What I’ve learnt about blending blackwork stitches

One of the criteria for the Royal School of Needlework Certificate blackwork module is to have an area where you blend two or more stitch patterns together. This is perhaps one of the trickier parts of the module. So I of course wanted to jump straight into blending my blackwork stitches!

Before starting the module, I’d done some sampling and experimenting. This included quite a bit of figuring out suitable blackwork stitches that I could blend together. I like puzzles and problem solving, so this was a challenge that I got really into!

I started out on graph paper. Then when I thought I had something that would work, I did some actual stitch sampling.

Image showing graph paper workings to figure out how three different stitch patterns can blend together.

I was looking for patterns that had some similarities in their structure. So that I could use the similarities as a common base across my stitching.

In the right hand band are the three patterns that I ended up focusing on. I was quite satisfied with my results and was feeling confident that I had it cracked before my first lesson.

Three bands of blackwork sampling. 2 sampling from light to dark tones of a single stitch. The 3rd sampling the blending of 3 different stitches.

However, nope!

It turned out that my approach was too planned. Plus there was too obvious a line between my stitches. My tutor advised that the really smooth stitch blending that the assessors would be looking for couldn’t really be planned out on graph paper.

What I took from this was that I needed to turn down the scientific, planning and logical part of my brain. While turning up the artistic, feeling and instinctive side.

My tutor also advised that it might be a better idea to do the stitch blending in one of the darker areas of my design. I think part of the logic here is that if it doesn’t go very well then at least it’s less obvious! So we agreed that the dark fur on Bracken’s body would be a suitable choice.

This gave me plenty of food for thought for my homework before my next class. We’d agreed that the “waffle” pattern is a good one for darker areas. So my homework was to find a suitable stitch to blend it with.

The blackwork pattern referred to as "waffle", densely stitched pattern good for darker tones.

Even though I couldn’t plan the whole thing out on graph paper, I could certainly make things easier for myself by finding a pattern that had some structural similarities. So since the waffle pattern repeats over 4 and 8 squares, I wanted another pattern that could fit with that repeat.

At the same time, I wanted a pattern that would work well to depict the texture of Bracken’s fur. Plus I needed a pattern that was quite dense so it would for the dark fur. I looked through the RSN Blackwork book for inspiration then came up with these three candidates.

Three blackwork patterns that should blend smoothly with the waffle pattern due to having the same horizontal lines.

The final blackwork blending stitches

I thought the first one would work best as the diagonal lines could represent the direction of Bracken’s fur. To make it even more appropriate to my design, I changed the orientation a bit, which also meant rotating the waffle pattern by 90 degrees to work.

My tutors agreed with my choices, but advised me to do some sampling on the side of my frame first. I was itching to get started so didn’t do much sampling before diving in. With hindsight I think a bit more sampling would have been beneficial!

While things started out well, it wasn’t long before I was doing a bit of reverse stitching. Given that I was using multiple needles and jumping around somewhat, this was a bit of a pain to do!

However, I did then start to get into the swing of it. Although I definitely feel that my later blending works better. I guess that’s only natural really – the more we do something, the better we become. I’d also chosen quite a large area for my blended stitches, so had plenty of practice!!

In this photo, I started stitching in the bottom left area. I think my blending between the stitches got better as I stitched towards the right. But it’s not easy to take a clear photo of the stitches in such a dark area!

Close up of my blackwork piece showing where I blended between two blackwork stitch patterns.

I was a little unsure about when and why you’d use the blending of blackwork stitches before starting the module. While I’m not sure I’ll be using it in to all my future blackwork pieces, I did find that the different patterns helped me to create the desired texture around the edge of this dark fur patch.

Plus I like a challenge and I’m sure that this stitch blending practice will come in useful for some of my future Certificate and Diploma modules!

If you’d like to read more about my RSN Certificate journey, you can find all my other posts here.


Stay in the loop

Sign up to get notified about new blog posts, freebies and products.

Elara Embroidery will use the information you provide here to send you emails that keep you informed about our latest news and products. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of one of our emails. For more info, see our privacy policy.

Leave a Reply

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