Getting ready for RSN Goldwork course : threads

The course outline for the Goldwork course is very clear and specific about which threads we’ll be using for our project. Any other threads will have to be used in future course work or on our own. By limiting the threads, and therefore the techniques, the teachers at the RSN can ensure we understand the principles thoroughly.
Threads to be used are;

1. “Japanese thread No.8 – this is a metallic foil wrapped around a cotton core.  It is couched down in pairs with a waxed single thread, taking care to twist the Japanese thread slightly to stop the central core from showing. The ends are plunged to the back.”

This is my very least favorite thread in the world to use. I really, really don’t like it. It frays, it splits and I have not yet managed to be completely successful using it. I predict learning to use this thread will be the most difficult part of the course

2. “Pearl Purl No.1– this thread looks like a string of beads and needs to be expanded by stretching very gently. (Please make sure you have had tuition before attempting to expand this thread!)  A single waxed thread is stitched down in the grooves every few purls.  Pearl Purl is often used as an outline and to contain chipping.  Pearl Purl is not plunged, but cut to size.”


I like this thread that’s not really thread at all -it’s wire.  I love stretching it gently apart and couching it down. It’s pretty and adds texture to the piece. It will be fun for me to use this thread.

3. “Twist No.1 ½ – this is a 3 ply metallic cord.  It can be couched over or stitches can be hidden between the twists with a single waxed thread. The ends are plunged to the back.”


I haven’t used this thread yet but it looks like it won’t be too difficult to apply. It’s a new thread I’ll learn to use and I always like learning something new!

4. “Rococo/Check Thread No.7 fine – a metallic foil wrapped around a cotton core which has then been crinkled.  This is couched down with a single waxed thread.  The ends are plunged to the back.


This thread looks like fun! It will definitely add sparkle and texture. My one concern is plunging it to the back – it could be bumpy as I pull it through the fabric.
5. “Bright check No.6 – this is a metallic spring with a zig-zag pattern. This is used for chipwork and cutwork.  The thread is cut to the size you need and threaded (like a bead) onto a double waxed thread.

This thread I’ve used on my Colors of India design and it was fun to attach to the silk. Cutting the thread into short pieces first, it’s then attached to the fabric like tiny beads. The sparkle can be blinding! Bling!

6. “Smooth Purl No.6 – this is a shiny metallic spring with no pattern.  It is used for cutwork and cut to size, then threaded (like a bead) onto a double waxed thread.

I used smooth purl to do S-ing on the Colors of India piece. It was such fun to watch a lovely, rope like pattern emerge as I attached each piece of gold to the fabric. This thread I know and have had pretty good luck with – until recently when I snagged it on a piece and it all unraveled!

7. “Spangles– similar to a sequin. It is stitched down with one chip or bead.”

Bling! Bling! Bling! I’ve used these on my first and only blackwork piece, Blackwork Hearts and Flowers. They’re a bit fiddly but certainly add…bling!

These will be the materials, along with a gorgeous piece of dark green silk, I’ll use in the design I’ll be sharing with you later. It’s not long now! Is there anything specific I can ask about using any of these gold “threads” that you’ve always wanted to know? Leave a comment and you can be sure I’ll ask!

Getting ready for RSN Goldwork course : text books

Some of you have asked about the text books required for the RSN Goldwork course and today I’m going to share that list with you.

There are four books that we’re asked to get:

Metal Thread Embroidery by Jane Lemon, New Ideas in Goldwork by Tracy A. Franklin, Goldwork Embroidery  by Mary Brown and Royal School of Needlework Embroidery Techniques by Sally Saunders. I already owned two of these and two of them I’ve not had the opportunity to look at yet. They’re waiting for me at our friends home in England, having been delivered there by Amazon. It’s great to have such accommodating and lovely friends!

My favorite book on goldwork in my library is Goldwork Embroidery by Mary Brown. I like it because  she’s included so much varied information. The first section of the book is about the history of goldwork from the 12th century through to the 20th century. She then writes a detailed and clear chapter about the history and construction of metal threads. I love learning about how the materials we use are made! Following all this historical information she discusses materials, equipment and preparation techniques for goldwork. The final chapter of the book (before the specific projects that are so inspiring!) is a chapter on goldwork techniques. From my perspective this is the most valuable part of any of the books I have in my library. Her instructions are detailed and really clear; I often refer to them when I’m unsure about something I’ve learned but can’t quite remember. If you’re interested in her design, kits etc. check out her web site.

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A solution for cutting gold

I was glad to find out that I’m not the only one unable to consistently cut purl to the correct length. Christina wrote that she, too, was having trouble cutting gold purl to the right length.

Nicola Jarvis uses her eye and doesn’t need to depend on any sort of measuring tool (like a ruler!). But Nicola is a fine artist with a highly developed artistic eye. I am not.

Cutting the purl to the wrong length makes getting the purl to lay snug over the padding difficult: too long and it stands proud of the padding and cracks: too short and it leaves a gap between the purl and the fabric.

While this little idea won’t solve the problem of measuring the first piece, it will help you get subsequent pieces cut to the same or slightly greater or lesser length. As importantly, it will help you keep the purl in one place, so it isn’t wiggling all around, making it really tricky to cut it at all.  Sometimes it seems as if it’s alive, it wiggles so much!

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