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Blackwork involves the use of black thread on a white background fabric. Although black was the most popular colour, examples using other colours, including red, blue and purple, survive.


Blackwork became popular in England during the reign of Henry VIII, and the style is often called Spanishe Worke, a name given to it due to its introduction to England being linked with the Henry's wife, Catherine of Aragon.

During its most popular period of usage, three distinct styles of blackwork emerge, all of which co-existed together.

Materials Used

The most common materials for working blackwork in 16the Century were black silk thread on a white linen ground. Many such examples survive today.

Stitches and Techniques

  • Holbein or double running stitch - used mostly for reversable blackwork, used on collars, cuffs and any items where both sides would be visible.
  • Stem stitch - used as an outline stitch when doing free form and geometric blackwork.
  • Braid or plaited stitches - used for making stems or adding texture to free form and geometric blackwork.