Blackwork embroidery
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Modern Blackwork Embroidery

Is Blackwork really as difficult as it looks? (to me anyway!)

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If you love embroidery then chances are you have come across Blackwork at some point or another. It wasn’t until I had to delve into this a bit deeper when I studied Hand Embroidery that I really began to fall in love with this technique.

African Textiles by John Gillow

I was tasked with designing a small piece of Blackwork and chose this Morrocan Cloth to create the design from.

The resulting Blackwork was really fun and I couldn’t wait to explore some more but never really found the time!

Blackwork design

Fast forward a couple of years and I have finally decided to give Blackwork a go again after I fell in love with this design by Tanja Berlin called Blackwork Love Birds…

Just the Two of Us by Tanja Berlin

So, all I have to do now is stitch this fabulous design!?

What is Blackwork?

Blackwork is a counted form of embroidery where repeating patterns are stitched with varying densities. It goes a long way back in history and given the fact the stitches themselves are relatively simple – the vast array of complex patterns that can be created is amazing.

Take a look at this sampler which contains many of the most popular filling patterns in Blackwork…

Taken from The Complete Guide to Needlework

Samplers are a great way to learn a new technique and I was really tempted to stitch one rather than try my hand at a complex design but I just couldn’t resist those Lovebirds!

I did come across a fabulous and FREE stitch a long pattern being hosted by Peppermint purple called A Year of Blackwork. This is a 52 week pattern where a small part is released each week for you to stitch into the grid.

I am giving this a go as I thought it would be a great way to refresh my skills in Blackwork before attempting the LoveBirds and I am so glad I did.

Here’s how mine has started so far and there has been a lot of refreshing needed!

Counted work is totally different from the freehand embroidery I love to stitch. There has been quite a lot of unpicking, recounting and huffing and puffing but once you get into the swing of it I found it really relaxing!

I am definitely going to do a few more practice blocks on this before I even dare go near the beautiful Lovebirds design!

Choose your fabric wisely

Blackwork can be stitched on Aida or Evenweave Fabric. Since I don’t like the stiffness of Aida I decided to go for Evenweave cotton and chose a 27 count zweigart fabric.

The count of the fabric refers to the number of holes there are per inch so the higher the number the smaller the holes as there are more to fit into the Inch !

This means that when stitching on the 27 count fabric, I am going to ‘stitch over 2’ for all the stitches otherwise I will either have an incredibly small piece of work or be cross-eyed before I even finish the first row!

This is definitely a learning curve and it’s great to challenge yourself now and again rather than always stick to the comfort of what you know.

If you want to try stitching some Blackwork then there are a lot of excellent resources out there to get you started. Take a look at these that I have on my wish list!

Books

Courses

Patterns

There are lots of gorgeous patterns you can buy in blackwork. The one I chose was by Tanja Berlin and you can find it here… Tanjas hand embroidery. She has some gorgeous modern blackwork designs.

Here’s the pattern and kit I purchased, all ready to go…

Once I pluck up the courage to get started, I’ll let you know how I get on. For now, I am back to practicing a bit more on the fabulous and Free sampler Stitch a Long by Peppermint Purple.

Here are some other fabulous patterns you can stitch from more talented designers…

blackwork pattern
The Steady Thread
Peppermint Purple
blackwork penguins
The Blackwork Company
blackwork pattern
Brave Little Buckaroo

Enjoy whatever you are stitching at the moment.

Happy Stitching…

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