Monday, April 18, 2011

I've been thinking about blackwork

I know I want to do some blackwork, possibly in red, on my camicia and drawers. That's easy enough, right? I've done blackwork. I do it all the time. Decorating my underwear will be easy and fun. Or not. While I do blackwork all the time, I really don't like doing it. Okay, that's not entirely true. What I don't like doing is counting. I really don't like doing counted blackwork. Blasphemy! But true. I just can't get into the counted kind as much as I love the look. If we take a little tour through my finished pieces, one thing becomes obvious; while I own books and patterns galore with regular graphed blackwork, those are not what I end up doing. Lets take a look at the first of my foibles, shall we?

My coif. My first attempt at blackwork. In my little world it is important to jump in with both feet and then try to avoid drowning rather than wade in and have a chance to jump back out. I get that and the "of course I can do it, why wouldn't I" attitude from my mother. So, for my first attempt at blackwork I went with the full coif rather than a small sample or something. It was drawn on the linen in pencil. Well, the circles were drawn on. I just did the tesselating geometry and then went for it. You can tell that, but I don't think it's too terrible. It was certainly a learning experience. Its based on an extant original in the Carew-Pole collection which also happens to be the cover of Mary Gostelow's book Blackwork. That fact always makes me giggle. The reason? Its done in blue silk of blue fabric and that's the cover of a book on blackwork. I love the irony of the definition being "blackwork is black on white, except when its not." I did mine on gold and added gold thread like the original and then added pearls because it was fun. As I said, it was a learning experience. The gold linen and the pearls were my first big mistakes. I made more mistakes than right decisions with this, but I love, love, love it anyway. Next mistake was the stitch. I did double running stitch because I thought I was supposed to. the extant piece is not done in double running. That made a difference when I put in the gold and when I looked at how dense the stitching coverage was. It was too thin looking and I ended up using further decoration and stitch ideas from a second piece. I stumbled on through, fixing problems and continuing to stitch and 400 hours later I ended up with a coif that I will be thrilled to wear-- one of these days. Yeah, there's the other mistake. I made a coif and have nothing to wear with it. Sigh. I'm 13 dozen threadworked buttons and 200 yards of handmade trim into the never ending Elizabethan loosegown project that is intended to give me something to wear with the coif.

So, blackworked undies and a distaste for counted blackwork. How's that going to work exactly? I have a cunning plan. It involves Bronzino. I was looking at his Lady in Green again last night. While the inside of the collar is regular and gridded and the outside of the opening at the throat is regular, the majority of the collar is done in a flourishing scrolling very not counted manner, There's also this portrait of Cosimo I after Bronzino that has pretty scrolling blackwork that seems to be of the non-counted variety. The Italian style smock in Patterns of Fashion 4 that is done in the rust colored thread with the floral decoration also seems to be a bit less counted. So, I'm going to just not do counted thread work. Probably. I'm still very much in love with the drawers done in acorns and eagles from POF4 and that is very much counted and regular though. Nevertheless, I'm going to draw up some scrollwork and see if I can come up with something I like for the camicia neckline and then see if I can figure out a pretty detached motif for working on the sleeves. It will certainly give me something to think about today while I sew up the pile of leggings I cut for my kids yesterday so that they will have some camping garb.


  1. I plot out a pattern that might be done as counted thread work on graph paper, poke holes throught the paper at the ends of the applicable stiches, and mark them with a pencil. It's a farily close approximation of pouncing a design, and means I am able to stich a consistant pattern on average fabric (not just even weave) *without* wearing my glasses or using a maginfying glass, or even a hoop!. I do collars and cuffs this way all the time. It works great for patterns which run in a straight line.

    Just another idea.

    ps: I *love* your coif!

  2. I hadn't really thought of it being like pouncing. I suppose it is since they would have painted it on. My last project was a neckline done in a pattern that should have been counted. I drew it on with a thin micron pen and then stitched it that way rather than counted it. I felt guilty the whole time. I like the justification better.

    Thank you :)