Smocking & Pleating (coming soon we hope)
Textiles & Thread:
Tinctures: Dyes & Inks
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The overall term of goldwork usually refers to embroidery with metal thread and various types of bullion. There are different styles of approaching the embroidery - english and japanese being the 2 main styles. For information on the japanese style - please visit the Japanese Embroidery Center. For the english style, the major teachers are all following in the footsteps of the Royal School of Needlework in England.
Metal thread - from England - is a bit of flattened metal that is then wrapped around a silk core. It comes in "popular colors" as well as gilt (gold over silver), 2% gold, silver, and copper. It comes in different types of finishes as well - smooth, rough, non-tarnishing, passing, and flat (sometimes known as japanese thread). It also comes in different sizes -- from very fine (about a sewing weight thread) to #7 which is only suitable for being couched down. Metal threads are also twisted using 2 or 3 strands. Metal threads are usually couched down. Twist may be couched following the line of the twist or barely untwisted and the sewing thead passed through the threads and sewn down. The thread is then retwisted and the stitched become invisible. Be aware that the English refer to the sewing weight and passing threads as part of the wire family, although they have the same construction as metal embroidery thread.
Wire - from England - comes in a number of different weights and designs. Some is wrapped around a hollow core like a spring. Some is designed to be "springy" and is used in that manner. Some is definitely NOT to be sprung and is usually referred to as bullion. The non-springy type is cut up and used like a bead - sewn on with a thread through the center. The springy type is couched down by placing the embroidery thread between the wires; following the angle of the coil.
Picture left: bodice front for a 16th C German style gown with bands of gold patterned couching and blackwork. Scale for the gold is 10" across and 1.35 deep stitched on 40 count (to the inch) silk mesh.
Chipwork refers to cutting the bullion into tiny 1-2mm pieces and sewing them on in clumps.
The center of this pouch is done in chipwork. The petals were done in silk in detached buttonhole. The leaves and petals were encircled and accented with purl pearl (a springy wire).
Couching down - There are a variety of ways to couch down metal threads. All of what is shown on this page is surface couching - some in patterns. The most common pattern is brick. During medieval and rennaisance times, pattern couching was done to mimic the diapering patterns found in the illuminated manuscripts. You also sew them using a variety of types of metal threads to create an almost architectural like detail and depth. This box was a project piece done to illustrate different conceps for the Needlepoint Now columns on goldwork.
The outline is jap which is brick stitched with an added couple lines of twist. The silver circle is jap - brick circular couched - outside to inside. The copper was supposed to have been undersided, but since I backed the 28ct linen... Upper left panel is the OrNue piece - Needlepoint Inc silks over gold passing. Upper right panel is also gold passing with au ver a soie 100/3 silk in a very renaissance pattern. Lower left is the same with a different pattern. Lower right is jap from a different manufacturer with gold 100/3 for the sides and purple regular au ver a soie for the pattern which is also renaissance in origin.
This leaf was done in silver passing thread and pattern couched in silk. Each of us was given the stitched outline of a leaf on silk satin and each of us did a leaf in a different technique. The leaves were then mounted on a friend's laurel cloak.
This pin cushion was done as a project piece to accompany the column on Elizabethan sweet bags and similar small work for Needlepoint Now. The rose was done in silk in petit point tent stitch. The reverse side has a borage done in silk in petit point tent stitch. The background was then done in gobelin stitch with a modern "metallic thread".
Last but not least - Spangles - also know as paillettes. Spangles are a wire that has been wrapped around a hollow core. The resulting spring is cut between each circle. Each circle is then flattened. The result is a nearly perfect circle of metal with a hole in the middle and a slight opening where the ends of the spring meet. These were sewn on usually with 3 stitches in a sort of "Y" formation with each leg originating or ending in the center hole.
Left is my sleeve and collar from a c. 1500 German style dress before the dress was madeup. The fleces of gold are real gold spangles. Some of the stems are also spangles layered together in an overlapping pattern.
Hints and Tips:
• Use the best materials you can afford - real metal makes a huge difference.
• Use the right tools - use a drum tight frame, use quality silk threads (the Guttermann's polyester is okay) for sewing down, use a mellore to adjust & nudge your metal bits carefully.
• Use base fabrics of a sufficient weight to support your work. Metal work is heavy. It pays in the long run to mount your frame with study muslin and then quality fabric.
Sources for Metal Threads and Wire:
Benton and Johnson
Golden Threads (Bill Barnes)
Hedgehog Handworks or your local needlework store for Access Commodities distributed threads and Kreinik products
All Rights to Pictures and Text Reserved by Robin L. Berry, unless noted otherwise - 2007.