Blackwork Experimental Sampler In Progress

This Coptic  motif is 34 stitches by 34 stitches

Please ignore the arrows. This motif is 34 stitches by 34 stitches. It would make a charming border

This little project is a marriage of my love of blackwork and my love of samplers.  Anyone who has been following The Shop Sampler blog will know that I have been playing with samplers and stitch practice for this year through the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge at PIn Tangle and with the support of the Stitchin’ Fingers community.  I have also joined the Yahoo group The Sampler Life.  (As if I didn’t already have enough internet reading to do!)  It is also a good group that is supportive and very creative as well as opening up even more of the international stitching world.

I mentioned in my last post that I am an avid fan of the Antique Pattern Library and have joined that Yahoo group, too.  It’s the best way to keep up with what’s new at the Library.  Also an international community of stitchers, I’m expecting that anyone needing help with translations can find someone there.

So, here’s the deal.

  1. I have struggled with what thread I want to use for my Mystery Sampler project.  I’ve looked at and bought a sample of every black thread out there.  I have read about different people’s preferences.
  2. I have been playing with different (colored) threads in my TAST projects and it is very clear how certain threads work for one desired effect and some threads will not work in the same situation.  Like twisted thread works well for Double Twisted Chain, but stranded thread just looks messy in that stitch.
  3. It is clear—Thread matters!
  4. Samplers are the tried and true method of testing patterns!  Hence birth of a new sampler!

Oh boy!  You would think you could just pick up your fabric and start stitching.   WRONG!

Well, maybe a little right.  But I want this sampler to be useful, to be a really good reference, like the Encyclopedia Britannica of blackwork thread usage.  Or Wikipedia entry of blackwork thread usage for those of you who are younger than Baby Boomers!

So what features should be incorporated into this sampler for it to be eternally useful?

  1. The threads should be identified clearly in the sample or there should be a legend that will never be separated from the sampler.
  2. The threads should be used as fully as they would in any worked piece.  In other words, if the thread is a stranded one, then strand usage should be incorporated to the piece.
  3. The sampler should answer any question a person might have about the thread as used in any type of work.
  4. The threads sampler should show very clearly the differences between the various thread samples.

And another thing—

  1. How does ground affect the thread usage?  How can I work this into the sampler?  Certain fabrics tend to “eat up” the pattern.  Like Aida 14 or Fiddlers Cloth just don’t show silks off at all, in my opinion the fabric is too heavy and overpowers the delicate strength of the silk.  [Are there fabric/thread combinations that you simply would never use?]
  2. How does the thread work with colored threads in the case I want to get into the latest thing in blackwork—Colored Monochrome?  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced how different colored threads behave differently than the exact same thread in another color.  Because the dye has an effect on the fiber.  I have found reds can sometimes be rather knotty to work with.  [How about you?  What thread colors have you had weird experiences with?]
  3. [Can you think of other questions that should be considered in planning this sampler?]

I have answered some of these questions, in fact many of them at thigs point.  But before I tell you what I have figured out, I want to hear from you.  How would you answer these questions?  What other questions do you think would be important? You tell me then I’ll tell you.  Deal?!

I’ll give y’all a couple days to mull this over before I post again!

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Gathering Mystery Blackwork Sampler I Materials

Blackwork Sampler Materials
Gathering the goods!

I was torn about what to post today.  It’s a nice feeling to have ideas flowing.  Someone said the other day they would love to learn how to do this.  I almost decided to post on a basic lesson, but I think I will save that for the next post.

I did say I would show you the lovely red silk I found to use in this sampler.   And here it is.  It is from ThreadWorx, Vineyard Silk number V140.  Not too clear in the photo is a packet of YLI black silk floss.  The red sequins are 5 mm and are a Darice product.  The red fabric I’ll be using is a 16 ct evenweave.  Not shown in the photo are the black 11° seed beads I plan to secure the sequins with.  I may use another black fiber.  Not sure yet–I’ll play with that as I go along with the project.  It would be just as easy to use more than one strand of the YLI silk.  We’ll see.

Next post I plan to share a pattern for a blackwork mitten  and discuss how to tackle a pattern that has no instructions with it.   I will probably address the project in two posts.  One that talks about the actually stitching basics.  And a second about the topic of “Journeys.”That way I can begin to answer the question, “how do you do that?”

Are you planning to work this sampler with me?  What materials do you plan to use?

 

2012: The Year of the Blog

It’s been too long!  Jeff and I made it to Mississippi where he promptly had to undergo unplanned surgery, then six weeks plus of recuperation.  Then the Holidays.  But it’s a new year and with it comes fresh comittment.  I declare this the Year of the Blog–for me anyway!

I have four blogs.  That’s too many.  But each is important to me for different reasons so I can’t give any of them up.  I will remain comitted to a post a day, but the posts will rotate between four blogs:  The Shop Sampler, Relatively Ryan, Sight Sniffing, and, of course, Blackwork Lessons.

News on The Mystery Blackwork Sampler—I have picked patterns for the blackwork squares.  I have tentatively picked out a needlepoint stitch for the inner border as well as some patterns for the needlepoint squares.  I decided to add another color to the black silk.    I’ll pull it out and share that with you Thursday when my daily post returns to Blackwork Lessons.  Until then think about a second color you might add to your Mystery Blackwork Sampler.

Write and tell me what color background you are using and what your second color will be!  Tomorrow I’ll be posting at The Shop Sampler.

