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!


15 thoughts on “Leaf Brooch: Purl chip work

  1. Hi!=)

    I have done chip work, yes, but usually only tiny segments such as flower centres. It’s fun!

    I also have Hazel Everett’s book and am looking forward to trying some of the tiny insects she has in there. I’m not anything like as far progressed with goldwork as you are, so I need to start with something lower down the difficulty scale, but I do love how much colour she’s included in her luscious book!

  2. Lots to love here, but I’m smitten with the absolute perfection of the tip of the leaf. Wow! Perfect! Wow!

  3. Hi Kathy, your leaf is looking quite splendid, and I did notice the point too.

    If I were doing this with beads (my preferred medium at the moment, since I know nought about goldwork yet), I would probably take an extra stitch after each one was attached to make sure that if the thread broke, I wouldn’t have beads or chips all over the place. Do you do this, and if not, have you thought of it? Or isn’t it done in the goldwork circles? Just curious…..

  4. Hi Kathy,

    I love your use of purl in different colors, instead of the chips. It really gives a lot of subtle texture to the leaf and the effect very pleasing!

    The other thing I really appreciate in your post is the clarity of your directions on how to “load” the purl piece using the box lined with velvet and then slide it down. Very helpful and one of these days I will try a goldwork piece. You make it seem less intimidating!

    -Sharon in France

  5. Hi Kathy,

    I have done a number of pieces of goldwork and I too like chipping. I like the look of the finished design, which starts out with what appears as randomly placed pieces coming together to make a harmonious complete design, which reflects the light.

    Your point is beautifully stitched. Best of Luck with the rest of the leaf. I am sure it will be just as stunning.

    I too have Hazel’s book and agree that it is just full of ideas,instructions, suggestions and information. A wonderful addition to anyone’s library.

    If there was only more time to stitch all the projects and ideas we have.

    Happy Stitching,

    • Hi Susan,

      I agree whole heartedly with you about the lack of time! If only I was a zillionaire and could just play all day…but then I’ld be bored I’m sure!

      Liebe Grüße,

  6. Your leaf is looking absolutely wonderful!! Thank you for sharing your explanation and tips and great quality photos with us. The local stitchery guild that I’m a member of has Hazel Everett’s book in the library. Must borrow it now 🙂

    • Hi Jeannette,
      I’m so pleased that the photos give you a good idea of what I’m doing – that’s the plan! Definitely borrow the book, it’s well worth a good read.
      Liebe Grüße,

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