Blackwork Embroidery

Learn the Basics

Embroidery set. Linen fabric, embroidery patterns, embroidery hoop and needls.
Irrin0215 / Getty Images

Blackwork, also known as Spanish Work, is a type of counted thread embroidery thought to have originated in Spain. It was brought to England by Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain when married Prince Arthur, the eldest son of King Henry VII.

In spite of this pedigree, new evidence and research have shown that North Africa, particularly Morocco, may have been the true birthplace of this style of embroidery.

Blackwork is a counted thread technique, traditionally worked in black thread on white even-weave fabric, but today is often worked in multiple or other single colors.

  • 01 of 06

    Practical Blackwork

    patterns to stitch
    Practical Blackwork

    The Practical Blackwork site has posted several free patterns to stitch, including the Ukrainian Rhapsody design shown here. Download the PDF pattern directly from their site.

    The site also features free patterns designed by Kim Salazar, Author of "The New Carolingian Modelbook" for borders and fillings.

  • 02 of 06

    Tom Pudding Designs

    Tom Pudding Designs

    Jan Eaton / Tom Pudding Designs 1999–2011

    Search for free, printable designs by category.

    The website states, "Tom Pudding Designs published Jan Eaton's designs for cross-stitch, blackwork, and needlepoint from 1999 until 2005. The original designs are gradually being made available here as free downloads, and there are a lot of designs here to see!

  • 03 of 06

    Needle Delights

    Rainbow Gallery

    This website has posted a free pattern provided by Rainbow Gallery Threads for three blackwork ladies that you can download and stitch on 28-count linen.

  • 04 of 06

    Needlework Tips and Techniques

    Needlework Tips & Techniques
    Carol Leather

    This site, run by Carol Leather, features several free blackwork patterns that are suitable for the beginner, including this simple rosette design or the blackwork pears pattern.

    Carol has also posted a helpful page covering fill patterns in detail, as well as working compensation stitches and tips for choosing a suitable fill.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Save the Stitches

    Save the Stitches
    Nordic Needle

    The Nordic Needle has posted an excellent history of Blackwork on its Save the Stitches site.

    In addition to historical information, this page also discusses the embroidery fabrics, needles and threads or fibers typically used for blackwork, as well as tips and tricks, and techniques to try.

  • 06 of 06

    The Blackwork Archives

    Paul Kate Marmor

    This site, produced by Paul Kate Marmor, is dedicated solely to Blackwork and features a wealth of Elizabethan patterns inspired by 16th- and 17th-century designs. Be sure to check out the gallery to see how the designs have been used for costumes.