how to

How to create a blackwork embroidery using cookie cutters
(plus a free fill-in pattern for your Christmas projects)

FREE blackwork embroidery for Christmas - Ajisai Press

Cookie cutters are very versatile tools: not only useful for shaping delicious cookies, but also great as templates in craft projects, including blackwork embroidery!

For this tutorial I embroidered two classic Christmas characters, Mr and Mrs Gingerbread, but you can use cookie cutters in any shape you desire :-)

Cookie cutters used as embroidery templates

Here is a list of what you will need:

  • cookie cutters
  • an HB pencil
  • white evenweave fabric
  • black embroidery thread for the fill-in pattern
  • gold cord for the outlining (or a thick black thread, if preferred)
  • sewing thread in a matching colour to the outline thread
  • needle
  • scissors
  • a frame or a hoop (optional, but suggested)

Tracing the design

Lay out your cookie cutters on the fabric and try different arrangements until you find one you like.
Draw outlines around each shape with an HB pencil.

Using cookie cutters for blackwork embroidery pencil outlines of a blackwork embroidery

Working the fill-in patterns

Mount the fabric into the frame.
Choose one or more fill-in patterns suitable for your project, and work them in the shapes, using backstitch or double running stitch (Holbein stitch).

blackwork filling pattern

You can use one strand of black cotton floss or, why not, a fine metallic thread (mine was a shiny black and gold thread: Aurifil Brillo #646)

Christmas blackwork fill-in pattern

Outlining

Free-form designs like this can be outlined in many ways using different embroidery stitches, like stem stitch or chain stitch, but for this project I decided to use a thick gold cord secured with a simple couching stitch.

couching gold cord - blackwork embroidery Couching - Ajisai Press

Choose a starting point and secure the couching thread (a fine sewing thread) on the back of the fabric.

Lay the metallic cord along the pencil marks and hold it in place with the finer thread, making tiny regular stitches.

The gold cord in the pictures was couched using a 50wt thread in a yellow-orange colour: Aurifil Makò Cotton #2145.

When all the outline is done, tie the two unsewn ends of the cord in a bow. Secure the centre with the sewing thread and trim the excess cord.

As an alternative to the bow, if the couched cord is not too thick, you can pull it to the back of the fabric, using a large needle or a crochet hook. Buttons, beads or other charms can be added to the design, if desired.

Couching - blackwork and goldwork - Ajisai Press Blackwork gingerbread man with bow blackwork embrodery with couched outlines and bow

Now the embroidery is finally ready to be framed!

Mr and Mrs Gingerbread - blackwork embroidery

The model used in this tutorial was mounted in the lid of a wooden box, perfect for a Christmas gift!

Blackwork Gingerbread Cookies - Ajisai Press

Here is the blackwork filling designed for the occasion:

filling pattern - free for personal use only

This pattern, combined with metallic threads, will give a festive look to your projects :-)

Happy stitching, and happy holidays!

 

How to keep your place on a Blackwork or Cross Stitch chart
{DIY Chart Marker tutorial}

How to keep your place on a Blackwork or Cross Stitch chartSome charted designs for counted-thread embroideries, especially Blackwork, are very intricate and it’s easy to lose track of stitches.

To avoid this, you can:

– make a photocopied “working copy” of the pattern and use a highlighter to mark the completed areas

– fix the original chart on a metal board, and surround the area where you are working with magnetic strips and rulers (see photo to the right)

Alternatively, here is a simple and inexpensive chart marker that you can easily create by yourself:

DIY Chart Marker

DIY chart marker - Ajisai Press

DIY chart marker 3


You will need:

  • cardstock (preferably in a dark contrasting colour)
  • ruler
  • paper cutter
  • decorative-edge scissors (optional)

 

Cut a strip of cardstock, about 4,5 cm wide, and about 1,5 cm longer than your chart page on each side.

If you want, you can also decorate the two lateral edges using a pair of scalloped scissors. DIY chart marker 4Then, following the template below, cut two horizontal lines with the same width of the pattern sheet.

Chart Marker template - Ajisai Press

Your chart marker is now ready to be used: insert the chart through the two openings, and slide and position the marker where you need it.

You can use it alone or combined with another marker, with single sheets or with books and magazines.

DIY chart marker for cross stitch patterns - Ajisai Press

DIY cross-stitched chart marker - Ajisai PressOf course, you can make many other markers in any size, colour and material.

You can also add a personal touch using a colorful patterned cardstock or, why not, a piece of perforated paper worked in cross stitch.


 

The chart marker below was stitched on 18-count burgundy perforated paper with stranded cotton threads, using a floral motif from the book “Vintage Cross Stitch Borders“.

cross-stitched chart marker - Ajisai Press7

 

 

A miniature embroidery on a small scrap of hand painted linen

 

Embroidering miniatures is a great way to use small scraps of fabric instead to throw them away.

keep calm cross stitch miniature

With a textile paint or dye you can also change the colour of your fabric (you can get an incredible variety of colours using just the three primary colours!).
In this case I’m going to use a red textile paint to recolour an ivory linen that has been left over from another embroidery project.

hand painted linen tutorial1

You can use a brush or a sponge to apply the paint, depending on the effect you wish to achieve.

hand painted linen tutorial2

After painting, leave to dry for a few hours. Then fix paint by ironing on the wrong side of the fabric for 5 minutes.
… Now the fabric is ready to be embroidered!

hand painted linen tutorial3 - stitching miniature

To make a really tiny cross stitch miniature, stitch over one thread of your evenweave fabric instead of two.

Here is the chart for the “KEEP CALM and CARRY ON” motif:

keep calm free cross stitch chart

Model stitched on a 32 count linen using one strand of white cotton over one thread of fabric

Blackwork embroidery: a step by step guide

wip blackwork ladybug and daisy

In this post, I’m going to share with you some useful tips and some basic techniques to follow when stitching my blackwork designs.

blackwork embroidery equipment

MATERIALS

First of all it’s important to choose the right equipment:

blackwork fabrics and threads

– Fabric: although many embroiderers use Aida (blockweave) for their blackwork projects, for my designs I always suggest linen or evenweave fabric, because they are perfect for the partial stitches.
– Thread: traditionally, blackwork was stitched in black silk but, today, we can choose from a wide variety of threads, like cotton floss or sewing thread.
– Needle: always use a tapestry needle which has a blunt end.
– Frame: a frame is optional but helps to keep the fabric tight. I always use a scroll frame with a seat stand but, for little motifs can be helpful a smaller ring frame.

WORKING THE DESIGN

blackwork ivy front and back

People often ask me how to stitch a piece of blackwork embroidery with a perfect back. In my opinion, this is only necessary if both sides of the embroidery will be visible, also because many patterns are very intricate and not always reversible.
Anyway, in the video below, I will show you some tricks: how to start and end stitching without knots, and how to work the Holbein stitch (also known as double running stitch) correctly, for a neater back.

“Tea Party” chart: https://www.ajisaipress.com/product/mini-blackwork-motifs-tea-time/