blackwork cuff on an italian renaissance gown

by martina
(Switzerland)

I'm about to start a copy of a renaissance gown of Eleonora of toledo. I Found this very small painting in Berlin and at once decided to make this costume. Now there are many questions before the very beginning, and one of them considers the blackwork cuff of the white smock.

The border is a broad one, and Im searching for a pattern that comes close to the one on the painting (this is not the main problem). But there are two things, I'm thinking of and don't come to a satisfying result:

1: on the paintings of the tudor-time, it can clearly be seen, that the stitches are counted. On larger parts of the Elizabethan smocks (as can be seen in J. Arnold's wonderful book) the patterns are often done with stem stitch - do you think, cuff patterns were always counted because of the relatively small parts to be seen? Is this a special thing of tudor fashion, or was this kind of (counted) embroidery common also in Spain and Italy? On the italian paintings blackwork is not so often seen, above all, not in these all-over-patterns like in England. Would it be possible to do this special cuff with fine stem stitches too?

I would like to use fine linen, and I'm sure it will cause problems to do counted stitches as fine as then required by the fabric.

Thank you very much for advice!


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details of Eleonora
by: martina

Hi Celefindel-
thanks for your advice- It's always interesting to learn about embroidery and it's many and different techniques.

I've startet embroidering my 16.century-eleonora-smock, cuffs and underarm gussets are ready, now i'm doing the sleeves. I like this work, unfortunately I've very little time to go on. soon I'll post a photo of the things, they are ready yet.

cheers from Switzerland.

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(Un)solicited advice
by: Celefindel

I do a Lot of blackwork: 2 shirts' collars and cuffs; 2 shirts' collars, cuffs, front neck facings and sleeves (yes: 4 shirts). I'm 3/4 through with a caul entirely blackwork-ed.

I use 3.5 oz or finer linen, and 2 strands of Gutermann silk thread, #24 or 26 Tapestry needles, and waste canvas in 14- and 10-count sizes. I have a piece of 2.3 oz linen on which I will try a single strand, since it is finer. Baste linen to waste canvas as true to grain as possible in 2" squares.

On the 10 count, try not to design a stitch longer than 2 squares long/1 wide, as that comes out nearly 1/4" long. On 14 count, no problem.

If your already know all this, I apologise for wasting your time...if not, good luck.

Namarië

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Blackwork not only counted
by: Aspasia

There is a debate about what consist Blackwork. It isn't always counted. There is also freeform, ie: leaves, bugs, herbs, etc. often seen on coifs, Elizabethan underskirts and chemises, etc.

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Thanks!
by: Anonymous

Thanks!

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details of Eleonora
by: martina

Hi- the painting itself is only 16x 12 cm! The picture I scanned is from a post-card and details are very difficult to recognize.That's the reason for asking several people for what they think how cuffs, collar, top of smock etc. are done.

You can find the painting by searching at Google for "Eleonora de Toledo- Allori", there are some thumbnails, and perhaps you can enlarge details.

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the painting
by: Anonymous

Martina, have you run across a better copy of that painting? I'd love to see some of those details!

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thank you!
by: martina

Dear all- thank you for your comments- in the meantime I've decided, that the cuff must be counted and bought a very fine but yet countable linen and will begin soon with the Eleonora -smock and show the result here on this site.

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blackwork -- the "not" technique
by: jerusha

My favorite quote about blackwork says that "blackwork is black -- except when it's not. Blackwork is reversible -- except when it's not. Blackwork is counted -- except when it's not."

Most Tudor blackwork is done in what's called the Holbein stitch (aka the double running stitch). It can be counted -- it can also be drawn on and then stitched.

Most Elizabethan Blackwork is done using stem stitch -- with speckle stitches for filling.

Blackwork also occurs in red, blue and green.

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blackwork cuff on an italian renaissance gown
by: Valerie Kalyani

True Blackwork is counted. If you are seeing a stem-stitch, it is what we often call these days Surface Embroidery. I would call it in this case Faux Blackwork. :>) If you are doing the costume for the SCA or other historical accuracy costumed group, I would recommend counting. There are wonderful pattern books available. My favorite one is Beginners Guide to Blackwork by Lesley Wilkins.

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