What is blackwork embroidery?
Any black thread can be used, but firmly twisted threads give a better look than embroidery floss [ a fact or an opinion? Traditionally blackwork is stitched in silk thread on white or off-white linen or cotton fabric. Sometimes metallic threads or coloured threads are used for accents. The stitches used for counted thread blackwork are double running or holbein stitch , backstitch , and sometimes stem stitch.
Historically it was done on plain weave fabric. Modern stitchers often use even weave fabric made especially for counted thread work. The common name "Spanish work" was based on the belief that Catherine of Aragon brought many blackwork garments with her from Spain, and portraits of the later 15th and early 16th centuries show black embroidery or other trim on Spanish chemises.
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Geoffrey Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales describes the clothing of the miller's wife, Alison: "Of white, too, was the dainty smock she wore, embroidered at the collar all about with coal-black silk, alike within and out. Blackwork in silk on linen was the most common domestic embroidery technique for clothing shirts, smocks, sleeves, ruffs , and caps and for household items such as cushion covers throughout the reign of Elizabeth I , but it lost its popularity by the 17th century.
See also — in fashion. Historic blackwork embroidery is rare to find well-preserved, as the iron-based dye used was corrosive to the thread, and there are currently no conservation techniques that can stop the decay. Blackwork embroidery on both an outer and inner collar. Blackwork embroidery in Holbein stitch. Detail of portrait of Jane Seymour by Holbein, Bess of Hardwick in geometric Scarletwork, s. Blackwork sleeves with large free-stitched flowers filled with geometric patterns, under sheer linen oversleeves, and a counted Blackwork forepart under her skirt.
Portrait of Mary Cornwallis by George Gower , c. Elizabeth I wearing free-stitched Blackwork sleeves, stomacher, and collar beneath a sheer linen ruff , c.
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