What is Blackwork Embroidery?

If you’ve been working on needlework for a while, chances are you’ve come to work or see blackwork embroidery, it’s one of the most popular types of embroidery that have developed over the centuries to involve a variety of approaches and styles. Today blackwork is not always black (it often contains many colors!), but it is still recognizable as blackwork.

We’re going to take a look at blackwork embroidery and discuss what it is, how it’s worked, and the different approaches that can be taken when adding this particular type of stitching to your embroidery repertoire.

What is Blackwork embroidery?

Historically, blackwork embroidery services consisted of different styles of stitchery: threadwork and even weaving. lace fabrics, geometric patterns; curvilinear blackwork, which involved contouring work in ground plain weave fabrics at surface points, such as stem stitch and full geometric fill patterns; and shaded blackwork, which flows in full seed stitch strokes and is worked at different densities to provide shading.

The three historical styles of blackwork have evolved over the centuries. Unless your goal is to produce authentic 17th century needlework, you’ll find that there are plenty of possibilities to mix blackwork into various creative interpretations. Today, black work is most often presented as a combination of the first two styles mentioned above: counted thread work in geometric patterns, offered surface embroidery, infill’s of geometric figures.

Supplies used in Blackwork


Blackwork today is almost always worked on a woven fabric, even of some sort, be it linen, Aida cloth, which is both cotton/rayon blends.

Like cross stitch, blackwork can be worked over one or two threads of fabric. The more threads, the more detailed the blackwork will be, weaves with higher thread counts work well. For bold blackwork patterns, you can try fabrics with a lower thread count, or you can join more than two threads of the fabric.


As mentioned above, blackwork is not limited to black threads! Modern blackwork often involves color, so don’t be discouraged if you’re a fan of using lots of color in your embroidery. The best threads for blackwork are generally twisted threads, such as cotton or silk embroidery thread in different weights. Finer cotton Perle, eyelet silk twists, and the like are easy prey for blackwork!

For the beginner, plain stranded cotton makes a great starting yarn. To vary the weight of the stitches, just add more strands of sewing thread. As you progress in your exploration of blackwork, you may decide to incorporate other cotton threads such as cottons, or twisted silks such as eyelet silk.


Unlike traditional Embroidery Services, embroidery surface styles that use wool to embroider or embroider with sharp points; blackwork uses the tapestry needle with its blunt tip, to make it easier to work the backstitch or linear stitch in the holes of the fabric. A supply of various sizes of tapestry needles will come in handy when working with blackwork.

Rings or frames

A hoop or frame is helpful when exploring blackwork. Keeping the background fabric taut will help with working stitches with even tension and with creating straight, neat lines.

Stitches in blackwork embroidery

The main stitches used in blackwork embroidery are backstitch and the Holbein stitch, which is also known as a double running stitch.

In addition to these, other embroidery stitches are often added to blackwork, including surface stitches (such as stem stitch) or other counted stitches (such as cross stitch). When blackwork is intended to be viewed from both sides of the fabric (for example, as an accent on clothing, as is often seen in 17th-century portraiture), Holbein stitch is the point of choice, as it has the same look on the front and back of the fabric. When only the front of the embroidery is considered (for example, on decorative pieces that are framed), topstitch can be substituted for Holbein stitches without a noticeable difference.

Patterns for blackwork embroidery

Blackwork embroidery singapore patterns are often traced on a grid, much like cross stitch When they are, they are very easy to follow and they are perfect for staplers just beginning to explore the possibilities of blackwork. However, when the dominant use of blackwork in a design is for fill purposes, a grid is not absolutely necessary.

Once the stitcher understands the fill pattern sequence, it’s just a matter of applying that repeated sequence to the area to be covered. So it is not uncommon to find blackwork designs that are not completely gridded. Instead, these designs are presented with outlines of the most important elements in the design, and then the designer indicates what type of fill pattern to work with in each particular area. The rest depends on the stitcher! If you don’t like a particular fill pattern, modify a few stitch sequences, and you’ll end up with a completely different fill!

Blackwork in combination with other types of embroidery

One of the most interesting uses of blackwork is when it is effectively combined with other techniques or types of embroidery. Designers today find thousands of Free machine embroidery designs with matching, beading, and other types of stitching.

Because blackwork is perfectly adaptable for filling in large areas, it works perfectly for adding texture, color, and surface depth to embroidery techniques of all kinds. There are several types of embroidery; however, I have explained the most used techniques or those that you should know as an embroiderer in training. If you have any questions, you can let them know through a comment and I will gladly answer.

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