Blackwork has a fascinating history. First known as Moorish work or Spanish work it came to the Tudor Court in England with Catherine of Aragon. This geometric patterning became a popular addition to the collars & cuffs of the elaborate garments that were worn. The technique evolved into a more pictorial style during Elizabethan times. Blackwork has fallen in and out of favour over the years which is now most commonly used to create creatively shaded tonal images.
Crewelwork is most commonly associated with the Jacobean period. Traditionally a two-ply wool (crewelwool) is stitched onto a heavy linen twill and was often used to decorate home furnishings like bed hangings. This style of embroidery was very fanciful with disproportionate elements in bold colours. Often large complex motifs were mixed with animals and insects along with stems, trunks and hillocks.
Goldwork embroidery is in some ways far more achievable than expected yet can be far more fiddly in other ways, but is one of the most visually stunning forms of embroidery. It is worth remembering the stitching can be gold, silver, or copper but this is still know as goldwork embroidery.
The art of stitching with gold originated in the East 1000s of years ago but within the UK it is more commonly associated with the Medieval period. Opus Anglicanum (English Work) was world renowned with many fine examples still surviving to this day.
Two of the most iconic modern goldwork pieces are both the Queen’s and the Queen Mother’s Coronation robes which are kept within the Royal collection. Both of these unique gowns were embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework.
Mixed stitches is an experimental style of embroidery that Jen has become known for. By mixing together traditional techniques in unexpected combinations along with unusual materials, spectacular modern pieces of embroidery can be created whilst still staying true to the techniques used.
In its most basic form silk shading is the art of blending different shades of thread together to create a smooth gradation of colour. Often the technique is know as ‘long and short’ or ‘needle painting’ as this form of embroidery lends itself to depicting lifelike stitching. By matching threads accurately to an image and manipulating stitch angles flora and fauna can be beautifully translated into embroidery.
Whitework embroidery can be a varied form of traditional stitching so long as it is white thread on white fabric. All of the different forms have unique properties with different origins.
Mountmellick embroidery hails from Ireland is very chunky, whilst Broderie Anglaise (English embroidery in French) is far finer with eyelets forming delicate patterns. Often different types of whitework are combined together to further enhance the effects created.
Tool kit tips
An embroidery tool kit does not need to be large, a few good quality tools will be enough…
- good quality, sharp scissors with a fine point
- needles in a range of different types & sizes
- mellor, essential for any goldwork
- beeswax, essential for any goldwork
- dedicated goldwork scissors, again with fine points and sharp blades
- tweezers, very useful for unpicking
- stiletto, essential for eyelets
- laying tool, essential for canvas work
- optional extras
- pricking tool
- pouncing pack
Embroidery is ‘the art of working raised and ornamental designs in threads of silk, cotton, gold, silver or other material upon any woven fabric, leather, paper or similar surface with a needle’.
The techniques favoured by Jen all have historic backgrounds, each with their own unique properties. Her tool kit contains all of the traditional equipment and her studio is furnished with a tradition set of adjustable wooden trestles for the slate frames to rest upon; the same way stitchers have embroidered for hundreds of years.
So what makes Jen different?
Her unique approach to embroidery; traditional embroidery meets modern design. Contemporary embroidery should still be technique driven!