More 16th Century Blackwork Fill-in Pattern Analysis

Oh my, I haven’t posted in a few days. It’s nearly Halloween – my favorite time of year. I’ve been, among other things, having fun with the kids. We were invited to one of their teen friend’s Halloween themed birthday party, and so I decided it would be the perfect occasion to go as something really scary. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on a side-trip to Walmart  for the friend I was riding with to pick something up. Let’s just sum it up and say that children screamed, I felt bad, and you may see me on the People of Walmart page.


Now on to the other fun stuff.

I’ve been continuing work on my needle case. It’s slow going, but my repeats are more consistent and I am picking up a bit of speed.

Blackwork Needle-case as of 10-21

The ruler should give some perspective on the size. Each repeat is about 1 cm by 1 cm. That’s a-lot of tiny stitches. It’s based off a pattern I analyzed here: https://maniacalmedievalist.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/analyzing-and-recreating-blackwork-fill-in-patterns/

I’ve also been analyzing other blackwork fill-in patterns from 16th century pieces. I have two more from the same piece as pattern #1 (see needle-case above). It’s an English 16th century pillow-cover  from the Falkland Collection at  Victoria & Albert Museum http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O317803/pillow-cover.

16th century pillow-cover from the Falkland Collection at Victoria & Albert Museum.

This little piece here:

16th Century Blackwork Fill-i9n Pattern 2

can be done in either direction.  It’s a really easy pattern, but the simplicity doesn’t mean that it isn’t very nice when used. It reminds me of seeds on a strawberry. The pattern itself is simple to recreate – alternating dashes.

Blackwork Fill-in Pattern #2

My third fill-in pattern is the last one from the same pillow-cover. It’s more complex than the one above, but it’s still fairly simple – diamonds and stars.

16th Century Blackwork Fill-in Pattern #3

My analysis may have an error, but I like it my way. If you look near the upper right corner, you can see that the diamond has a vertical line going through it connecting the center to the stars above and below, but I like it better with the space open.

16th Century Blackwork Fill-in Pattern #3

I’m hoping to finish up my the embroidery on my needlecase this week. I clamor about the time it is taking, but I need to realize that it’s not the project I’m working on but learning the art. Learning a new art does take time.

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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!!!