Blackwork on Card

Allover back work embroidery on cardstock

You will need:

  • a sheet of grid or graphing paper, a.k.a. engineer’s paper, the same size or bigger than…
  • the piece of cardstock you have chosen to embroider on. (I did my embroidery on the cover of a black Moleskine sketchbook, but of course any strong, medium-to-heavy paper should work as well.)
  • adhesive: ideally, a removable or re-positionable adhesive, though I used a weak kids paste, or if you don’t care that there is graphing paper on the back, you can use PVA;
  • an awl or a medium-to-large sharp needle (stuck in a cork for a handle is good!), for punching the holes in the card;
  • a tapestry needle that fits through the holes you punch in the card AND accommodates your choice of embroidery thread, too;
  • embroidery thread: I used 6-stranded DMC embroidery floss, but don’t see why Perle cottons, silk threads, fine crochet yarns can’t work just as well;
  • a blackwork pattern

A sheet of grid paper and the cardstock of your choice

Adhere the grid/graphing paper to the back of the card. Had I found it in time, I would have used a removable/re-positionable adhesive, so that the grid paper could be peeled away after punching, but I didn’t find my glue stick, so I used a weak paste, which sort of came off but left bits of the grid paper behind.

paste the grid paper to the back of your cardstock using a repositionable adhesive

On a folded-up placemat or dishtowel, take your awl or sharp needle and punch holes using the lines of the grid as a guide.

In this picture the grid squares are 7 mm. but on the picture of the finished Moleskine  cover I used 4-millimeters-to-a-square grid paper, for a more detailed and dense embroidery. The smallest squares I would attempt to punch into cardstock without reinforcing would probably be 3 millimeters.

For squares smaller than this I recommend lining the paper with fabric on the back—to avoid tearing—and using a smaller sharp needle to do the punching.

With an awl and using the grid lines as a guide, punch holes through the paper and card

Peel away the grid paper when you’re done punching everything.

When you have finished punching, peel the grid paper away gently

Stitch the black work pattern on this card as though it were a piece of Aida evenweave fabric. Use the blunt tapestry needle for this. You can tie knots in the thread or use tiny dot of glue to hold your thread tails down.

Made in France: Blackwork By Sonia Lucano (Murdoch Books)

Find a blackwork pattern to work. I took my pattern from this book, but there are many online resources for free patterns, as well. They are amazingly beautiful, for all their simplicity of color and design. No reason why you couldn’t work these designs in color, if you preferred. Blackwork is stitched using the back stitch and the Holbein stitch (also known as double running stitch, Spanish stitch, and line stitch). I try to use the Holbein stitch as often as the design will allow, as it uses less thread and looks neater on the back of the embroidery than the backstitch does.

Stitch the blackwork pattern onto the card as though it were an evenweave fabric

And here’s what the back cover of the sketchbook looks like, head-on.

The finished cover in tactile blackwork stitching


About smallestforest

bookbinder, crafter, lit. major, passionately curious
This entry was posted in embroidery, paper and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Blackwork on Card

  1. Marninay says:

    Oh, wow! Thanks for the tutorial, Nat! 🙂 My nephew’s been begging me to make him a notebook, and he wants a leather cover with a tribal design on it. I think this technique might just come in handy for that request. 🙂

  2. Jeanne says:

    Fascinating tutorial! Thanks for the awesome idea.

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