Creative Stress Relief: Blackwork

Welcome to the first article in a new series of posts on The Bright Side Blog:  Creative Stress Relief.  Taking the time to do something creative can reduce your stress levels and brighten your day.  The CSR posts will showcase art styles and themes that can work in many different creative disciplines.  


Blackwork is a kind of embroidery that was heavily practiced in the 15th and 16th centuries, and continues to be used on a smaller scale today.  Blackwork embroidery (named for the black thread used) was worked to fill open spaces with complex designs, usually geometric or floral.


There are many ways that you can use blackwork designs, even if you don’t embroider, and you don’t have to stick to black and white.  The two grid-based geometric patterns in this post were first published in 1604, and are taken from the book “Baroque Charted Designs for Needlework.”  There are many more sources for blackwork charts in the public domain that can be found on the internet.  Here are some ways to use these patterns:

  1.  Embroidery–obviously.  Keep in mind that some blackwork is done free-hand, so feel free to skip the pattern and let your fingers do the imagining!
  2. Knitting and crochet:  colorwork in knitting is sometimes called Fair Isle, and Filet Crochet works with grid patterns.  You can also embroider knitting with duplicate stitch.
  3. Cross stitch: whether on fabric or plastic boards, cross stitch embroidery is often grid-based
  4. Beadwork:  geometric designs can be used with a beading loom to make jewelry or other accessories, like purses, or beads can be sewn onto a backing.  You can also make beaded designs on a series of safety pins.
  5. Latch-hook:  rugs, pillows, and more can be based on blackwork-style patterns.
  6. Drawing:  get out your colored pens or stick to black and white when creating art based on geometric patterns
  7. Painting:  cover a glass jar, lampshade, or part of your kitchen wall in a beautiful geometric design.
  8. Quilting:  many quilt patterns are geometric, and quilting is not just for blankets!  It can also be used to make clothing or stuffed animals.
  9. Feltwork:  cut shapes from felt and use them to make a geometric pattern on a pillowcase
  10. Real or faux (painted) stained glass:  stained glass often uses blackwork-style designs
  11. Friendship bracelets:  bracelets of embroidery floss can be made using grid-based patterns
  12. Stamping:  Make blackwork-style art on paper or fabric either freehand or by creating stencils
  13. Computer grid art:  some computer icons or sprites in video games are drawn using a grid.  These are fun because when they get shrunk down they look very different!  The icon for the Dannye Chase site is one such design.
  14. Whatever sparks your creative flame!  If you have another idea for using blackwork patterns, or if you have done any projects using these kinds of geometric designs, please post them in the comments!
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