Setting up the blackwork project

Blackwork is a type of embroidery that requires counting. The different diaper patterns are built on geometric shapes – squares, crosses, diamonds, etc.. This means that it’s REALLY important that your design is centered on your fabric. By that, I mean centered on the warp and the weft of the fabric – as exactly centered as possible. Naturally I try to center all my design on the warp and weft of the fabric so that it stitches up without the bias pulling it out of shape. But, more often than not, I rely on my eyes and so far that’s worked. Because this is my first blackwork project, I wanted to make sure that I was giving myself all the advantages I could and getting the design centered was the first step to final success.

The first thing to do is to find the center warp and center weft threads. (Remember weft goes from right to left…I always remember which is which because ‘weft’ rhymes with ‘left’). Once you’ve located the center threads, stitch long basting stitches along those threads, making a large cross or plus sign in on the fabric.

Now, if you haven’t already, find the vertical and the horizontal center of the pattern. Mark the centers outside the area of the design. (This is so you won’t accidentally draw these centering lines on your fabric as part of the design!) You can see them in the photo above at the outside tips of each of the hearts.

When you tape the pattern down on the light table, be sure to place the fabric so that the cross is lined up with the vertical and horizontal marks on the pattern. If you do, then everything will be lined up correctly. I always tape my pattern to the glass and tape the fabric in at least three places on each of the four sides to the glass. This stops the fabric from moving too much while I’m tracing the design.

Here’s the pattern traced on the fabric. Can you see how well it’s centered? I really have only ever done this once – for this blackwork project. However, now that I know how quick and easy it is, I’ll be doing it for all the embroidery I do on even-weave fabric. It only takes a few extra minutes but it makes such a big difference in the outcome. In addition. if you leave the basting stitches in, you can tell if the fabric is aligned on the frame or the hoop when you put in on. If it isn’t aligned, you can easily see it because the basting stitches are all wonky.

What tips do you have for making sure everything is aligned and straight? Leave a comment and lets us know!

9 thoughts on “Setting up the blackwork project

  1. Kathy, This is a lovely design for blackwork. I just love that technique, the finished work is always so satisfying.

    Thank you for sharing this.


  2. Thank you most helpful:-)
    What material were you using…I always seem to want to know what material was used:-)
    I love the design Kathy.
    Take care,

    • Good mornng Alison,
      The fabric I’m using is Zweigert linen 28 count antique white. It’s just right for my first project. i wouldn’t want anything smaller right now but maybe in the future I’ll work on 32 count – but that’s pretty tiny stitches!
      Liebe Grusse,

  3. What kind of pen do you use for drawing designs on fabric? I am not a fan of :disappearing” ink pens as I worry/am concerned about the chemicals present. It can’t be good for the fabric long term…

    • Hi Dorna,
      I use a Sakura Micron Pigma 005 or 01 pen in the sepia color. These do NOT wash out in water but they also don’t run. You must be sure that you will cover the lines with stitching or you will see the lines. I don’t like the disappearing pens either and so far these work really well for me.
      Liebe Grusse,

  4. The reason i love printed linen is because it means that i do not have to worry about centering the design, drawing on with the blue pen that smudges instead of disapearing and when it does disapear it does so before i have finished with it 🙂

    I got the new RSN blackwork book by becky Hogg today, and i look forward to reading it.

    What a lovely design; i do look forward to hearing all about it as you stitch it.

  5. I look forward to your updates – your work is so lovely and you are an artist! When I have looked at your projects, I feel I had a moment of meditation and calm.

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