Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blackwork that's not black

I first came across blackwork several years ago.  I love it.  Simple stitches form an often delicate, repetitive design, that gives an overall appearance of something quite complex.  One of the things that I like the most about it is that once you work a complete section of the design, you don't need to keep the pattern with you.  And since the pieces are often on the small side, and only use one color, they are easy to pack up and take along if you need something to keep you busy while you wait for haircuts, oil changes, guitar lessons, etc.

Blackwork gets it's name from the fact that it was traditionally worked with black, silk thread, but the first time I ever saw one of the patterns I thought, "Oh wow - wouldn't that look great in blue, or red, or..."  Don't get me wrong, the black is pretty, and often very striking, but to date, I've always used some other color for the pieces I've done.

Back in November, when we held our Mad Hatter Tea Party, some of the gifts we made to give as prizes were bookmarks made using blackwork designs.  My mother happened to receive one of these and was thrilled with it.  In fact, she was so happy with it that she brought it back.  It seems she thought it was too pretty to use as a bookmark, so she wanted two more made.  She then wanted all three of them mounted and framed so she could hang them on wall at her house.  And so it began.  The big problem was that all the bookmarks had been made from scraps of cross-stitch material and lace that I had lying around.  I couldn't find material in quite the same shade as the bookmark she had, and my slightly OCD tendencies prevented me from using completely different colors.  I ended up hunting some down on the internet that was close to what I had used.
The blue is the bookmark Mom won.  It was stitched by several of us.  When one person had to put it down to do something else, another person would pick it up and work on it for awhile.  I think Ri, Lys, and I all worked on it.  Bree may have had a hand in it too. When we went to make the others, I did the red and Ri the green.  We picked other patterns that we thought had the same feel to them.  Since I had the original, I was able to make it almost exactly the same size, and though we tried to give Ri the proper count for the green one, it turns out the count of the fabric must have been different.  She was able to correct the width, but by the time I thought about the length also needing to be changed, she had worked a small border and it would have been impossible to change the length without ripping out all her work.  That's okay.  A wider lace trim brought the measurement close enough.

The blackwork looks great done up in other colors.  I'd love to work it up as a trim on an apron, or maybe a tote or something one day.  And who knows; maybe I'll actually work it up in black sometime.

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11 comments:

  1. Those are really neat! Now I'm going to have to look up blackwork... :)

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  2. Wow! okay now I want to cross stitch! So cool! Thanks for the introduction. :)

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  3. Thank you! I'm glad you like them and I encourage you to give them a try. They turn out so pretty.

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  4. Very pretty! I had never heard of this craft before, will definitely be looking it up.

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  5. I'm familiar with redwork embroidery, but haven't ever heard of blackwork. Do you know when this was most popular in history? I could see a lost of cool applications for something like this. Oh my, something else to add to the hobby list... :)

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    1. Although blackwork was known in England prior to 1500, and was done in many different areas of the world, it reached the height of it's popularity in Tudor England. Catherine of Aragon is credited for popularizing it, and because of that, blackwork was sometimes referred to as Spanish work. It was frequently used to decorate collars and cuffs, and the repetitive decorations, like the ones I used, eventually morphed into much more complex designs that included fruit and flower motifs. Sometimes, border designs similar to the ones above were stitched so that they were reversible. It was also occasionally done in red and referred to as scarletwork.

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  6. I just found your blog and became a new follower (: Can't wait to come back for more posts...Hope you have a lovely week!!

    Michele xoxo
    The Homesteading Cottage

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, and for following. I hope you continue to enjoy it here. I'll have to check out your blog sometime when kids aren't staring me down, waiting for their turn on the computer. :)

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  7. Very beautiful. I have never heard of blackwork before. So glad you posted this...learning something new.

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    1. Thank you very much. I love learning about new things, and sharing what I learn with others.

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