For simplicity and in spite of very different definitions: black work is embroidery with black thread on white or ecru fabric. It's made on countable fabric and the most used stitch is the double running stitch (Holbein stitch)
In several periods and on several places it was very popular. For instance during the Tudor era in England. It's much used on garment. Thanks to the patterns and stitches used, the result on both sides of the fabric was the same. Patterns consist of elaborated scrollwork, geometric motifs etc. Traditionally silk tread was used on linen cloth, a combination with also today gives the most clear and beautiful results. If you want to know more about the history and the style, here is a good start:black work
Patterns on this site are mainly geometric. But there are also patterns with scrollwork and plant motifs. See picture. You can use them as small stand-alone embroideries. But combining several can give a very nice sampler. Borders are useful in combination with other kinds of embroidery
The designs are embroidered almost totally with the double running stitch, also called Holbein stitch.
The Holbein stitch
schematic representation of the Holbein stitch (double running stitch)
The stitch is made in two stages. First going onward, making a row of tack stitches. Here it has been done over two threads of the fabric, that is the same as skipping one hole. And then back, also with a row of tack stitches, between the formerly made stitches. Backside and front side looks exactly the same.
The same as at a, but now the stitches are made over three threads of the fabric.
Embroidering a line without branches
The embroidering of a straight line
Start at one end of the line. Go onwards until the end. Then go back to the beginning of the line.
Embroidering a line with branches
Embroidering a line with branches
Consider the horizontal line as main line. So we have to embroider this line and two branches. Look at the image above and check the work flow: Start at one of the endings of the main line, embroider until the first branch, go further while embroidering this branch, going onwards until the end of this branch and then going back to the main line.
Now go further on the main line ( don't go back!) until you reach the second branch. Embroider this the same way you did the first branch. Arriving on the main line go on on this line until the end, turn, and finish the whole main line.
Alternative for making a line with branches
Another way for embroidering a line with branches
Embroider first the main line until the end. Embroider the branches on your way back.
Embroidering a pattern with branches on more then one level
The order of rank is given by the numbers, the arrows gives the direction of working. Look also to the drawing and explanation below.
Embroidering a pattern with branches on more then one level 2
You can start at any point you like making tack stitches. Say you are embroidering on level 1. As soon as the line you are embroidering branches off, choose a direction and go on making tack stitches. You are now on level 2. At the next branching you choose again a direction and you are working on level 3. Every time you reach a branching for the first time you enters a higher level. In the drawing above at 2,3,4 and 7.You might come in the following situation:
you reach an end of a branch of the pattern, as at 5,8,15 above. Then go back by making stitches between the already made ones, until again, you reach a branching.
At the branching choose, if possible a direction, with is not embroidered yet ( 6,9,14) If there is no new possible new direction go back (10). If that's not possible because you have that branch already embroidered twice, take the only possible direction (11,12,13 and 16)
When there are more then three branches at a branching point, it becomes a bit compliceted to keep the correct working order. But keeping in mind the following rule will do the trick.
At every branching point:
As long as there are clockwise directions, that are not yet embroidered, choose the nearest, clockwise, direction. If there is no such a direction go the same way back. If that is not possible because the direction you came from, you already embroiders twice, choose the nearest counterclockwise direction.
|left: totally connected pattern
left: not totally connected
Using this method you can embroider any totally connected patterns at once. Front and back of the embroiders fabric will look the same.
In practice and practice makes perfect
For many people it is not important that both sides of the embroidered fabric looks the same. So, you can smuggle as must as you want and traverse, at the back site, to other parts of the pattern.
There are always more possibilities for the order of working. Below an example how I should do it. In this example I consider also the discovery of mistakes at an early stage.
Start with something simple. Gradually take more complicated motifs. You will discover a method that suits you best. The complicated patterns, like the plaiting work patterns, are difficult for everybody and for going on steadily you need practice.
Black work pattern with a possible work flow
I start embroidering the whole border (step 1). Because I come back at the beginning I know I didn't made any fault. I go back and I take the first branching trying to embroider a quarter of the pattern. After that the other quarters goes in the same way.