Leaf Brooch: Purl chip work

If  you’re interested in metal thread work and not familiar with Hazel Evertte’s book “Goldwork” you should try to find a copy to look at and decide if you can honestly live without it. It’s packed with information, instructions and ideas. In fact, her book gave me the courage to try an idea I had for the leaf brooch. It wasn’t a new idea and certainly not original but she talked about it and has a photo of it in her book so I had no qualms about using this technique on my leaf brooch.

What’s this technique? Chip work using purl threads rather than check thread. Often chip work is done using check thread because the jagged edge of the check really sparkles when it’s applied in tiny chips. For this project I didn’t want sparkle as much as I wanted a glow and a mix of colors.


To fill in the areas between the silk wrapped purl veins, I decided to use a mix of gold and copper colored purl cut into tiny, tiny pieces and applied in a random pattern. You can see in the photo above the mix of the two colors of purl thread.

Now, lots of people don’t like chip work. They find it tedious and too fiddly. But I love it! It’s like doing very delicate mosaic work with beautiful, miniature, metal tesserae.


The secret is knowing how to do it and what tools are indispensable. For this project I used a #12 needle (very thin!) # 2 gold and copper purl threads, metal cutting scissors, gold coloured sewing thread, wax and a shallow box lined with velvet. The threads are cut into small pieces inside the box with the scissors designated only for metal threads. I tried to cut them so the length of the thread was no longer 1 and  1/2 times the width. It’s always a guesstimate and it’s easy enough to cut the pieces again if they’re too long.

When threading the piece of purl onto the needle, keep the purl in the box. The velvet lining in the bottom of the box keeps the purl from jumping out and sliding all over, so it’s easy to catch the piece on your needle. This is my “top tip” and it makes it SO much easier!


Once you have the tiny piece of purl on your needle, tilt your needle tip up towards the ceiling. The purl will slide down the needle and onto the thread. Keep yur eye on it because it might need a gentle nudge with you finger to help it slide down the thread.


Slide the piece of purl all the way down to the fabric where you will attach it. Then insert the needle through the fabric right at the end of the purl. Give it a very very gentle tug if it doesn’t sit securely down on the fabric.

To achieve the random effect, alternate the colors you choose each time. You may place the same color side by side but the overall effect will be a blend of colors. Try not to place many pieces of purl lying in the same direction – ie – three next to one another all going vertically or horizontally. This will catch the eye and ruin the effect of randomness.

DSCF3433Here is the leaf partly finished. you can see how beautiful the mix of colors is and how the pieces of purl have sometime bent to snuggle in together. This is OK as far as I’m concerned when doing this kind of chip work. If I was laying the purl down to make a formal pattern where each piece was meant to lie perfectly straight next to one another, the twists and kinks would not be acceptable. In that instance I would always strive to make each piece as perfect as possible. Here, however, that isn’t the effect I want and I like the kinks and bends.

In Havel Everette’s book you can see loads of examples of different metal threads used in chip work. I love them all and can’t wait to try another one!

Do you like chip work? Have you tried it? Let us know!


Millefiori Brooch – pearl purl

This is FUN! Really, really fun! Making something so small and so pretty that I’ll get to wear is a treat! Why haven’t I done this before? Well, I don’t know, except that I’d never seen anything like it before.

The small size of the project means that progress is relatively quick; I do one step and can see a difference in only an hour or so. That’s great, especially at the beginning of a school year for a teacher – one of our busiest times. The small size of the brooch also means that I don’t tire of doing anyone thing because nothing takes that long to complete before moving on to the next step, which will be different from the previous one! This is really a perfect project for me.


As you can see from the photos, I’ve been working on getting  the pearl purl couched down all around the outside of the brooch and all around the edge of the heart in the center of the brooch. Once again, the instructions are very clear. Bring the needle up next to the gold passing threads, lay the pearl purl next to the couched down passing threads, lay the pearl purl you are attaching inside the thread and take the needle down angled slightly through to the back. Actually, Jenny’s instructions are longer and more complete in the book of instructions but you can get the general idea…I hope!

DSCF3215Couching down pearl purl is one of my favourite techniques in metal thread work: I love the little click or pop sound that it makes when the thread snaps into the groove between each of the golden pearls.

When couching the pearl purl inside the heart shape, it’s equally important to bring the needle up close to the couched passing threads and angle the needle back under them a bit as your needle goes to the back. During this process, I had to continue to be careful not to pull too tightly so the soft padding didn’t get squished due to overzealous tightening of each stitch.

DSCF3226As I stitched on the pearl purl I was grateful for Jenny’s tip to keep the passing threads on the front (not plunged through to the back just yet and the ends of the threads covered in tape. I would have been catching my needle on them had they been plunged through – even if they were secured. As it was, I did catch the ends of the threads in the loop of my working thread and, had the tape not been on the ends, probably would have unraveled the thread and I would have been really angry. Great tip!


After the heart was outlined both inside and out the last bit of pearl purl to stitch down was a circle in the middle of the heart shape. I drew the shape on the felt first, using a coin that was the right size. This stitching was the most interesting, as I was working over a hump and the pearl purl had to curve quite a bit as I stitched it down. It wasn’t difficult, I just had to be careful. My number one tip for metal thread work is GO SLOWLY. Let each stitch take as long as it takes and it will most likely turn out very well. If you hurry, you can be 100% sure you will make a mistake and damage the delicate metal threads.


Below is the heart with all the pearl purl attached. Even at this unfinshed stage I think it looks just lovely.


Below you can see the height of the padding on the heart. Remember the whole piece is a little less than 4 cm or 2 inches from tip to tip. It’s possible I’ve padded it more that Jenny intended – my ability to measure the height of the padding wasn’t good. I tried a ruler and a tape measure and still wasn’t sure so I went with what looked about right.



The next steps involve using the beautiful colored purls and seed beads to add detail outside the circle. I can’t wait to get started!

What project have you been doing lately that you just fell in love with?!

Colored Passing thread – how pretty!

Once the gold passing thread was couched on the heart for the Millefoiri Brooch, the next step was to attach the beautiful Red opal passing thread. This thread is a blend of colors changing subtly from gold to a pinkish color to red and back again. If I’d seen it in a shop I probably wouldn’t have purchased it – I wouldn’t have know what to DO with it! That’s one of the great things about working on a first class kit: the use of materials is often something new and you can explore using different materials in a way that’s been tried and tested.

As I couched down the red opal passing thread, I had to be careful not to pull the couching stitches too tight. I’ve discovered that this is a huge problem for me when using gold threads on a padded shape. I tend to pull the couching stitches too firmly, resulting in the padded shape being pushed upwards. The gold threads are then flat or almost flat against the fabric and the padded area is rising above the fabric without any threads on the padded area.

The goal is to work the passing thread onto the gently sloping side of the padded heart. In the photo above I’ve done a pretty good job. Below you can see the red opal all finished and the last rows of gold passing thread couched down. The slope of the padded heart is still looking pretty good. I think I’m getting better at this as I work! I need to remind myself…gently, gently!


In the photo below you can see one of the tricks I’ve learned from Jenny Adin-Christie. Look at the ends of the passing threads. Each of them is secured with a tiny piece of invisible tape. The tape prevents the thread from unraveling as I continue to work on the rest of the brooch. Pretty clever , I’d say!

The next step is to couch down pearl purl on the outside and inside of the passing threads. All the plunging of the passing threads is to be done at the end of the project – the last step- so I’ll have to be careful when I work the pearl purl around the outside tip! I’ll let you know how it goes!


Above is a photo of the heart brooch almost finished. In respect for the work Jenny Adin-Christie has put into her kits, especially the outstanding and well thought through instructions, I have removed all images of the piece in progress.