Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (61) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Blackwork Embroidery: The Lower Half of a Fish


Amazon Books

The Blackwork Fish is turning out to be a super-fun project! I wasn’t sure if I’d grow weary of the black threads, but they’re such nice silk embroidery threads to work with that I really don’t envision tiring of the threads. I was also afraid that thinking up filling stitches and patterns would become tedious, but so far, it’s been grand! I pretty much just do what comes to mind, and it seems to be working out fairly well! So here’s a fish update!

To take you back to the beginning of this project, the Blackwork Fish is a spin-off of a doodled design. Instead of using pen and ink on paper, I’m using eight different weights of black silk thread on white 40-count linen. I already wrote a little bit about the pack of silk threads I’m using – it’s called the Ebony Collection from Leon Conrad Designs. If you’re looking for this silk pack, you can order it through Mimi’s Attic. I don’t know if they stock it, but they can get it for you.

Incidentally, the silks are all Pipers Silks, and you can probably mix and match the various weights available of black silk from Pipers and end up with pretty much the same variety of thread weights. The Pipers Silks website has recently undergone a transformation, so ordering from there is a bit easier than it used to be!

Now – onto the fish!

Blackwork Fish embroidered in various weights of black silk thread

This is the next to the last section on the base of the fish – to the left of the pectoral fin. The close up on this rather stiff and gridded area is to demonstrate the difference in weights of thread. I backstitched the darker boxes, and then “filled” each of them with a straight stitch in one of the finest weights in the thread pack. It’s tiny stuff! (This is where a #12 embroidery needle comes in handy!)

The scallops on the right side of the photo are worked in stem stitch. The base of each scallop has an extra line of stem stitch worked there, to darken it up a bit.

Blackwork Fish embroidered in various weights of black silk thread

The fan shape in the corner is a combination of cable chain stitch, straight stitch, fly stitch, and running stitch.

Blackwork Fish embroidered in various weights of black silk thread

I added a few more valleys and hills using buttonhole stitch and chain stitch, and threw in a half-wheels in daisy stitch, too. The very top area is a series of straight stitches, alternating long and short.

Blackwork Fish embroidered in various weights of black silk thread

I moved back to the middle section under the pectoral fin and started filling with a series of chain stitch hills, filled up with backstitch, cross stitch, buttonhole stitch, and straight stitches.

Blackwork Fish embroidered in various weights of black silk thread

This is a close-up on the area around the pectoral fin. I wanted a bit of “shading” in there, to give the fin a bit of a lift off the body of the fish.

Blackwork Fish embroidered in various weights of black silk thread

So I just went through and added some tiny straight stitches under the lower edge of the fin.

Blackwork Fish embroidered in various weights of black silk thread

Here’s the fish to this point. I’m not finished with the area just to the left of the top of the pectoral fin. I still need to finish filling the top area there, to darken it up a bit. I want a stronger contrast between the body of the fish at this point and the fin.

So there’s the update on this fellow. I’ve made a little more progress on him since I took these photos, so I’ll be sharing those with you shortly!

If you’re interested in following this whole series of posts on this project, here are the related links:

Blackwork Threads for the Fish Project
The Fish Face
Progress on the Fish – and the original design
A Little More Progress on the Fish


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(17) Comments

  1. This is a wonderful example of the different effects/textures you can get with different stitches and thread weights. I've seen some examples, where they've used different colors, and I wonder how much the colors affect my perception of the textures.

  2. I love watching this come together. The lacy fan looks wonderful. Something like this would make a wonderful group project too.

  3. This is absolutely amazing!
    I would need to join you to help me in my project lol!- I've never done blackwork embroidery I think I'll try it soon… For now the project has to wait for three weeks.

  4. Hi mary,
    This fish will never be boring to look at!! All the textures you get are just awesome. I think I am going to try my hand soon on this very fish, it is just a question where to get the threads at this moment. Still, I will watch each step of the way of the completion of Mr fish in great anticipation
    Kind Regards Elza Bester xx

  5. I love that grid section, and really the overall effect of the various weights 🙂 I may have to try something like this myself.

  6. Wow! Something about this brings to mind M.C. Escher. This is not the direction I imagined the blackwork fish would go — I guess I was picturing something more traditional. Not a complaint, however; this is even more interesting.

    Janice in K.C.

  7. oh, wow!
    I must admit that at first he wasn't my favourite of the projects that you've done (me, silk, colour and gold?), but he is really really looking good!

  8. Wow- I love this project, too! Years ago I bought a blackwork kit of a Scottish castle we visited. The outlines of the castle are roughly sketched on the fabric and there are some basic guidelines for stitching. I've never touched it. Now after seeing this fish project, I am inspired to start the castle. My kit came with black DMC thread but I think I will do as you have done with the different weights of silk threads. That would make it even more interesting. Thanks as always for the inspriration and opening up new possibilities in stitching!!

  9. This is one of my fav projects you have done Mary…he is gorgeous! I love watching him come to life…the idea of stitching a fish wouldn`t have occured to me, but i`m loving this one…

  10. WOW!!! I wasn't really sure I'd like this when you started it. I thought "Boring!", but you have changed my mind about that!!! I am loving this. Awesome as always Mary.

  11. Blackwork is yet another type of embroidery that I have yet to try. I'm loving this and…guess what?…now blackwork has been added to me to-do-and-to-learn list! You're SUCH an enabler Mary!!

  12. Wow!!! Stunning … stunning!!

    I want to be you when I grow up . . .

    Soooooo glad I found you.

    Gentle as you go,

  13. it’s beautiful! really inspiring…i am new to emboridery, but it sure is a really good way to flex those creative muscles :o)
    i really like the spirals…it’s such a simple stitch yet it gives a really complex look to the whole picture..absolutely lovely…
    n it’s an absolute delight to knw there are ppl who like to share their ideas and help others…thnx so much for sharing…i think i am going to steal ur idea now :oD
    awesome work

More Comments