages made me pale.)

Betsy Perry

- ---
Elizabeth Hanes Perry
Rogue Wave Software 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Linn Skinner [mailto:skinner02 at]
> Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 1999 1:14 PM
> To: H-Needlework at Ansteorra.ORG
> Subject: Re: HNW - Blackwork thread counts
> >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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