Needle Exchange: Back In Black II

Hello everybody! Last time we looked at the history of blackwork, this week we’re going to look at contemporary interpretations of that style.

First up we have this piece from Pins and Needles.

Illusions in Blackwork by Pins and Needles

She said, “I love quilts that show illusions of 3D, but I am not a quilter. How could I get the same effect in my work? By using Blackwork, of course! It seemed ideal, because I could choose the density of the stitching by the pattern I chose for each diamond.” Click the link under the photo to read more about this piece.

Up next we have a blackwork sampler from Bethism.

Blackwork Shading Sampler by Bethism

She said that after experimenting with shading in blackwork, she decided to try her hand at perspective. Pretty amazing piece! She said of the box on the top right, “This is my favorite of the two (boxes) because the optical illusion makes it appear as though the sides of the box curve in.” She goes on to explain the sphere, “I researched shadows and reflections and discarded a number of images before settling on this view. It was hard to know when to stop. I was constantly aware that it would be really easy to ruin it by overworking it.”  Click on the link under the photo to read all about her blackwork experiments. Mad scientist!

I love those two pieces because they take very traditional stitches and turn them on their head. Of course, no post on blackwork being used to create an optocal illusion would be complete without a nod to Escher.

Blackwork- M.C. Escher Design by bridgittepicart

Really nicely done. I like how the blackwork birds and fishes really sink into the background, and then you notice their eyes.

This next piece by sallytheskellington is a lovely take on illusion as well.

There is a Light That Never Goes Out by sallytheskellington

One of the things I love about this piece is that rather than using blackwork stitches to gradually highlight the flame in the center in a “realistic” way, she boldly creates contrasting “swatches” of gray to black stitches to achieve the same effect.

I love this piece by ceresus-parpi.

tree4 by cresus-parpi (Detail of larger piece)

The thing I really find intriguing about this work is that the use of blackwork produces a kind of shifting positive/negative space. Plus, the stitches themselves are gorgeous. It also feels a little lonely and creepy to me, without being heavy handed. Speaking of creepy-

Twins by freshmonkeypanic(ehme)

This is really fantastic. I love to be tricked into thinking I’m looking at a drawing, and then it turns out to be embroidery. The fabric reminds me of kitikata paper, which takes ink beautifully, and the stitching is like a perfect contour drawing. Really stunning. I love how stark and simple it is. Click the link below the photo to see the entire medical embroidery set.

If those two pieces above were slightly creepy, well this one scares the crap out of me.

The End is Nigh… by Ruby42

Okay. Okay. Nerds. Close your eyes, and imagine finding this on your doorstep. What’s the big deal? Bear with me. Walter Kovacs came across the material for his “face” when he was… wait for it… sewing garments in a dress shop. Okay. And then when he goes to rescue doomed kidnapping victim Blair Roche, he finds her remains in AN ABANDONED DRESSMAKER’S SHOP. See? Do you get it? It makes perfect sense that Kovacs was a secret manbroiderer. Two of the biggest turning points in his life involve stitching. Ruby’s on to something. I’m going to write the New Frontiersman about it. Also “Rorschach?” Sounds like a Flickr name to me.

Whew. Let’s keep that under our hats. On a lighter note, I’ll leave you with this.

Ruthless Organ Blackwork by Beefranck


Penny Nickels is a printmaker that started playing with needles with tremendous effect. She and her husband, Johnny Murder, have been described as “The Bonnie and Clyde of Contemporary Embroidery” and you can discover the power of her creativity at her blog.


References for this article include photos which are the property of the cited artist, and quotes which can be found on the artists’ web pages. Also, Alan Moore stuff that I made up.

Penny Nickels
Penny Nickels is a print maker, a former book binder, currently a fiber artist and fledgling writer.
Penny Nickels

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4 thoughts on “Needle Exchange: Back In Black II

  • That piece by sallytheskellington is really fabulous. On 4th of July I was captivated by the effect of the sparklers on the light around people. That’s the closest I’ve seen to someone managing to capture it!!

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