Art Journal

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Sewing: Blackwork Back in Tudor Times

I know my friend Lizbeth must be having a blast back in the Tudor Era, despite her complaints about being tricked into making that little foray back in time. 

Liz loves hand sewing and embroidery. She's always got a handwork project going. Her favorite is blackwork embroidery. You've seen it peeking out of the edges of sleeves and necklines in all the old portraits, right?

I strongly doubt that most women would have taken the time to embroider their smock or undergown to the all over degree in my illustration, though I'm sure Liz might go for it while she's there. 

Usually you saw this type of stitchery on sleeves, stomachers and the perpetual coifs with which respectable women covered their hair in informal situations. Your mama would have said that covering your hair kept you from getting a chill. But of course she also probably thought that loose hair looked a little too sexy. And back in those times, most people's hair was kind of dirty, so you'd really rather people covered it.

Blackwork embroidery was a very popular style of needlework in England, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, "It was worked with a single colour of silk, usually black, but also blue, green or red, on linen. (It might be) embroidered with running stitch. This may be a transition from the repeating geometrical stitches of the 16th century to the subtle speckling stitch of the 17th century, imitating the shading of woodblock prints."

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