On The Road

We are hitting the road tomorrow, heading south to Mississippi.  I’m planning on keeping my eyes open to see if I can find any motifs in our travels that would translate well to a blackwork design.  I have also uploaded all the files I have gathered from the internet about Islamic Architecture and Art as well as quasicrystalline geometry, the foundations of Spanish Work or blackwork.  So there is much reading I can be catching up on while we are on the road and don’t have access to unlimited electric power.  Luckily, I can recharge my reader from the car battery.

When we stop and have a connection, I’ll post what I have learned in my travels.  BTW, today I found some nice red spangles to use on my Blackwork Mystery Sampler.  I was thinking, too, that if I can’t get the red congress cloth, I could do a basketweave in red on a plan 18 ct mesh canvas, then do the blackwork stitching over that.  We’ll see.  Would love to hear what you think about the outside border and if you are planning on stitching along with me!

Blackwork Mystery Sampler Fabric Size

Have you decided on a fabric for your Blackwork Sampler? I think I’ll figure mine out here. Maybe my calculations will help some neophyte. But before I figure the size, I should say that I have had a brainstorm about my colors! As noted earlier, I’m going use black silk or quilting thread for the blackwork. I’m going to use an overdyed floss for the needlepoint. I’ll be using beads not spangles for accents primarily because I have beads on hand. If I find spangles before I get to that point in my stitching, I’ll pick some up and see which looks better with the pattern. I’m thinking spangles may look better since I’ve decided my accent color will be red! Imagine the red spangles held in place with sharp little black stitches!

I’ve also decided I want my center grid to be marked in red. And to really make the piece pop I’d like to use red fabric. That means I need to see what red fabric my goto fabric shop has. That would be Fireside Stitchery. Well, they didn’t have red available now. So, on to the second shop, Stitchers Paradise. BINGO! They have 24 mesh Congress Cloth in Victorian Red which matches DMC 498 or 816. That works for me! So, I’ll be working with a count of 24 which means there will be 24 threads in one inch. Since I will be stitching over two threads, that means I will have 12 stitches per inch.

Now, my design size is 120 stitches by 120 stitches. Dividing my stitch count by my fabric size tells me the design will cover 10 inches. I am going to add 6 inches to give me a decent border and leave some margin for the dirty old edge tacking.

If I can’t get the canvas, I’ll use linen. Most likely 28 count. Again, I would be stitching over two threads, so that means there would be 14 stitches per inch. 120 stitches divided by 14 inch fabric will yield 8.5 inch square design size. So I would cut my fabric 13 inches square (rounded up).

Do you read the Nordic Needle Newsletter? I subscribe to it and often find very useful information. The latest Newsletter has a very good section on changing fabric sizes. As you scroll down to find it, notice the great info about testing for colorfastedness, working with beads to ensure they are color and tarnish fast. It’s a good page to bookmark!

What are your thoughts on thread and fabric colors?

Mystery Blackwork Sampler Outside Border

Finally, I have a pretty good idea of my blackwork sampler design.  I feel good about how it is coming together.  I had decided I wanted to do a sampler as my Blackwork Chessboard has been so much fun to stitch.  Actually, I am almost done with it.  I’ve got two white chessmen to stitch on the outside, then the black chessmen.  A good, but gentle washing.  Finish fringing.  And it will be done!  Jeff has decided to make a leather box for the chessmen he has picked from his collection.  Then the chessboard will be rolled and set inside the box.  I would recommend Carol Leather’s pattern wholeheartedly, even if you are not a chess player nor have one in your life.  You could leave the chessmen off and have a simply lovely sampler of really cool blackwork motifs to inspire your own designs.

So for my design.  I have come up with a border I like.  Why start with a border rather than the squares?  I don’t know.  Feels right.  The border will help me set the tone for the squares it will surround.    I don’t want to just develope squares I like and stick them together.  I want to achieve a certain feel.  The border has a certain airiness to it, reminding me of a wrought iron fence you might find outside a Victorian home.  Neat.  Clean.  Geometrically lean, yet complex enough to hold moderately dense patterns.  I will need to create squares that will blend to not give the piece a heavy look.  The blackwork squares will be lacy and variably open while the needlepoint squares will be simple and linear.

Lessons figure 1

Figure 1 Outside Border

The top of the diagram (figure 1–click image for larger picture) represents one eight of the border.  The 60 stitches to the right  would be a mirror image of 1 through 60, left to right.  Repeat three times for the other sides.  Consequently, the piece will be 120 by 120.  The three stitch inner border will be a needlepoint stitch, I’m thinking.  The remaining internal area will be 92 by 92 stitches.  I’m thinking a 4 x 4 grid with each block being 23.   The middle 4 x 4 grid of squares will be divided by gold double running stitch.  Or you can use whatever color will contrast nicely with your main colors, a solid for the blackwork and overdyed for the needlepoint squares.  Whatever you use for the blackwork will be the proper thread for the outer border.  The number of threads you use should be appropriate to whatever fabric you choose to use.

Lessons figure 2

Figure 2 Detail Image

Figure 2 is a close up of the center section of the top row.  Note the yellow dot at the base of the partial cross.  The represents placement of either a bead or a spangle.  Your choice.  The color should complement your colors, maybe the color you use to define the middle grid.

So, to summarize:

  • Total stitch size is 120 x 120
  • You will need three threads:  one for the blackwork, one for the needlepoint, one for the center grid divisions
  • You will need either beads or spangles matching the thread for the center grid
  • Fabric of your choice cut with appropriate space surrounding the stitch area, with edges protected from raveling
  • Frame of your choice and other stitching tools of choice