XYZZX Creations is the home of Joan Beiriger's counted cross-stitch and blackwork needlework designs.
Joan specializes in counted cross-stitch flowers, dinosaurs, and landmarks (including San Francisco).

Blackwork History

Blackwork is traditionally worked with black silk thread on ecru-colored linen. A thick free-form stitch is used to outline the motif. A thinner stitch worked in geometric patterns using the weave of the linen is used to fill in the outline. When the design is meant to be seen on both sides of the fabric such as on collars and ruffled blouse cuffs, blackwork is stitched reversible.*

No one knows when or where blackwork originated. There are 14th century historical references to a form of embroidery that may be blackwork. From existing protraits, it is known that blackwork was very popular during the 16th and early 17th century. It is believed that when the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, married England's King Henry VIII in 1509, she renewed the interest in blackwork. Blackwork was mainly used for clothing although some bed linens, wall hangings, and pillow shams also incorporated blackwork.

Modern designs use a wide range of colors, and all types of thread and evenweave fabrics. Reversible stitching is not usually done for modern pictures and clothing since the reverse side does not show. Instead of using a free-form outline, Joan Beiriger uses a chain stitch that follows the weave of the fabric. This produces a more evenly spaced outline stitch and is easier for stitchers to get beautiful results.


* Rosemary Drysdale and Ilse Altherr both teach blackwork throughout the United States at various needlework shows. Ilse Altherr has several blackwork books (including reversible) that she has self-published, "Reversible Blackwork," and "Blackwork & Holbein Embroidery." Rosemary Drysdale's book "The Art of Blackwork Embroidery" is out of print but may still be located in used and online bookstores such as

XYZZX Creations - Dept. Needlecraft - 5222 Roxanne Ct - Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 443-5769; e-mail: