Blackwork W.I.P

My four seasons woodland scene is nearly complete. It has been a challenge, but a rewarding one and when I’ve finished it and decided how I shall present it, I’m gifting it to someone as a thank you for all their help in the last six weeks.

I started working on my embroidery on the 28th January, two days after I lost my job because of my condition. I’ve been working on it on and off since then, when I’ve been up to it.


The pattern, if you want to have a go at it yourself, comes from the December 2011 (no. 224) issue of Mary Hickmott’s New Stitches magazine, a stitching magazine I used to buy regularly. Now unfortunately no longer in print – the January 2015 issue was the last – Mary Hickmott has taken her not inconsiderable talent online and has a WordPress blog instead.

You can get back issues if the magazine from

The original design was entitled ‘Winter Woodland’ and used steel grey 32 count Zweigart Vintage Belfast, and Anchor stranded cotton, shade 403 (black), for the whole design. My version is different. I’ve used white 14 count aida, DMC stranded cotton shade 3031 (brown) for the trees, DMC Mouline Satin, shade S5200 (white) for the winter woodland, DMC stranded cotton shade 92 (variegated light greens) for spring, Amann Mettler Silk Finish Multi shade 9818 (darker variegated greens) for summer and DMC stranded cotton shade 69 (variegated russet) for autumn. I’m informally calling it ‘The Four Seasons’, which is not very original I know but I’m not up to thinking of witty titles at the minute.

A more straightforward blackwork design by Mary Hickmott can be found on her new blog, it is called an interlacing design, and reminds me of an Elizabethan garden, with box hedge partarres. The pattern is available here, with instructions. If you’ve never tried blackwork I’d recommend it. Most patterns use a limited colour scheme – usually one or two – and it is a very decorative type of embroidery.

The Holbein or double running stitch is used to give the same pattern on both the good and reverse side of the material. It’s called the Holbein stitch because a lot of Hans Holbein’s portraits depict it on Tudor clothing. Blackwork was used as a decorative embroidery on clothing to suggest lace, without being as delicate to care for or as expensive to obtain as lace. It was usually sewn in black thread on white clothing, although there is a related technique called redwork, or scarletwork, which unsurprisingly uses red thread.

And now I must leave you and return to my needle. It has been quite relaxing writing this post.

Have a good afternoon all,



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