Karen is an artist and creative thinker who enjoys blackwork embroidery.
Why Use Blackwork Embroidery?
A sister to cross-stitching, blackwork is a beautiful form of embroidery that was hugely popular in Tudor England. With a romantic look, blackwork is ideal for patterns like this Valentine's heart. I added a contemporary twist by working with red instead of the traditional black. Blackwork is quick, easy, and takes very few craft supplies to do. It's ideal for people who are new to cross-stitch or are looking for a beautiful yet affordable gift. I hope you enjoy this pattern!
What You'll Need
- Stranded cotton in bright red (DMC shade #321)
- 18 count white Aida cross-stitch fabric, approximately 7x7"
- 1x Cross stitch embroidery needle
- Small frame with 4x4" aperture (optional)
Bright Red (1 strand)
321 (1 strand)
Bright red (2 strands)
321 (2 strands)
What Is Blackwork Embroidery?
Blackwork is counted stitching in a repetitive geometric pattern. It's used to cover large areas of linen or counted fabric. Using a double running stitch, the designs use straight lines, detailed patterns, and different thread thicknesses to create a sense of depth and texture. It was traditionally only stitched in black silk (hence the "blackwork" in the name). Modern designs make use of a wide variety of thread colors and types.
Because you're essentially stitching a lacy pattern, blackwork is quick and adds a beautiful effect to any project, including garments. In fact, this was the main reason for its invention. Originally, blackwork was done on linen fabric because of its even weave, which made making uniform stitches easier. Nowadays, blackwork is less used as garment decoration and more for creating pictures to hang on the wall. Most blackwork today is created using special stitching fabric called Aida, normally used for cross-stitch, which has evenly-spaced holes.
A Brief History of Blackwork
The earliest known examples of blackwork embroidery date from 13-15th century Egypt and was found on linen discovered during excavations.
Blackwork's most famous fans were the English Tudors, with Henry VIII's wife Catherine of Aragon bringing many intricately stitched garments from Spain. Queen Elizabeth I then inspired many people to carry on the trend of blackwork-adorned clothing and furnishings, developing a more English style with lots of flora and fauna that were more free-flowing than the original linear Spanish style. Blackwork was most often used to embellish the cuffs and collars on dresses. This wasn't purely for decoration, as it helped strengthen delicate fabrics.
The demand for blackwork had a dip in the 17th century, replaced by new technologies and techniques (such as beading). However, it experienced a revival at the end of the century and has enjoyed a steady following. It is still not as popular as it's close relative, cross-stitch, but it is gaining popularity with the demand for quick, simple, and affordable crafts.
Additional Heart Patterns
Please feel free to use and share the link to this page, but do not replicate or sell this pattern. This heart is the first in a series of three designs for Valentine's Day. Complete all three for a beautiful yet simple display or gift.
I'd love to know how you get on with the design and what you do with it when it's finished, so please let me know below.
© 2012 Karen Creftor
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on January 01, 2013:
Thank you for such wonderful comments :D I'm glad you like the design.
Millionaire, it's true Redwork is another name for this work, I'd forgotten about that :) I think Blackwork tends to refer to the technique as a whole, regardless of the colour as it was the original form. As you say it's more the 'parent'.
Let me know if you give the pattern a try :)
Shasta Matova from USA on December 31, 2012:
What a beautiful heart design - I love all three actually. I usually call this redwork, and I thought of blackwork as a cousin, but it must be a parent! That's very generous of you to provide a free pattern. Voted up and across.
Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on December 31, 2012:
Beautiful. I love blackwork. What a great history lesson you have provided. Up, useful, interesting, and awesome.
Judi Brown from UK on December 31, 2012:
I remember reading about blackwork years ago - I remember it was a popular Tudor craft. I love the heart and the history lesson!
RTalloni on December 31, 2012:
A nice look at blackwork. I've always loved it and these examples are beautiful. Thanks for sharing this Valentine's Day Pattern!