Blackwork embroidery doesn’t really fall into the Cross Stitch category but we decided to add Blackwork to this site as it’s really the mother of Cross Stitching and also uses counted stitches. Over the last few years Blackwork embroidery, as a hobby, has been revived and has rushed into the limelight having many patterns added to the numerous Cross Stitch Magazines and books and tons of free Blackwork patterns on the internet.
Traditional Blackwork uses black thread on white or cream evenweave fabric, however, any color thread can be used and many designs now are stitched on Aida fabric.
Historically, Blackwork embroidery was used to decorate collars and sleeves on blouses and shirts and can be seen on many portraits of England’s Kings and Queens, such as this picture from a portrait of Jane Seymour (showing the cuff) and Queen Elizabeth 1st (showing the sleeve). Unfortunately, historical Blackwork embroidery samples are not preserved due to the iron-based dye used at the time corroding the thread, thankfully this doesn’t happen nowadays. Blackwork was also used to decorate household linens and cushion covers.
Traditional Blackwork stitches are the double-running stitch, also known as Holbein Stitch and the backstitch, sometimes stem-stitch is also used. With the recent revival Cross Stitch is also often added as well as other colors in the same design. There are many red or two-color designs included in books and Cross Stitch Magazines, but they are still called Blackwork as this term relates to the method of embroidery, not the color used, so Redwork is also still Blackwork, confused?
Double-running stitch or Holbein Stitch
The first Blackwork designs were of simple edging designs, later leaves and flowers were incorporated into the designs with geometric traditional Blackwork stitches used as fillers.
More recent Blackwork embroidery has evolved into some stunning geometric designs and there are now tons of free designs you can find on the internet and in Cross Stitch Magazines and Books as well as some great books on Blackwork.
With the geometric designs it is also relatively easy to create your own patterns on graph paper incorporating Cross Stitch and other stitches.
Techniques for shading large areas with small stitches in different densities can create a 3D effect to your design.
Please visit our Free Charts page for a few of our free Blackwork patterns to download to get you started.
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