Monday, August 27, 2012

Blackwork at Black Rock

Blackwork is like dog owning.  You love it, you're engrossed by it, you are endlessly patient with its little quirks.  And you wish fervently it were all easier than hitting yourself in the head repeatedly.

I've undertaken a fairly ambitious piece of blackwork.  This is the Real Thing.  Proper counted thread fabric (kindly donated by my local chapter of EGA, the Princeton one, to be exact, generous sharing group), plus I acquired some stitch diagrams and charts.  Now people who have heard me whine and cry and stamp my little feet on Ravelry about charts and how I can't knit from them, don't ask me, can proceed to listen to my whining about blackwork charts. I can in fact follow them, but you know how it is, the squares on the fabric sort of move and change while you're not looking and omg there's another whole area Wrong.

It's a terrific learning path, despite all my wails and screams of rage, and will result in Something Nice with a destination as yet undisclosed.   As you probably know, the hard part about blackwork is that the back is supposed to mimic the front exactly so that there's no "wrong" side.  This is why your chart is such a tyrant.  This dates back to when the Elizabethans who had some stellar embroiderers available, had blackwork decoration on collars and shirts which could be seen from both sides.  Mine are okay for a beginner, but I doubt that Elizabeth I would have bought them.  Yes, but you see, Your Madge, if you just turn your cuff like that as you play your music, it will look just fine!  trust me, it will.

This project is going to be approximately 32 squares, two lots of sixteen with a gap running down the middle, the purpose a deadly secret at this point.  Every other square is to be left blank, but all the embroidered squares, sixteen in all, will be different designs.  The reason for the little chunk of thread in the blank areas is to stop me from accidentally embroidering in them.  The squares are about 2.25 inches on a side.  Just so's you know.  and the blank squares will allow for an afterimage, a phenom I love in art.  You stare at one square (may not work in this picture since it came out all blue instead of white, I scratch my head in puzzlement) with the design, then shift your gaze to an adjacent blank one and gosh look, you see it again.

One thread of DMC black floss in the embroidered squares, one thread in cross stitch around the blank areas, two threads in floss around the embroidered squares, so as to weight them a little bit. And the different darknesses of the cross stitch gives a subtle change to the overall look of it, not too square and in your face.  Anyway, as I always say, that's the plan!  and though my pic shows the lines a little bowed, in fact it's  just a camera quirk.  They're actually dead straight.

But I will say this:  I fully understand why the Elizabethans, who were into blackwork in a big way, drank beer all day long.  They claimed the water wasn't safe, but I'm not buying it. I'm just sayin.


Isabelle said...

wow, i understand what you mean when you speak about frustration. it seems to be very difficult and any little error should all shift.
but the result is very nice. I am delighted to see more of this work.

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Brave you, to tackle this! My eyes are crossing just thinking about it (but that's not to say that I don't want to give it a try!)