A little bit of history. Blackwork was very popular in the Tudor court, having reputedly come across from Spain with Catherine of Aragon and was known then as Spanish Work. Initially always worked in black silk or cotton, often on even weave cloth. Here the patterns are created by the counted thread method, so working the stitches according to the number of threads stitched over or under. There are a variety of stitches used; one method using a running stitch, which is then worked back in the opposite direction, became known as Holbein Stitch because it appeared so often on the collars and cuffs of Holbein's court paintings. It is particularly clever as it looks the same from the back as the front and so was worked on the edges of garments where it would be seen on both sides. Some Blackwork is not counted thread, examples include pillow covers or coifs and caps worked in fantastical designs of plants and animals. Since then it has gone in and out of fashion and modern Blackwork would be unrecognisable to the original practitioners. One of the beauties of the stitch is the way you can create the most marvellous light and shade effects by both working with threads of different thicknesses and by fragmenting the stitching patterns so they appear to fade out. There are some wonderful examples on the Royal School of Needlework's page here,
So here are my efforts so far, the outlining done and the filling in to be started (whispers ... "don't ask why one of the acorns is wearing a hat"!). Such a pleasure to sit and stitch with a group of friends and share our enjoyment of embroidery. I am thinking of departing from tradition by working the acorn cups in a mid brown and the centre rose in red, possibly even a variegated thread as I do have some treasures I want to try.
So thank you Pam for providing us with such a lovely design, and for getting us started, I'll do my best to do it justice, and get it finished by the next workshop so your fresh band of students can see what is possible.