Blackwork and other needling
Blackwork is really a misnomer for a style of monochromatic embroidery; it has also been called Spanish work, though Spaniards have no monopoly on it. It has seemed to appear in Spain, sometime during the Moorish occupation (along with a particular style of architecture that leaned towards the color of blue, and a predilection for fountains and still pools in gardens), so it is possible the style was influenced by North African or Middle Eastern cultures. It's all supposition, of course, as textiles don't last very well over the centuries.
If you would like to follow this further, try some of these links:
Master Richard Wymarc's Medieval Embroidery Webpage
Blackwork Embroidery Archives
Joan Schraith Cole's Medieval and Renaissance Embroidery - mostly links, now, but good ones
Fill-in Patterns from Sixteenth Century Blackwork Embroideries
This is a "favor" that went to a new member of the SCA household to which I belong. Its emblems are the letter "I", a waxing crescent moon, a star, and roses.
I developed this design from the concept of reversible embroidery (possibly Arabic in origin), using the four-petalled rose and rosebud common in early counted-stitch embroidery, in a border pattern. The remainder of the emblems sit inside the border, outlined, and with a filler stitch.
The fabric is 22-count Aida cotton, with a single strand of DMC embroidery floss. Each stitch covers one thread, but two threads counts as one "stitch" for the purpose of the design. The piece is three and a quarter inches by six and a quarter inches. It has a backing with a belt loop. The lowest section that seems upside-down, is; it is folded to the back as part of the backing, and holds the date and my names: legal, SCA, and SCA in Arabic.
The embroidery itself took about twenty or so hours; the time is hard to track, as most of it was done piecemeal over several weeks, but I measured the section of border I completed during a movie and was able to approximate from that. Others may stitch more quickly than I do.
For those interested, I've created some S.C.A. patterns for cross-stitch or beading: Cragmere device (33x40; white field and swans, red chevrons, black wreath and swan beaks), Tir Righ badge (39x39; blue field and center, and white star), An Tir badge (39x38; black head, red tongue and eye, and some white for teeth and shaping). These patterns were used on my "address" banner and "mailing label"... Have fun!