To download a pdf of these instructions please click here

Before you even get started with the stitching, consider the size of your fabric. Please ensure you purchase fabric large enough to allow for clearance around your design (usually 2-3 inch/50-75mm all round) this helps when you come to mounting or framing your piece.


Thread is made from 6 strands. You will need to separate the thread into individual strands for stitching your design.

To create blackwork embroidery you can use back stitch or holbein stitch (double running stitch). 

Traditionally, blackwork is stitched so that it is the same on the reverse side but this can be both laborious and tricky depending on the complexity of the patterns so don’t worry if the back of your piece is a little messy! 


Back stitch

Stitch up through 2, down through 1, up through 3  Then down through 2, up through 4 Then down through 3, up through 5 etc.


 Double running stitch (Holbein stitch)

 Start with running stitch

Stitch up through 1 down through 2 up through 3 Then down through 4 up through 5 etc....

 Then go back the other way to make it double running/holbein stitch  

Stitch down through 4 up through 3 Then down through 2 up through 1 etc...


Where to start? 

Begin by stitching the outline of your design but before you get going you will need to work out where to start to ensure your design is placed in the centre of your fabric. This will mean you have a nice even amount of fabric all around your piece when it is finished.
First, find the approximate centre of your fabric by folding it into quarters. Now, take a look at your chart - you will see the centre point of the design is indicated on the chart with arrows. To find a starting point count out from the centre point on the chart to a point on the outline of the design. For example - on the chart to the right you can see you would need to count out from the centre point to the left by 7 squares to reach the outline. Now, from the centre of your fabric, count out by the same number of squares (on your aida) in the same direction and you will have found a place to start stitching the outline from. If you want to start in a top corner you will need to count across and then up to find your starting point. As with most instructions this sounds more complicated than it actually is! 


Count out by 7, start stitching here!

 Now you can start stitching the outline of your design. Traditionally the outline of blackwork embroidery is stitched with 2 strands of thread but I prefer the uniform appearance when a single strand is used for both outline and fill patterns. If this is your first time doing blackwork embroidery maybe try both ways out to see which your prefer.

Sometimes you will need to stitch diagonally across squares like this. Sometimes you will need to count 1 across and 2 up and stitch diagonally across like this. Sometimes you will need to count 2 across and 1 up and stitch across like this.

Or sometimes 3 across and 1 up, or 2 across and 3 up - you get the idea I hope!


In places on the chart there may be long straight lines, for instance on the stem of the flower on the example shown above. Don’t just stitch this as one big long stitch as it will be floppy! You can span 2 squares of aida at a time if you wish but I would not recommend more than this or you may get saggy stitches! Sometimes, when stitching diagonally, you may need to span a little further, just be careful with your tension, keeping it taut enough so that your stitches lie flat, while not pulling the fabric.

Once you have stitched the outline of your design you can start on the fill patterns. Some people like to start at an edge, others from the middle, with practice you will find what works best for you, there is no right or wrong way.

I strongly recommend checking your counting to help minimise mistakes!
When finishing a thread stitch it under a few stitches on the reverse side before snipping to keep it in place and tidy.

As with most instructions, all of this sounds more complicated than it actually is - I would recommend giving it a go and things will hopefully make sense and be quite straightforward. Please click here to be taken to some free charts which you might like to try and if you need any help, drop me a line, click here for the contact form, I'll do my best to help!