Goldwork Explored Part 3: Materials Explained

Picture of Natasha Searls-Punter

Natasha Searls-Punter

Have you ever looked at a piece of Goldwork and wondered ”What is going on here?!?” At the heart of goldwork embroidery lies its namesake: golden threads. Goldwork threads come in various forms, including real metal threads and synthetic alternatives. Historically, precious metals like gold and silver were pounded into ultra-fine sheets and wrapped around silk or other cores to create lustrous threads. Today, the tradition endures with modern versions made from a metal-coated polyester core, allowing for more flexibility and affordability. The threads are available in different shades and textures, enabling artisans to create intricate patterns and textures that catch and reflect light, adding depth and dimension to their designs.

Cutwork Rough Purl (swirls), plate swirls, with stacked gold spangles, beaded elements and leaf metal sequins

Goldwork embroidery, as a style is always about the meeting of textures.- different materials of (historically) similar colours used to define different areas of the artwork through textural contrasts.

However if you are new to goldwork, identifying which ones give what effect can be a bit tricky so let us give you a cheat sheet and show you the difference:

Goldwork Threads:

Passing Thread: Quite a fine metallic thread made of a thread core, wrapped with a narrow metal thread over the top

Shown here used paired in silver with creative Or Nue style stitching from the Intermediate Goldwork Jungle Online Class

 

Japanese Thread: Metallic high shine flat paper ribbon wrapped around a thread core.

Shown here usedin a spiral from the Intermediate Goldwork Jungle Online Class

Roccoco Thread: A thread cotton core, wrapped with another thread to make a wavy effect, then wrapped with a fine metal thread similar to passing

Rococco Thread as used in the Goldwork Online Class Pear Design

 

 

Goldwork Purls

Pearle Purl: Hard metal curved wire spun tightly into purl, the most robust of the purls often used for edging

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Pearle Purl (leaf edge and central vein) as used in the Goldwork Online Class Pear Design

Smooth purl: High shine soft wire spun into a purl

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Smooth Purl shown in silver as part of the Goldwork Christmas Star Kit.

Rough Purl:  Moderately shiny soft wire spun into a purl

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Rough Purl shown here used for the big leaves and braid outside edges

Bright Check: Made in a similar way to smooth purl but using a turning triangular shaped center to make an angular purl

Bright Check used as Chipping for the cherries and cutwork for the leaves in the Introduction to Goldwork Online Class

Raisings:

Soft String aka bump: As the name suggests this is a thicker than sewing, soft string whicb can be used to build up areas of varying width and height to be covered with goldwork threads and purls

 

Bump seen here in progress as used in the Goldwork Online Class Pear Design

Felt: A mesh like fabric that doesnt fray usually made of wool or acrylic which can be built up in layers and covered with Goldwork threads and purls .

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Felt padding as used in the Goldwork Online Class Pear Design

Other Materials:

Spangles: Metal Sequins made of cut and flattened coiled wire resulting in a distinctive slit or divet in one side of the spangle.

Spangles used for foreground edges here

Plate: Flat usually shiny metal made from flattened wire which results in a stiff ribbon like material

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Gold Plate (Beetle’s Body)

Cloth of Gold: Fabric woven with metal for a high shine applique fabric

Cloth of Gold seen herein the Goldwork Christmas Stars with cutwork and Pearle Purl edges

There are many variations within each of these materials for different thickness, colour and finish as the great beauty of goldwork is the variety and meeting of materials for different sections and effects. Find all these items linked, and more specialise embroidery materials in the specialist embroidery materials section of our website. Or start with a goldwork class and try a few of these materials out for yourself.

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