My love affair with blackwork embroidery began about 50 years ago, when I spotted a school friend stitching a beautiful frog in black and golden threads.
I have loved it ever since and am so happy that I can now share this wonderful needlework technique with you.
Let's start with some of the commonly asked questions I get when teaching blackwork embroidery at workshops and exhibitions.
All good questions. And if you've ever wondered what blackwork is, or how it's done, I hope this section of the site will answer some of your queries so that you can try it
You may know that blackwork (sometimes called 'spanish work') is a form of counted thread embroidery. It involves stitching with one colour, traditionally black silk thread, on a contrasting coloured fabric, traditionally white using a blunt tapestry needle. Today, it is often worked in coloured thread, sometimes with metallic fibres and beads used as accents. Fabrics commonly used include Aida, evenweave or linen.
A blackwork design consists of outlined shapes, filled with repeating patterns. To create contrast in my designs I use a thicker thread (or more strands) for the outline than I do for the filling.
The stitches follow the weave of the fabric and are therefore vertical, horizontal or diagonal. However, they can represent natural elements such as flowers, leaves, fruits and even animals, as well as general geometric patterns.
Some, but not all, of the patterns can be worked reversibly. This is achieved by stitching every other stitch in one "journey" and then coming back to fill in the gaps. Stitches utilized for this technique include double running stitch, Holbein stitch or backstitch. Some patterns will also include cross stitch to a limited extent.
Finished pieces can be framed or made into various household items, such as pillows, bookmarks, coasters or table coverings. It is also possible to decorate your clothing as was the norm in the past. As it was quicker to stitch lace-like patterns than to make the real thing, it was often referred to as poor man's lace.
To complete this mini introduction I can tell you that it can be quicker to complete a blackwork project than one done in cross stitch.
These free blackwork patterns will teach you the basics and then you can move on to slightly more advanced techniques, such as shading.
I have listed the lessons in the same order as I teach my live classes. I would suggest you start with lesson one, rather than jumping in at the deep end. Put aside around two hours for each lesson, but don't worry if you take longer to begin with.
Clicking on the images below will take you to the relevant sections in my online store, where you can purchase and download patterns direct to your computer. Instantly!
If you are new to a type of needlework such as blackwork then you may have questions you want to ask. Take this opportunity to get the answers you need, or to help other visitors by answering their questions.
Click below to see questions (and answers) from other visitors to this page...
May 25, 22 01:08 PM
The first step in our hand embroidery for beginners course, learn how to embroider names and letters, using a variety of embroidery stitches
May 25, 22 12:51 PM
I am often asked if I use cross stitch software to design. I do now and this is my story of how I started designing needlework
May 23, 22 02:47 AM
This stem stitch tutorial covers the basic stitch, raised stem and portuguese knotted stem. Videos explain how to work the stitches.
May 20, 22 06:26 AM
Simple embroidery stitches for small flowers - ideas and videos showing how to stitch them