HNW - Re: Blackwork article in progress

Frank Thallas hardcorps at
Tue Mar 20 12:44:35 PST 2001

  So far so good!


> Well, on the (not too common) occasions when I teach beginning
> blackwork, I'm fond of explaining to the students that blackwork is
> always black, except when it isn't <g>.
> The problem is, of course, that there are a number of embroidery
> styles that are at one time or another called "blackwork." Eowyn
> Amberdrake has written a very fine article disentangling them and
> explaining how each one is done -- I think she eventually lists
> something like thirteen different styles.
> Further confusing the issue is the very popular *modern* style of
> blackwork, which is usually what people start out thinking of, and
> which doesn't necessarily have the same definitions as the period
> stuff.
> That said, the way I usually explain it is this:
> 1. There are several different styles of embroidery that are
> collectively referred to as "blackwork." They are all *normally* (but
> not invariably) done in black silk on white linen in period.
> 2. The style *we* usually think of as "blackwork" is more properly
> called counted-thread double-running stitch. In period, it was
> usually done in black, but we have examples of the exact same style
> done in red, or in black *and* red for different parts of the design,
> and there's even one example worked in a lovely shade of lilac. These
> are also usually referred to as "blackwork" even though they aren't
> black.
> 3. Other common styles of blackwork that are *not* counted thread
> include embroideries worked entirely in stem stitch, in chain or
> buttonhole stitch (the ugliest piece of blackwork I've ever seen is
> done mostly in buttonhole stitch), in "speckling" (small single
> stitches scattered to give the effect of shading) and in combinations
> of any or all of these. Basically, these are only called "blackwork"
> if they are all black or black with gold thread. If they are done in
> other colors they are usually called something else.
> Once I'm sure the people in the class have assimilated all *that*,
> then I go on to add that period concepts even of "counted-thread
> double running stitch" don't seem to have been as rigid as modern
> concepts. Not all such embroidery in period was actually worked by
> counting threads -- some of it was clearly done "by eye" and was not
> exact. Not all such embroidery in period was reversible; in fact,
> some of it was done in backstitch rather than double-running stitch,
> or has "skips" on the back going from one part of the design to
> another. Not all such embroidery was worked on even-weave linen,
> either -- some was worked to counted threads on fabric that clearly
> had more threads to the inch one way than the other, and in period,
> people didn't seem to think this was as vitally important as we do.
> And most important, not all period blackwork has impeccably neat
> backs!
> --
> _________________________________________________________
> O    (Lady) Christian de Holacombe
> |     Chris Laning  <CLaning at>
> +    Shire of Windy Meads  -  Davis, California
> _________________________________________________________
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