Now that may seem like a strange question on a blog about needlework but the answer is related, we promise !!
Goldwork is an opulent and glamorous form of embroidery using metal threads or wires. Its use reached a remarkable level of skill in the Middle Ages, when a style called Opus Anglicanum (see previous POST) was developed in England and used extensively in church vestments and hangings.
After this period it was also used in the clothing and furnishings of the royalty and nobility throughout Europe. In the 21st century it is seen on military and ceremonial uniforms, royal regalia, haute couture and the odd pop star too.
It has always been reserved for occasional and special use only, due to both the expense of the materials and the time to create the embroidery, and because the threads – no matter how expertly applied – will not hold up to frequent laundering of any kind.
The Royal School of Needlework is renowned for its teaching of goldwork and the traditional methods are used in churchwork, livery and royal commissions.
It’s an ancient skill originally developed in Asia and has been used for at least 2000 years. The beauty of goldwork embroidery not only lies in the design but in the way that the light shimmers and reflects off the goldwork.
The term ‘Goldwork’ is still used even when the threads are imitation gold, silver or copper. Most of the metal wires used to make the threads have never been entirely made of gold. They were usually made of gold-coated silver (silver-gilt) or sometimes cheaper metals.
Today most metal threads are available in silver, copper and gold.
To master goldwork, embroiderers need to perfect six key techniques: passing, pearl purl, cut work, chips, French knots and essing. These are then combined to create the textured and sumptuous pieces of embroidery.
Goldwork is always applied to the surface of the fabric and is applied by hand with a needle and thread. It is held on to the surface of the fabric by a fine second thread. The ends of the thread are cut off or are pulled through to the back of the embroidery and carefully secured with the couching thread.
We have enjoyed watching this video although it is a lengthy one so it might be worth bookmarking and watching when you have some “me” time.
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