Embroidery experienced a revival (along with anything else Elizabethan) during Victoria’s reign. Authors writing about characters in the 19th Century, therefore, can utilize embroidery detail in their characters’ costumes to help set the backdrop for whether the fashions are current or older.
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Blackwork embroidery, for example, was re-popularized in the 19th C, and its original rules of application no longer applied. Embroidery had become rather freeform. Originally, blackwork consisted of black threads cross-stitched onto natural linen along cuffs and other visible places. The once-sumptuary embroidery form may be described in its original styles with heraldic elements and Arabic geometrics, or, it may be useful to show characters with the then-trendy picturesque scenery in blackwork. Some modern re-enactors and artisans have revived the embroidery form in stylized scenery. Black and white threads together became common, along with whitework and even goldwork (commonly noted in ecclesiastical attire), and many other styles.
A number of terms were well in use in relation to embroidery, such as the coining of the term “Spanish work” when referring to blackwork embroidery. Catherine of Aragon is often credited with popularizing its form when she took numerous blackwork-embroidered dresses with her to England from Spain. The running Holbein stitch got its name when informal portraits were done by new artists such as Hans Holbein simply for the sake of recording new items made for the wardrobes of the members of the court. By Victorian times, embroidery of many forms often emulated and even surpassed its historical roots and in reflection of the increasing freedoms of the times, the rules of embroidery were often broken in creative designs.