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!

I Had An Accident…

Blackwork Bow Tie

Blackwork Bow Tie

…and designed something with blackwork in it!  It happened like this…

I’m participating in Sharron Boggon’s (AKA Mistress of Pin Tangle, Stitchin’ Fingers and some pretty amazing stitching) Take a Stitch Tuesday, the challenge for 2012.  During the 13th week there was a break to give busy stitchers a chance to catch up.  After all, if you get frustrated and so behind the challenge might just become another UFO!

For those who were up to date there were two bonus challenge offered.  One of them was to create some “Bling,” some eye candy to inspire others using from 3 to 6 of the stitches from the challenge list to date.  For some reason “Bling” hit me.  And when I think of Bling I think “Black Tie.”  And, with my interest in Blackwork, my mind obviously jumped to Blackwork Bow Tie.  Here is what I quickly stitched up (based upon a sketch in my Studio Journal.)

The details are as follows:

Design Size:  5.5 inches by 3 inches

Materials:

And the stitches I used are:

So, do you like this pattern?  Would you like the pattern?  For free?  Sign up to follow this blog and leave a comment saying you want the pattern and I’ll email you the pattern!

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?

 

The Islamic Connection to Blackwork Embroidery

You might be surprised, (I was) but to learn more about blackwork embroidery à la Katherine of Aragon I have been reading a lot about geometry.  As noted earlier, Katherine’s world in Spain at the time was very much influenced by its Muslim past.  For about 500 years before Katherine, the Iberian peninsula was ruled by a Muslim line that had escaped from Iran to Morocco in the 11th century.  These people were influenced, as was all of the civilized world, by the Byzantine world, trade along the Silk Road, and the former culture of the Greeks.  Mosaics, intricate goldwork, and divinely inspired architecture was the norm.

Islamic people surrounded themselves with reminders of the divine.  Geometry was critical to both building and ornamentation.  With just a compass and a straight edge, Islamic creators have defined the universe.  And it begins with a single point.  A dot.  Draw a straight line out from that dot and it becomes the embryo of one–the radius of a circle, or a simple straight stitch in the case of all embroidery.  Using a compass and that radius, a circle becomes One.  From any point along the circumfrence of the circle and using the same radius, you create another circle that intersects with the One.  And then you have Two.  As in Adam and Eve.  Male and Female.  The elements of Creation.

Although blackwork, indeed Islamic ornamentation in general, that we all recognize as such appears very linear, in fact it is created from the intersections of many circles.  The lines of the intersections may be flattened to create hexagons or triangles or squares.  Lines may be removed to create larger space or emphasize certain areas of intersection.  But it all starts with that seed of a dot extending into that line or that simple stitch.  Perhaps that is why I love blackwork so much and have always been in awe of the works I have seen.  Blackwork is divinely inspired.  I feel it.  And so does everyone else who loves the form.

If you have a hard time visualizing this, I would recommend the book “ISLAMIC DESIGN A Genius For Geometry,” written by Daud Sutton and copyrighted in 2007.  It is a tiny little book that you can put in your pocket to pull out and peruse whenever you have quiet moment.  The drawings are lovely and very clearly demonstrate how the same circles can lead to sooooo many different final images.  He also discusses that it is likely these Muslims did not understand the geometry perse, rather intended to describe their beliefs in a visual manner.  Rather than using compass and straight edge in building, they would use tile patterns to lay out their designs, much as we use motifs to create our samplers or designs on fabric.  That’s as far as I have gotten in this little treasure.  But I am looking forward to devouring the rest of the material.

In fact, from the drawing on the frontispiece, I have decided on the border for the sampler I am designing.  I need to graph it.  Then I will scan it into the computer so I can share it with you.  It may seem odd to start with the border, but it feels right to me.  You will be able to decide how big you will want your piece to be and stitch your border according.  I am anticipating squares of 24 stitches down and across, but I’ll let you know when I post the border/corner design.  So you know, I am planning on alternating squares of blackwork with squares of needlepoint patterns.  Personally, I will use black for the blackwork and use an overdyed charcoal thread for the needlepoint.  I’ve picked out several overdyed already and will test them out as I go to see which looks best with the blackwork.  I’m thinking of using black quilting thread or black silk for the blackwork.  Not cotton.  I want the finish of the thread to be smooth and and sharp to balance against the flowing of the overdye.

And here you thought I’ve been doing nothing!  A lot of creation spends a fair amount of time in one’s brain incubating.  Math is not my strong suit.  I spent more time passing notes during geometry than listening to the teacher.  So, looking at this lovely artform from a mathematical perspective, as is proper in this case, is a challenge.  Me seeking out math in pursuit of my art!  Who would have thunk?!

Luckily all of blackwork is not so strongly based in math. I will explore the two other forms of blackwork that are part of the whole body of the method in the future.  But I want to finish exploring this linear form fully before proceeding–while my brain is primed for math!

Until tomorrow…