Sunday, March 02, 2008

Blackwork Sampler #1

Blackwork Embroidery was introduced to the Tudor Court by pious Catherine of Aragon who was no doubt taught the technique by her Mother, Queen Isabella-Catherine's suitcase was stuffed with the stuff when she married Prince Arthur. It's mainly comprised of running stitches, and cleverly placed backstitches. Many of the designs are equally impressive on the reverse, making Blackwork on cuffs, collars and ruffs popular well through to Elizabeth's rein. Less Moorish than Catherine, (and less boorish than her father) Elizabeth used her needle to change Blackwork in to a more 'English' (organic, free form) needleart. The printing press was making trickier designs accessible, and the influx of Italian lace makers enjoying low import taxes meant that cuffs were frilly again -no more reversible, geometric demands on Blackwork designs. So now you know.

1. Portrait of Mrs Pemberton, Hans Holbein, 1535. Catherine of Aragon's influence
2.Lady Kytson, George Gower, 1573, Elizabethan all-over Blackwork.

Blackwork became so popular under Catherine's Spanish influence that Master Holbein's Court portraits are full of the embroidery. His careful eye for detail helped propel the technique and he favoured it in the real-life decoration of the King's court-soon Holbein stitch was borne. A double running stitch, it seems to be a chicken and egg situation. I shall tackle it next. Maybe on a sleeve like Jane Seymour's?

Excellent Double Running Stitch tutorial available at The Blackwork Archives

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