Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blackwork Mystery, part 2

Are you ready for part 2 of the Blackwork Mystery? Here's the completed part 2 of my stitched model for you to study:

In part 2, you'll be stitching the next "layer" of stitches in a solid color. That color can be harmonious with your variegated thread (like my turquoise is with my variegated thread) or it can be a contrasting color (to create a stronger tension between the colors). Below are the three threads I used in my model: a blue/green/purple variegated floss I dyed myself; DMC 807 floss; and Kreinik Blending Filament 014HL - a fine, bright silvery blue.

One of the nice things about blackwork is: it doesn't take a lot of thread, especially when you're working on fine fabric and you're stitching with just one ply of a 6- or 12-ply strand. I've worked all of my part 2 with one ply of the 6-ply cotton floss, DMC 807... and I think I must have only used 2 or 3 strands MAX. So you're thread goes a LONG WAY in blackwork. ( Also, you can certainly stitch this design in just one color ...or one color and a gold metallic, perhaps - like traditional blackwork!)

[ASIDE: You may be tempted to correct my use of ply instead of strands... yes, I'm well aware of the technical difference between them. However, when I started writing my patterns I made the decision to use the term "ply" instead of "strand" because: 1) it just became too cumbersome and confusing to repeatedly tell stitchers to use just one strand - but I mean one strand of the three-stranded Watercolours or one strand of the six-strand cotton, etc.; and frankly, 2) since the majority of stitchers are not creating their own threads by actually twisting 2 or 3 plies of raw cotton or silk fiber, I felt I could borrow the "ply" terminology to make my patterns more understandable to stitchers. So, unless we're talking about creating thread by twisting raw fiber into plied strands, I'm using the term "ply" to mean one of the individual strands of the larger strand... Sheesh.See how confusing that STRAND usage gets???]

Anyway... back to the blackwork! I wanted to tell you that there are three different stitches that can be used for blackwork: 1) Backstitch; 2) Double Running Stitch; and 3) Running Backstitch. However, in my experience, the regular Backstitch (the stitch you use to outline all your cross stitch areas) is not the best choice for blackwork because it can create SHADOWS on the backside of your fabric as you work your 45 or 90-degree stitch angles. Frankly, it's too sloppy to use in blackwork, where you want all your lines and angles to be crisp and even - on the back as well as the front.

A better choice would be the Double Running Backstitch or the Running Backstitch. Now let me explain their advantages. With the Double Running Backstitch you stitch every other space - sort of leap-frogging over every other stitch, then you turn around and hop, hop, hop - fill in the remaining spaces with more stitches until the whole line is complete. This way of stitching can be lots of fun. It makes you plan out your line of stitching in advance. It works great for solid colors. BUT: if you're using a variegated thread, you'll fracture the color flow and your stitching line will have broken colors - it will have a more confetti look to it, which may or may not work for you.

My personal favorite is the Running Backstitch (where you complete each stitch as you come to it, going first in one direction, then the next stitch goes in the other direction) because you follow the stitching line accurately, you don't get too far afield (like when you stitch every other stitch), you minimize the shadowing problem, and best of all - when you use a variegated thread, you keep the colors flowing naturally one stitch at a time, all the way along the line.
And let me mention right now: THIS IS NOT REVERSIBLE BLACKWORK. Nope. I'm not into doing reversible blackwork. I just try to be as neat as possible and as I'm stitching away on the top, I try to be aware of what my stitches are doing on the back ("Hey you guys, are you behaving yourselves back there? Are you staying neat and tidy? ...No stragglers? Knots?.. Good-O! Carry on...")


Coni said...

Woo Hoo! I love serendipity! Part two is posted the very day I am ready to go! I'm thinking about changing my middle color to chocolate brown. Wonder what it will look like with the pinks? Stay tuned! News at 11!

Anonymous said...

Picturing you talking to your back-stitches . . . LOL

I've had a blackwork piece sitting in waiting for years! Now I see your work and want to add them to my To-Do.

Is there no mercy??