repeating patterns worked in different weights of thread to capture the
forms and textures found in a group of trees
photos by Ian Cole
The fascination of blackwork lies in the enormous number of patterns possible; the patterns chosen for use here are individual units. These can be widely or closely spaced, parts of the pattern can be left out, or extra stitches may be added. These variations, together with the use of different weights of thread, help to give a natural shading effect. Traditionally, blackwork is worked in double running stitch, also known as Holbein stitch, but it is easier to create these individual patterns in back stitch.
On Hardanger fabric threads are arranged in pairs. Treat each pair of threads as a single thread; one back stitch is therefore worked over one pair of threads.
The blackest areas - Cotton perle no.8
Next blackest - Cotton perle no. 12
Finer stitching - 1 strand of stranded cotton
Finest stitching - machine sewing thread
Colour fades as it recedes into the distance. Use a lighter weight of thread to create perspective.
The ideas explored here could be used to create a design based on a picture of your own. If you don't have a photograph of trees to work from, postcards, gardening magazines and calendars are all good places to find inspiration.
(Above and below) The repeating pattern you use should reflect the characteristics of the tree it depicts.
Individual trees would make ideal projects for greetings cards.
Blackwork does not have to be stitched with black threads. Choose another colour of thread, or even try stitching in white on a dark fabric.
The repeating pattern you use should reflect the characteristics of the tree it is used for. The spiky 'arrow' works well for the fir tree (top picture, centre), the broader pattern echoes the spreading tree (bottom picture, 2nd from right), and the elongated pattern reflects the shape of the drooping willow tree (bottom picture, last on right).
These designs can also be worked on a blockweave fabric, such as 14 count aida (one back stitch is worked over one block), or on a single-thread evenweave fabric with 27 or 28 threads to the inch (one back stitch is worked over two threads of fabric). This will increase the size of the finished piece and you will need a piece of fabric approximately 50 x 36 cm.
If you would like to take these ideas further, lookout for Blackwork by Lesley Barnett, published by Search Press, price £5.95. It is available from the Embroiderers' Guild Bookshop