Beginning Blackwork

Having finished my first module of the Royal School of Needlework certificate (you can see my Jacobean crewelwork here), I was eager to start on my second module – blackwork.

For the second module you have the choice between canvas stitches and blackwork. Since the beautiful blackwork embroideries of previous students were a big part of why I was drawn to the course in the first place, it was a no brainer for me which I’d do! If you’d like to see some examples, check out my blackwork embroidery Pinterest board.

My first steps in blackwork

Having never done blackwork before I wanted to learn a bit about it before starting the module. So I took the RSN online blackwork course to stitch this gorgeous puffin.

Puffin worked in blackwork embroidery

I really enjoyed the course. I love the design and the videos clearly walk you through everything you need to know. The tutor, Helen McCook, gives all sorts of useful embroidery tips and advice throughout the videos.

Having successfully finished the puffin, I was excited to get going with my certificate piece!

Starting my own design

The first step was to agree my design with my tutors. I took a few of my photographs into class for the tutors to review. It was great to get their feedback on the photos for a better understanding of what makes a good blackwork design.

As I understood it, an image with plenty of tonal variation is good. You definitely want to have both some very light and very dark sections. As well as picking an image with a clear light source.

The tutors’ agreed that this photo of Bracken, my aunt and uncle’s Springer Spaniel, would be the best choice. I was pretty excited that I’d be stitching a member of the family! Although it also added a little pressure as I obviously want to do him justice…

Photo of Bracken, a Springer Spaniel, who will be my blackwork embroidery subject

Preparation, preparation

Design chosen, there’s then quite a lot of preparation work to be done.

Firstly, I used a colour pen to draw the key outlines and tone transitions in the photo. I got a bit carried away with my first attempt at this!

Coloured pen was used to pick out the key outlines and tonal changes

This was the starting point to create the design lines that I’d tack onto my fabric. I think I would have driven myself crazy with the number of lines I had at first, let alone how long it would have taken to transfer the design! It wasn’t wasted effort though, as I’ve found having the more detailed line drawing useful to refer to.

Line drawing of Bracken ready to transfer to fabric for blackwork embroidery

Another piece of preparation is a tonal drawing of your design. I’ve done a few drawing classes over the years and I like drawing animals so I quite enjoyed this.

I felt like I cheated a little as I traced my outline drawing as a starting point. But since the point of the drawing was to help me get really familiar with the different tones and textures, I figured making it easy for myself to get Bracken’s proportions right would be ok!

Pencil drawing of Bracken, part of the preparation for my blackwork embroidery

With those bits of preparation underway, I had a good chat with one of my tutors about the module. We went through what’s required, along with various useful pointers. For homework I needed to look up different blackwork patterns and start thinking about which ones to use. There’s a lot to consider with that, so I think it’s best saved for another post!

2 thoughts on “Beginning Blackwork

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *