Why Use Blackwork Embroidery?
A sister to cross-stitching, blackwork is a beautiful form of embroidery that was hugely popular in Tudor England. With a romantic look, blackwork is ideal for patterns like this Valentine’s heart. In this free blackwork heart pattern, I added a contemporary twist by working with red instead of the traditional black. Blackwork is quick, easy, and takes very few craft supplies to do. It’s ideal for people who are new to cross-stitch or are looking for a beautiful yet affordable gift. I hope you enjoy this pattern!
What You’ll Need
- Stranded cotton in bright red (DMC shade #321)
- 18 count white Aida cross-stitch fabric, approximately 7×7″
- 1x Cross stitch embroidery needle
- Small frame with 4×4″ aperture (optional)
Blackwork Heart Pattern Key
|Light Red||Bright Red (1 strand)||321 (1 strand)|
|Dark Red||Bright red (2 strands)||321 (2 strands)|
What Is Blackwork Embroidery?
Blackwork is counted stitching in a repetitive geometric pattern and it’s used to cover large areas of linen or counted fabric. Using a double running stitch, the designs use straight lines, detailed patterns, and different thread thicknesses to create a sense of depth and texture. It was traditionally only stitched in black silk (hence the “blackwork” in the name). Modern designs make use of a wide variety of thread colors and types.
Because you’re essentially stitching a lacy pattern, blackwork is quick and adds a beautiful effect to any project, including garments. In fact, this was the main reason for its invention. Originally, blackwork was done on linen fabric because of its even weave, which made making uniform stitches easier. Nowadays, blackwork is less used as garment decoration and more for creating pictures to hang on the wall. Most blackwork today is created using special stitching fabric called Aida, normally used for cross-stitch, which has evenly-spaced holes.
A Brief History of Blackwork
The earliest known examples of blackwork embroidery date from 13-15th century Egypt and was found on linen discovered during excavations.
Blackwork’s most famous fans were the English Tudors, with Henry VIII’s wife Catherine of Aragon bringing many intricately stitched garments from Spain. Queen Elizabeth I then inspired many people to carry on the trend of blackwork-adorned clothing and furnishings, developing a more English style with lots of flora and fauna that were more free-flowing than the original linear Spanish style. Blackwork was most often used to embellish the cuffs and collars on dresses. This wasn’t purely for decoration, as it helped strengthen delicate fabrics.
The demand for blackwork had a dip in the 17th century, replaced by new technologies and techniques (such as beading). However, it experienced a revival at the end of the century and has enjoyed a steady following. It is still not as popular as it’s close relative, cross-stitch, but it is gaining popularity with the demand for quick, simple, and affordable crafts.
Additional Heart Patterns
Please feel free to use and share the link to this page, but do not replicate or sell this pattern. This heart is part of a series of three designs for Valentine’s Day and completing all three will make a beautiful yet simple display or gift.