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Blackwork Embroidery

Blackwork Embroidery is normally simply referred to as "Blackwork".

It is a simple form of embroidery, using black thread on white or off-white fabric. Historically, blackwork was used on clothing in the time of Henry VIII. Initially it was known as "Spanish work" since Catherine of Aragon is said to have brought many blackwork dresses with her from Spain. A favourite motif on her clothing was the pomegranate which was used as a heraldic device in Granada, where Catherine lived as a child.

The portrait painter Hans Holbein the Younger became court painter to Henry VIII, and he painted Henry's queens wearing dresses richly decorated with Blackwork. The double-running stitch employed in Blackwork is often called Holbein stitch.

Blackwork continued to thrive under the reign of Elizabeth I, but it lost its popularity during the 17th century.

Today, blackwork is more popular than ever. It has a modern feel, due to its austere, formal quality. Much of the success of a blackwork design depends on how tone values are translated into stitches.

Amongst the motifs used, maps are parlicularly popular, also chessboards, in fact anything which could be the subject of a pen and ink drawing.

Blackwork is also an integral part of Assisi Embroidery where it is used to outline the main motif and some of the decoration.



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