Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Free Blackwork Pattern for My Whitework Sampler


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I’ve been dabbling around with ideas for my whitework embroidery sampler. Bouncing around in my head for a few days was this rather oxymoronic idea of doing some blackwork whitework.

I just couldn’t chase away this idea, and it probably isn’t all that original. But this is it: I like the look of blackwork. I love whitework. I was thinking that a band of blackwork (the counted kind) done in white would actually be pretty. You’d think you wouldn’t be able to see it, but on the contrary, if it were worked on a very fine linen with a somewhat heavy white thread, the white on white would probably look subtly lace-ish, in a way.

In the long-run, the whole question of whether or not it would work on white became rather moot. I’m working the sampler on natural colored linen, which means I won’t be doing whatever type of whitework pops into my head. I’ll be limiting it those appropriate to natural colored, even-weave linen. Well – who knows what else may develop?

In the meantime, this is the blackwork whitework pattern I drummed up:

Free Blackwork Embroidery Pattern

That’s it without the graph behind it….

Free Blackwork Embroidery Pattern

Here it is, with the grid, if you want to print it as a .gif. I don’t know how it will turn out, actually – I don’t have a printer to test it on right now!

You can take the design and move the individual motifs around, or eliminate the top row, or whatever you want. I’ll be duplicating the motifs into a longer row on my sampler.

Free Blackwork Embroidery Pattern

You can even take each motif and move them closer together.

And, finally, I saved it as a PDF as well, so that you can print a much cleaner copy than the one provided with the .gif file, if you want. When you print the PDF version, you can rotate the piece, shrink it to fit, or print the present view (if you’ve enlarged it on your screen)… Again, I haven’t printed it, so I’m not sure quite how it looks in print, but still… here’s the PDF file:

Blackwork Embroidery Design #1 (PDF file – you’ll need Adobe Acrobat to read it.)

I’m going to be working this in Holbein stitch, which looks like backstitch from the front, but is actually running stitch worked back on itself. I’ll be using a #40 white coton a broder, I think, on an even-weave, natural colored linen (it’s either 32 or 36 count linen – I’ll let you know when I start playing with the fabric). I may decide on a different thread. I’ll also be stitching a border of some sort above and below the design.

I’m hoping (I keep saying this) to get this next project set up today! I plan to spend tomorrow filming new stitches for the Video Library of Hand Embroidery Stitches (if you have a request, leave a comment…)

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the pattern and can find some use for it!

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(15) Comments

  1. Mary
    I look forward to following this sampler- I love white one white or cream on cream. And what a great idea white ‘blackwork’

  2. Oh Mary, that’s a beautiful design! And I’ve done Holbein stitch in white on white. It is pretty. Very much a textural effect.

    I’m looking forward to seeing this project as you work it!

  3. I know you’ll think I’m crazy — and I really do love white on white, but as soon as I saw this design I thought Christmas tree. I don’t know what you actually intend it to be, but I’m definitely going to try it with something Christmas-y. Then….as white on white.

  4. Hi Mary,

    re: video stitch tutorial – Turkey stitch please.

    I know I have asked before, but I just wanted to make sure it didnt get lost in the request pile.

    It is really hot in my town, so sitting at uni, in the airconditioned comfort, would be great. I dont have broadband (or ac) at home.

    re: blackwork chart. Worked in green on cream or white evenweave and then with red, gold or other beads to imitate a Christmas tree, this would make a nice present or parcel topper, or just a new decoration for the house.

  5. Heh heh – yoyo, I don’t think you’re crazy, and Marian, by the way, agrees with you!

    I thought of a Christmas tree, too. It would make a great ornament!

    My original intention was to create a wedge-shaped design that could be stacked on top of each other as you see here. After I finished doodling up the “tree,” I realized it looked a lot like a tree, too…

    I tried half of it in white this evening, on a natural linen, but the white didn’t show up on the linen very well, unless I turned OFF the light. In semi-darkness, I could see the white very well. I found that a bit annoying, so I went on to another technique. I’ll get back to the whitework-blackwork a bit later… I think I’ll need to play with it a bit to get it to really show up. I should have chosen a much darker natural linen, I suppose!

  6. Thanks very much for this.

    My father stitched one of the trees in red, on to a white napkin for me for our Christmas table. It looks stunning!

  7. I love TOT … or WOW, especially.

    Tone on Tone – White on White

    Is ‘blackwork’ supposed to look the same on both sides? If so, how do you accomplish that?

    1. Hi, Marny –

      Normally, in blackwork worked with Holbein stitch, it’s reversible. But not all blackwork (historically) was done with Holbein stitch. Some was actually done with heavier stitches, using the filling patterns we associate today as filling inside motifs.

      Hope that helps!


  8. Hi Mary,
    The little Blackwork tree was perfect – I stitched it on green Lugana and added a couple of red beads in the little diamond shapes on the stem plus a few gold beads at the top of the tree.

    I’m giving them to 5 girlfriends (a Girls Night Out) group and they are all knitters – I’m the only stitcher.


  9. Mary. Would it be okay to use this design as a program for one our EGA meetings? The picture of it on green linen looks so fabulous! Thanks.

    Linda Leone Orange County Chapter of Embroiderers’ Guild of America.

  10. I enjoy your newsletter very much. I was thinking this would be pretty Whitework on Dark Navy Blue with the occasional snowflake for a Christmas card. Certainly not this year but very possibly next. Thank you for all your hard work.

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