Introduction to Embroidery

Image courtesy of Kathleen Taylor The Lotus Collection

Blackwork – Etching and Graphics

Blackwork is a counted technique worked on linen with black, or other contrasting thread color. Shading is achieved through the use of varying thread weights and control of the patterns throughout a design. It is an excellent technique for portraits, landscapes and architectural elements.

A Little History

Blackwork is most likely derived from an Islamic Egyptian embroidery tradition that was developed sometime around the 13th century. This technique of repeated patterns and reversible stitches became popular in Spain in the 15th Century with strong Moorish influence.

Blackwork became popular in England when Catherine of Aragon arrived in 1501, and then hit its heyday during the Elizabethan period. It was popular on clothing for over 100 years. In the earliest years of popularity, clothing was embellished with diaper patterns on the cuffs and ruffs in Moorish-inspired design. By the Elizabethan era, the patterns became more elaborate with sleeves, stomachers and bodices. Cushions and household linens also became fully embroidered with Blackwork designs.

Toward the end of its popularity, British Blackwork had developed into a style all its own, taking influence from printing, wrought ironwork and Celtic strap work. This style employed both black and metal threads with seeding for shaded effect and heavy outlines filled with patterns.

Sources

El Khalidi, Leila. The Art of Palestinian Embroidery. London: Saqi Books, 1999. Print.

Seba, Anna. Samplers: Five Centuries of a Gentle Craft. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1979. Print

Staples, Kathleen. British Embroidery: Curious Works from the Seventeenth Century. Austin: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Curious Works Press. 1998. Print

Staples, Kathleen and Hogue, Margiet. Samplers in the European Tradition. Curious Works Press. 2000. Print

Synge, Lanto. Art of Embroidery: History of Style and Technique. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2001. Print