Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Royal Blackwork

On my way to hang out with friends, I realized I'd be just sitting all day chatting, and would do well to do something with my hands during that time.  I grabbed a scrap of linen from my stash, and some skeins of silk floss as well as needles, beeswax, and a handful of period patterns, and set to doing some blackwork in my spare time.

I chose a spiral/diamond motif from this 16th Century Italian Blackwork samplar, and began stitching in a beautiful royal blue silk.  So far, I have completed enough for one camicia/smock cuff, and intend to do another as well as enough for a collar.  This will likely end up as a high-necked smock since I only have one and it's far easier when self-dressing to use one of those as opposed to a camicia and partlet combo.  Yes, sometimes the easy way out trumps versatility... though can you call hours of embroidery the easy way?  Not so sure...


This is blue silk floss run through beeswax, and stitched onto lightweight linen.  As the linen is not an even weave, and I do not use waste canvas, the motifs are not as evenly shaped as they would be otherwise.  I count two linen threads for each blackwork stitch.

I've had many people ask me how I can do that and still see.  Well, I don't see.  Hah!  Actually, I'm absurdly near-sighted but too much so for stitching without glasses.  The key is good lighting, and the angle of the lighting so you can see the shadows behind the linen to help distinguish between threads.  

The main difference between this piece and other blackwork I've done is that it is not reversible.  The motifs are not connected to one another in any way, and have a tiny square between each of them, so it's not worth it to try and finish off the threads over and over for a reversible look, particularly when it will be the top layer in a cuff.  When I'm done I'll show you the back side for reference.  It's sloppy, but not unbearably so.