Analyzing and Recreating Blackwork Fill-In Patterns . . .

. . . are not easy!!!!

I’m working on 3 blackwork projects simultaneously. Or, more correctly, I am starting 3 blackwork projects simultaneously. It sounds like I have another case of “biting off more than I can chew,” but it’s not as insane as it seems and  actually makes a bit of sense.

The projects I’m working on are:

  1. Late 16th century English blackwork coif
  2. Blackwork cuffs, for an English chemise, using a counted stitch pattern, probably similar to Jane Seymour’s cuffs
  3. Late 16th century blackwork sampler, trying to incorporate a good diversity of stitches actually used

Right now, I’m in the research and documentation phase. Since all 3 projects overlap to some degree, I generally keep all three files open and go from one to the other as needed. I am planning to focus on one at a time when I’m in the creation phase of the projects.

Mostly, I had been working on my sampler research. I’ve reached a pause in that project since I need to decide whether or not to focus on the English sampler, of which there is more published research, or focus on the one Italian sampler that I really like but has nearly nothing published on it. The smart choice is the English, but since I’m still resisting it, I’m taking a break.

Switching gears, I’m heading back to my coif project. It’s a project I started back in June, but I haven’t made much headway on. Most of the problem is that I can’t decide what decorative pattern to use. Finally, I chose a pattern that took my fancy and I’m just going forward with it, no take-backs.

This is the coif design I’m basing my coif off of:

Late 16th Century English Coif

A basic hourglass shaped coif with bobbin lace edges, free-hand flowers, insects and leaves and scrolling vines. The vines and lace I’m keeping, but I’m using designs for the flowers, leaves and insects that come from other blackwork pieces from that time. I am, however, sticking with the idea of filling the flowers, leaves and insects with different counted stitch patterns. These will come from this coif and other blackwork pieces contemporary to the coif.

My first attempt at analyzing a fill-in pattern

I collected a few hi-res pics of fill-in patterns.

From a 16thC English pillow cover

After several attempts of freehand drawing the pattern (on graph paper, of course), I decided that a systematic approach was better.  This pattern has 3 main figures:

  1. The four-leaf flower
  2. “Snowflake” pattern
  3. Small geometric shapes that connect the flowers

One at a time, I isolated and analyzed each type of figure. There are quite a few dots left where stitches used to be. These dots help me figure out the grid of the pattern. First horizontally:

Flower from upper right corner

Then vertically:

Same upper right flower

The once seemingly curved, indistinguishable form now starts to look like a pattern of connected straight lines:

Same flower

I compared this plotted flower to the other ones on this piece (4 pictures above this one) to see if there are any discrepancies that would make my design flawed. I couldn’t find any, but if anyone sees them, please let me know. I repeated this process with the snowflake and the small geometric shape. My final pattern came out to be this:

My interpretation of the above pattern

I think, I think, I think that this is correct, but never having done this before, I feel like I’m missing something. Even if I am, I’m pretty happy with this fill-in pattern. It’s very pretty. Now on to the next fill-in designs, and then to start picking the actual flowers and plotting the coif! Exciting stuff!!!

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4 thoughts on “Analyzing and Recreating Blackwork Fill-In Patterns . . .

  1. Julie says:

    I like what you’ve done. Looks pretty accurate to me. I think the important thing is, “I’m pretty happy with the fill.” This is your interpretation. You could even change things a bit if you want, because it is your interpretation based on a historical work.

    Congrats! I think you have been bitten by the creativity bug!

  2. […] working on my needle case. To give myself more practice with working this blackwork fill-in pattern,  my needle case cover will be made up entirely of the pattern. To add an extra degree of […]

  3. […] Analyzing and Recreating Blackwork Fill-In Patterns . . . […]

  4. […] *Analyzing and Recreating Blackwork Fill-in Patterns […]

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