Learning to Love Blackwork

Monday, May 29, 2017

At my last embroidery guild meeting, we learned how to do blackwork embroidery and were shown the EGA pattern Learning to Love Blackwork by Linda Dorril (if you become an EGA member, you will have access to it to try for yourself!).

I have come across blackwork embroidery on the great internet before, and I did not think much of it. It uses counted cloths which I haven’t been a fan of in the past, and it looked simple enough: a single thread with simple geometric designs.

Alas, I was naive. Blackwork is one of the most difficult things I have done in the embroidery realm. Counting really matters, and the more complex the design, the more focus needed! The method we used was the Holbein stitch, sometimes also called the double running stitch. I prefer calling it Holbein because it is named after Hans Holbein the Younger, a painter who visually preserved the embroidery in his paintings of Henry VIII (yes, that one). Some believe that his first wife Catherine of Aragon (whom survived his worst ill temper but that he divorced through annulment) made it a popular style for the well-to-do. I have an art history background, so I loved that it is part of Holbein’s world (I first was introduced to his “the Ambassadors” with a sneaky skull) and I really truly enjoyed Showtime’s The Tudors, so the combination was fascinating.

The most difficult aspect for me wasn’t the counting – I felt like I met my match in a world of sewing that married itself to another pastime of mine: puzzle-solving. It was neat; it was fun; it was surprisingly tricky sometimes. I kept exclaiming to Boy how I just couldn’t get over how naive I was before I began! By “skipping” every other stitch, sometimes it was difficult to know where you were going. No, the difficult part was that Holbein stitch is traditionally used on fabrics of cloth where you’d see both the front and back (like the cuff of a flouncy sleeve). Thus, the front and back needed to look identical and nice. The backside looking nice? Not my strong suit. Although the image below looks decent (except for the blurriness and giganto knots), I decided no one would be seeing my backside and just sewed as usual. I’d say about ⅓ is done in correct blackwork style, but the other ⅔ went off key a bit (okay, quite a bit sometimes!).

The other issue is that I went off the chart and tweaked the design without drawing it out. I shifted center; I expanded the shape a little; I added extra bits to fill in what I felt like were way-too-noticeable gaps. Perhaps that was seeking a level outside of my beginner skill. Much undoing, redoing, undoing, and redoing was had. But eventually I gave in to my frustrations and the idiosyncrasies I had created and decided I had a finished product.

 

See more posts related to:

2 Comments

  1. Melanie

    I am a member of a local needlework guild and am trying to find the pattern and instructions for the “Learning to Love Blackwork” with no success. Could you tell me where I may be able to find the instructions. Thank you for your help in this matter.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for more cases of the Crafties?
Stitch Club: Clover

Stitch Club: Clover

Jette Clover lead a TextileArtist.org’s Stitch Club using scraps and a stamp. I used a country farm stamp with a big red barn as inspiration.

read more
Stitch Club: Tume

Stitch Club: Tume

Kate Time lead a TextileArtist.org’s Stitch Club on narrative bead texture, and I was inspired to have a play!

read more
Open Press Project

Open Press Project

I ordered a small print press from the Open Press Project and have begun experimenting with pressing leaves.

read more
Stitch Club: Notman

Stitch Club: Notman

Emily Notman lead a TextileArtist.org’s Stitch Club where we would learn to make a jar wrap, and I was inspired to create a scene along a lakefront at sunset with cattails blowing in the wind.

read more
Stitch Club: Bliss

Stitch Club: Bliss

Oliver Bliss lead a TextileArtist.org’s Stitch Club recently centered on color blocking, and I was inspired to stitch up a skull with flowers.

read more
Nina Stajner + Lake = Swan

Nina Stajner + Lake = Swan

I worked up Nina Stajner’s swan coloring page from the Lake app in a (mostly) single solitary stitch: the stem stitch.

read more
Stitch Club: Norbury

Stitch Club: Norbury

As part of TextileArtist.org’s Stitch Club, Ruth Norbury tasked us with making a textural mixed media peice and I chose Hubert Robert’s La Fontaine painting as my subject.

read more
Stitch Club: Steel-Jessop

Stitch Club: Steel-Jessop

As part of TextileArtist.org’s Stitch Club, I made a map of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sarantium (by Martin Springett) following Bridget Steel-Jessop’s workshop.

read more
Kintsugi stones

Kintsugi stones

I used a kintsugi kit by Jack Richardson to meld two broken stones back together.

read more
Painting Miniatures

Painting Miniatures

I tested my painting skills in a challenge with Boy: who could paint the best D&D miniature?

read more
Hexie Dreams 16

Hexie Dreams 16

I have a total of 107 flowers ready for my fussy-cut EPP Hexie Dreams quilt and am moving on to planning how to arrange them.

read more
Eternal napping in the sun

Eternal napping in the sun

You can stop here if you don’t wish to read anything sad today. It’s already bad enough with Roe v. Wade, war, and such, I know.

read more
Stitch Club: Goodwin

Stitch Club: Goodwin

As part of TextileArtist.org’s Stitch Club, I followed Valerie S. Goodwin’s workshop to create a map of one of my favorite places.

read more
Hexie Dreams 15

Hexie Dreams 15

For my fussy-cut EPP Hexie Dreams quilt, I’ve so far stitched together fifty seven flowers.

read more
Ukrainian Whitework

Ukrainian Whitework

In 2020, my embroidery guild offered a class on Ukrainian whitework: the Summer Lace pattern in all white by Terri Bay. Of course, this was well before the war occurring now. My friend, then, had recently gone to Ukraine to meet her father's side of the family for the...

read more
Hexie Dreams 14

Hexie Dreams 14

I’ve begun sewing the hexies together for my fussy-cut EPP Hexie Dreams quilt.

read more
Hexie Dreams 13

Hexie Dreams 13

All the hexies are prepped now for my Hexie Dreams fussy-cut English Paper Piecing quilt.

read more