goldwork

embroidery with metal threads

Goldwork is the art of embroidery using metal threads. It is particularly prized for the way light plays on it. The term "goldwork" is used even when the threads are imitation gold, silver, or copper. The metal wires used to make the threads have never been entirely gold; they have usually been gold-coated silver (silver-gilt) or cheaper metals, and even then the "gold" often contains a very low percent of real gold. Most metal threads are available in silver and sometimes copper as well as gold; some are available in colors as well. A new coating technology however enables the direct coating of 24K gold on a filament yarn without any other metal or adhesive layer underneath. Goldwork is always surface embroidery and free embroidery; the vast majority is a form of laid work or couching; that is, the gold threads are held onto the surface of the fabric by a second thread, usually of fine silk. The ends of the thread, depending on type, are simply cut off, or are pulled through to the back of the embroidery and carefully secured with the couching thread. A tool called a mellore or a stiletto is used to help position the threads and create the holes needed to pull them through.
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Metal Thread Embroidery

1987 nonfiction work by Jane Lemon

1987

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