Reversible blackwork embroidery patterns

Many blackwork embroidery patterns can look the same on the back and front of the work. The double running stitch makes this possible. But some patterns need thinking through before you thread your needle.  

It is a case of planning the route you will take on your outward journey. You need to leave gaps to fill in on the way back. The samples on this page will show you how this works.

My book, Blackwork for Beginners, includes many more diagrams, or "journey plans".

You don't HAVE to stitch blackwork embroidery patterns so they are reversible. (In fact, sometimes it isn't even possible!) If you are going to frame your work, then you might prefer to use back stitch instead. After all, no-one will see the wrong side once it's completed.

But, if you are like me, you may find that you will enjoy the challenge. 

Reversible blackwork patterns need continuous lines. If there are separate crosses or boxes in the pattern, then it won't work. That doesn't mean it can't look neat, just that the pattern may differ on the back. 

Now it's your turn to have a go, with the following patterns.


Arrows and Diamonds Pattern

In the diagram, the blue stitches show the ones you are working in each step. The gray stitches are already in place when you come to work the next "row".

Use the same color thread throughout. 

  1. Start at the top and work downwards for the first row.
  2. When you come to the edge of the shape you are filling, weave your thread under the outline. Then bring it up, ready to start the next row.
  3. The arrows within the blue stitches show the direction to work.
  4. Once you have all your "vertical" rows in place, switch to working horizontally. The bottom two sections of the diagram show these horizontal rows.

This blackwork embroidery pattern is ideal for small areas of a design. It gives an area of medium to dark density, and is easy to work, if a little time-consuming.

The pattern on the back is slightly different to that on the front.

Chicken wire pattern

As in the previous diagram, I coloured the stitches you will work in each step blue. We work this pattern in multiple rows or journeys. Each stitch goes over two evenweave fabric threads or one block of Aida.

  1. The blue dot shows the starting point.  Using running stitch work from left to right across the area.
  2. Add the stitches to fill the gaps in the previous row, going from right to left.
  3. Back across from right to left.
  4. To start the next row of octagons follow the blue lines, working right to left.
  5. Have you got the idea now? Work the blue stitches from left to right across the row.
  6. This row almost completes the first two rows of octagons. You will follow the blue stitches from right to left here.

To work more rows, start with row 1 again. If you leave the octagons empty, this blackwork embroidery pattern is reversible.

If you add crosses in the center of each octagon, it will look different on the back of your fabric.

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