Blackwork pattern of the month – ‘Facing Tortoiseshell’

Sashiko, a traditional form of Japanese embroidery using the running stitch, is a great source of inspiration for blackwork. Both techniques employ geometric patterns, and both rely on the contrast between the embroidery and the ground cloth – although Sashiko is not counted and typically uses white thread on indigo fabric. This month’s blackwork pattern was adapted from a Sashiko pattern called Mukai kikkō (facing tortoiseshell), which gives an almost 3D effect. In the diagrams, 1 grid square equals 2 threads on evenweave / linen. The repeat is highlighted in yellow.

While there’s no “right” way to stitch blackwork, you can make it easier for yourself by taking the time to understand how a pattern is constructed and planning a “route”. Here is the route that worked well for me, with new stitches shown in red.

1. Work a row of vertical lines over 4 threads.
2. Work little squiggles in-between the vertical stitches.
3. Work a line of zig-zags over the top (counting 2 threads up/down and 4 threads across).
4. Repeat.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">As you’ll see from this stitched sample, I’ve been experimenting with colour this month. Here I’ve attempted a transition from orange to copper to terra cotta, using six shades of floss (DMC 721, 720, 920, 919, 355 and 3777). Whenever I wanted to change colour I worked the vertical stitches in the old colour, then the squiggles and the zig-zags in the new colour. I then stitched the next row entirely in the new colour.As you’ll see from this stitched sample, I’ve been experimenting with colour this month. Here I’ve attempted a transition from orange to copper to terra cotta, using six shades of floss (DMC 721, 720, 920, 919, 355 and 3777). Whenever I wanted to change colour I worked the vertical stitches in the old colour, then the squiggles and the zig-zags in the new colour. I then stitched the next row entirely in the new colour.

Bethany Wilson

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