Bleary eyed, I walked into my studio this morning and saw the blackwork Hearts and Flowers piece on the bed. Since I didn’t have my glasses on, what I saw was a group of lighter or darker shapes. Something that looked a bit like this:
It was a lucky thing that I “saw” the piece this way before I began to stitch the next heart in the circle. I hadn’t yet decided which pattern to use, but now I can see clearly (with my glasses on!) that I need to choose a pattern that produces a darker shape rather than a lighter shape. Look at the whole design and you can see that the center shape and the hearts at the top and right side are all three quite dark, while the flower shapes are lighter.
Shade and shadow are effects that are more pronounced in blackwork than in work stitched with colored threads. The density of the stitches determines how dark each shape will be. I hadn’t really considered the effect of the whole when I began the piece and, this morning, I saw what my random design choices had produced – a pattern of light and dark shapes on the outside of the circle and a dark center.
Here are enlarged photos of 4 of the shapes
The dark center
The lighter flower at about 2 o’clock in the circle…
The darker heart at 3 o’clock…
and the lighter flower at 5 o’clock.
When looking at all of these on paper, I couldn’t have imagined how different the strength of the color would be when stitched. It’s this play of shade and shadow that makes blackwork so interesting to look at and so changeable in different light.
As an experiment, this afternoon I took my hoop outside and photographed it in the fading sunlight at an angle. It’s funny, really, when you think about it: I work at tiny, intricate stitches, making sure each on is in the exactly correct place but what I see when I look at the whole aren’t those tiny stitches, but the overall effect of the pattern all those stitches make.
It’s one of things things I like best about embroidery: we work so closely stitching that we “see” our work, hour after hour, in a certain way and from a certain perspective. Then, when we step away from it, or come on it early in the morning with bleary eyes, it suddenly looks completely fresh and new!