blackwork woes (was Re: [HNW] Extant Examples of German Embroidery

Carolyn Kayta Barrows kayta at
Fri Apr 15 17:33:13 PDT 2005

Wow.  There sure are a lot of 'blackworkers' here.  I've come to the 
conclusion that my thread is not the right size, and I have now gotten 
several suggestions for what alternate thread to use.  Sewing thread seems 
to be the most recommended one, so I'll try that next.  I don't have a 
problem with perle cotton fuzzing, and I use it by preference for other 
counted thread work, so I will look for some of that tatting thread that 
looks like perle cotton but in size 70.

As a side note, the year my group is centering on is 1575.  Earlier on, 
sleeves are straight and still pretty snug, and farthingales are cone 
shaped and hooped.  Blackwork looks really geometric, as if it were counted 
thread work, and it is spaced in a regular pattern on sleeves and partlets.

In the 1580s and 1590s the style goes to big sleeves and that 
inner-tube-shaped bum roll.  Blackwork gets very freehand-looking, acquires 
powdering and shading, and flows in curves all over sleeves and other 
garments.  Not only is this freehand style not one I do well, it's too late 
for the look I'm doing.  So, whether or not counted thread work is correct 
for this earlier period, that was how I figured to make my work look 
presentable.  (No sense taking the time to do something that would look 
both sloppy and out of period.)

>It *sounds* like your fabric was not even weave. In other words, the count of
>the threads is different horziontally and vertically. That would cause your
>motifs to not line up correctly.

My motifs line up fine in this piece.  And even if they didn't line up 
perfectly when the work was flat, on my body nobody would ever know if I'd 
missed one grid line or not.  It's the ends of the stitches that do't line 
up exactly, even on the second example which I did on the linen and without 
the waste canvas.  In the past I have worked on even weave and non-even 
weave, and usually my stitches line up fine, end to end, so it's not the 
fault of the fabric that they don't here.  But this time they don't line up 
at all, even after counting the threads on the linen, and I'm wondering why.


>>But whether I counted the threads or not, I couldn't get the ends of the 
>>individual stitches to line up.  This made what ought to have been be 
>>straight lines be all zig-zaggy and irregular instead.

>This is partly avoidable, partly not.  It gets worse if you are using too 
>thick a thread.  It seems to me that it helps to start the left hand side 
>of each new stitch above the right-hand end of the previous stitch.  Being 
>consistent helps things to look less irregular.

I had come to that conclusion as well.  Not only were the stitches all 
floppy after I pulled the waste canvas out, they didn't line up at the 
ends, which is what made me try again counting threads on the linen.  But 
even then I couldn't get the ends of the stitches to line up.

        CarolynKayta Barrows
dollmaker, fibre artist, textillian

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