Getting Started with Blackwork Tutorial

Blackwork embroidery is easy! If you have a few minutes I can show you how:

First, gather your materials:

Colourful silk or cotton floss (blackwork doesn’t have to be black)

Aida or Evenweave fabric


A tapestry needle

stitching materials

Next, how to read your pattern:

Each line on the pattern is a stitch on your fabric, in a straight line up, down or across.

Where the graph lines cross, that is the hole in your fabric.

pattern stitch close up

A stitch can be on a diagonal.

stitching in progress

Sometimes there’s a half-stitch.

This is where your fabric forms a square, so it may be easier to poke a hole in the fabric with a sharp needle before completing the fractional stitch.

Half stitch

There are also long-stitches:

Long stitch

Stitch the outline of the pattern object first.

Use one strand of floss for all stitches if you are using different coloured flosses for the outline and the fill pattern.

outline stitching

If you are using the same colour for the outline and the fill pattern, then use two strands of floss for the outline and one strand of floss for the fill pattern, so that there is some contrast between the two.

Continue stitching the fill pattern.

stitching in progress

That’s it, you’re stitching blackwork!

If you’ve ever cross-stitched, you’ll recognize this as a back-stitch. The traditional stitch for blackwork embroidery is the Holbein stitch, where you skip a stitch after every stitch, then turn around and fill in the missed stitches. This allows you to create the same pattern on both sides of the fabric. When working with variegated threads, I find it easiest to stitch a back-stitch because this keeps the stitches grouped together and the colour changes in the floss flow nicely.

There are free patterns here to give you a start.

Happy Stitching!


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