Thursday, July 26, 2012

blackwork: the delicate toil of the needle

If I had limitless amounts of time, one of the things I'd be adding to my schedule would be embroidery.  I'm not crazy about all forms of embroidery, but I am quite taken with blackwork, which is a style of embroidery which came into vogue in the age of Henry VIII.  According to wiki, this was also known as "Spanish work" based on the belief that Catherine of Aragon brought many blackwork garments from Spain, and art of the 15th and 16th centuries shows black embellishments on many garments.  Typically a dyed black silk thread was used on a matrix of cloth such as linen, preferably with a very regular weave.  Various styles of stitches were used to create the effect of density of color and delicate motifs.   Apparently few original examples of this art survived the period, as the dyes used to blacken the silk thread were corrosive in nature.  Blackwork can also be found in other colors, with red being the most common variation.  I think there might be an argument that black-and-white and red-and-white quilts were very much inspired by this beautiful effect.


Sigivald said...

You can do it a few minutes at a time...

(I do medieval historical re-creation, so I've seen a lot of blackwork in process and completed.

It's not as scary as it looks...)

Vinogirl said...

Fabulous...and one of my favourite periods of British history.