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Blackwork ABC
July 7th, 2008

I have been drooling over a great Art Nouveau ABC in blackwork for over a year. I saw it in the Online Needlework Show and loved it but it was priced per letter and was pretty expensive for the whole thing. This spring there was a new price for the whole alphabet and I snapped it up! It’s by Dessins DHC in France. They seem to do a lot of blackwork in France and a lot of it is lovely. I’ve never done blackwork before and wanted to try it. You can see the whole alphabet here.

Here’s my progress so far:

I took this along to Tennessee since my former travel project is now on a scroll frame. Although it’s a big piece of fabric, I figured that since there are no color changes it was simple enough to do in the car. I’m stitching it on Victorian Red Ariosa Fine which is a 22-count blend of 63% cotton, 37% rayon. I had a time figuring out how much fabric I needed because the chart specs were very confusing. It says it was done on 11-count black aida and came out to 18 cm on a side (per square). If it was really done on 11-count fabric, the squares should be about 9 inches which is about 23 cm. I finally decided that they don’t know how many centimeters there are in an inch. However, somewhere along the line I also decided that the squares are 96 stitches on a side. There are really 100, but the 10s lines are not very pronounced, and they gratuitously added 2 rows of blank squares around the edges of the chart. Naturally I didn’t realize this until after I had cut the piece of fabric I ordered, marked the starting point, and started stitching. So instead of having 3″ borders I was going to have a 3″ border on the left and a 2″ border on the right. But not to worry, I changed my spacing between squares from 10 threads to 8 and decided that I will finish it as a banner rather than framing it, so I don’t need very much on the sides anyway.

Way back before I got the fabric, I experimented on a piece of 22-count fabric I had and decided not to do the crosses with 2 threads as specified. You can stitch with 2 strands but it completely covers the fabric and I actually liked the effect of 1 strand which lets you see the x’s (if you look closely enough). Of course I forgot all this by the time I got started stitching, but now I’m on track and doing everything (x’s and top-stitching) with one thread. It’s a little tricky because stitching over 1, there is a tendency for the floss to slip along the fabric threads. To make the x’s behave, I’m completing them as I go. For the top-stitching, I just have to be careful and not pull the floss too tight.

If you wonder how I could see to do this in the car, mostly I couldn’t. I really need a magnifier even for normal-sized stitching. My glasses don’t let me focus close enough to see so I just take them off and stitch with my nose. But the interstates are not as smooth as they ought to be, so this worked better when we were visiting and I was not being bumped up and down.

It goes pretty fast — this is about 2 weeks worth of progress and I have used almost one skein of white floss. You don’t have to refer to the chart all that often, but some of the squares are almost solid stitching so I really have no idea how long it will take. I plan to put this aside and go back to the fruit crate label when I get to the end of the first skein.

4 Responses to “Blackwork ABC”
  1. From Julie Hanavan Olsen
    12 years, 2 months ago

    OMG! I love them!!! That is the coolest alphabet ever!

  2. From fenny
    12 years, 2 months ago

    Meredith, it looks fantastic, and in just 2 weeks, so much progress, incredible!

  3. From Rifestitch
    12 years, 2 months ago

    Wow, very cool on the red!! I have had this on the Lust List ever since I found it – and their Black Lace is there, too – though you are the first person I have found brave enough to start it!! If I ever get around to adding it to the stash, and then working it, I want to do it on black fabric, but want to throw a sprinkling in of other colors – maybe only red as an accent, maybe other jewel-tones.

    Make sure you keep us updated as you work on this – I want to see how this one works up!!!

  4. From Alanna
    12 years, 2 months ago

    That’s looking really lovely, Meredith. A very unique alphabet indeed! You seem to have used an alternate corner piece than the one shown in black- your choice? I really like it in any case. Can it still be called ‘blackwork’ even though you’re doing it on red? I have heard of redwork and whitework- any difference apart from the colour?

    I can’t believe you can stitch in the car!!! I would get carsick within 10 minutes!

    Maybe I should call it whitework – I think it goes by the color of the thread, not the fabric. I did rearrange the corner pieces – I thought the circular one would go better next to the X or Z. I also thought about doing it horizontally but will do it vertically as shown. The red fabric goes with my kitchen – I have red wainscoting. And I did consider doing different blocks in different thread colors but decided that wouldn’t go as well on red. On black I think it could look good.

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