Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A very enjoyable interlude

Our Embroiderer's Guild Branch is a select group of talented women. There aren't very many of us compared to some branches in the south, but we do have some great embroiderers. This year as part of our programme we are running a series of mini workshops where three brave members have undertaken to teach the rest of us a technique that they feel they are good at, or love to do. So we have the option of Blackwork, Silk Shading and Ribbonwork over the coming months. The plan is to spend a Saturday afternoon happily stitching under the watchful eye and tutelage of our lovely experts. This Saturday I was reminded what a pleasure Blackwork is as one of our members, having designed a pattern and put together a little pack for each of us, sat us down and told us a bit about the history and helped us to get started. You may remember I did this in my City and Guilds back in 2012; the chance to revisit the technique was not to be missed.

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.


  1. Lovely you can learn these "old" techniques again !!!
    Always fun doing things together ;-)
    Love the Blackwork on that special needlework's page !!!

    1. Hi Els, yes, terriffic fun to do and really easy this one, just amatter of dipping yh needle in and out and following the plan - very relaxing :-)

  2. Thank you for such lovely comments! I'm so pleased you enjoyed the afternoon and that you have continued on with the project. I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished piece and producing your own version of the design. I wonder how the others are doing. Must not forget my name badge next time or there might be trouble. X

  3. The comments are well deserved Pam. Am just about to start on the rose :-)