The History of Blackwork Part One

There is a lot of history to Blackwork.  Many experts think that this form of embroidery originated from Spain in the 1450’s, but others say that samples have been found of double running stitch dating back to the 13th – 15th Century in archaeological excavations in Egypt.  There is also a quote in one of The Canterbury Tales – The Miller’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (1380s–1390s) describing Double Running Stitch in Black

‘Her smock was white and embroidered on the collar, inside and outside, in front and in back, with coal-black silk;’

Blackwork became popular in the Tudor times.  It was Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII first wife that made Blackwork popular with the upper classes.  She bought many clothes embroidered with Blackwork when she moved from Spain to England in 1501.  This is why some experts feel that Blackwork originated from Spain, and can also be known as Spanish work.  She encouraged the popular fashion of having cuffs and collars embroidered in this method as a way of reinforcing the areas of clothing that would get a lot of wear.

There are not many surviving examples of Blackwork from this period as the clothes and household goods that were embroidered would eventually wear out and be thrown away

The main surviving examples of Blackwork are from the art work of both religious paintings and portraits of that time.


Continue to The History of Blackwork Part Two


Further Readings

The Canterbury Tales – The Miller’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer

Blackwork, Lesley Barnett

Embroidery Ideas From Blackwork, Pat Langford

Blackwork Embroidery Design and Technique, Margaret Pascoe

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