12 Little Needle Cases

February: Blackwork Plan and Pattern

This needlework piece is part of my ongoing exploration of different medieval embroidery styles. A full explanation of the project can be found here.

February is a short and bound to be busy month, and therefore it is good to have a nice easy project. I spent most of 2020 working on blackwork style embroideries. It was a style popular during the 1500s and later, characterized by dark geometric patterns on white linen. These patterns were sometimes, but not always double sided, and sometimes but not always counted.

This month’s needle case will be based on this coif at the Victoria and Albert Museum. According to the museum this coif was made in the late sixteenth century in Great Britain. It was made with black silk thread on a linen ground and the edges are bordered with some bobbin lace.

You will notice there are lots of things going on here, the first is that there are beautiful stylized flowers and leaves that go along swirling vines. The second is that those shapes are then filled with blackwork fill patterns that are generally geometric in nature. And, they vary greatly from leaf to leaf and flower to flower. The Victoria and Albert has a photo of the reverse side of the coif and I note that the back is very much not reversible!

I have drafted two patterns for you if you would like to follow along. The first is a graph of the fill pattern itself.

The second is the fill pattern with the flower shape drawn on. The pattern is 28 stitches wide and 27 stitches tall. My evenweave linen is 28 threads per inch, and therefore (as each stitch goes over 2 threads) my finished piece will be just quite 2 inches wide. I will likely stitch up a leaf to make this piece rectangular, but lets see how the flower goes!

I challenge you to stitch up this little flower this month. I will be using black cotton thread on linen counted thread cloth to make the project a wee bit easier on myself. But, it would be a good challenge to embroider it on a non evenweave cloth in silk. (Which I do not have). Something to consider in the future!

For further research into blackwork I recommend the Youtube course put together by Mistress Amy Webb.

If you are interested in some modern blackwork embroidery, I participated in Peppermint Purple’s year long stitch-a-long last year, and it was a great way to get my feet wet with different designs and patterns: Peppermint Purple.

Finally, my blackwork stitch muse is Kim Salazar of String-Or-Nothing. She blogs about her stitching journeys, has several free patterns, and tips and tricks from years of working on the craft on her website: String-Or-Nothing. She recently put together some amazing cat and mouse blackwork patterns and I am in love.

March Needlecase Plan

Looking ahead to March, I will need to order materials, which means I have been browsing the webs for pretty brick stitch patterns. I am going try working with silk this month, and have been browsing different options. I think I will purchase some 20/2 spun silk off etsy for experimenting. I will also order some splendor silk as a backup. I will be ordering 3 different colors, likely red blue and gold. I have some evenweave linen to use and will stick to that.


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