Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Goldwork Embroidery: Never Ending, but So Worth It!


When last we visited the Medallion Project, we discussed stretching pearl purl for the outline around the inside of the medallion. Since then (it seems ages ago!), I’ve finally finished the goldwork around the cinquefoil (five-petal shape) on the inside of the medallion and have started adding the gold to the Tudor-style roses.

These days, it seems as if the goldwork is never-ending! But the tediousness of the goldwork is extremely worthwhile, because it really enriches the whole project.

Goldwork on Church Embroidery Project

Here you can see the size of the medallion in context again, so you can keep in mind the size of the project. It doesn’t look too big, does it? So why is it taking Soooooooo Loooooooooong?!?!

The gold outline of the cinquefoil is worked in pearl purl, then Japanese gold thread, couched, and finally (on the outermost edge), stretched pearl purl twisted with red silk. You can find all these techniques and how to do them in previous articles here on Needle ‘n Thread:

Working with Pearl Purl
Couching Smooth Passing Thread (with differences noted below)
Stretching Pearl Purl

Goldwork on Church Embroidery Project

There are a few differences between working with Japanese gold thread and gold smooth passing thread.

First, the Japanese gold thread is wound onto two koma, or spools, so that it’s easier to couch in pairs. The koma is rounded in the middle where the gold is wound, but square on the ends, so that it rests easily on the surface of your work, without rolling away. They’re a good tool to invest in, whether you’re working with Japanese gold or smooth passing thread in any quantity. If I’m working a large, continuous area of couching with smooth passing thread, I wind the stuff on the koma first, to make it easier.

Second, this Japanese gold thread does not pinch and hold its pinch as well as smooth passing thread does. Smooth passing thread feels and operates a little more like wire, while Japanese gold is a bit softer and more pliable. So it’s actually harder to take really sharp corners with Japanese gold.

Goldwork on Church Embroidery Project

Ye medallion from the side….

Goldwork on Church Embroidery Project

And a little closer up on the gold, with some of the gold going in on one of the roses.

If you’d like to follow this project from its beginning to now, you can check out the Medallion Project Index. I’ve updated it recently, and I’ve even added a different picture. (‘Bout time, eh?!)

Don’t forget that I’m giving away a copy of Hazel Blomkamp’s book, Crewel Twists, so if you’d like to get in on that, visit the original post and follow the instructions! The give-away ends Monday morning.

Hope you have a stupendously wonderful weekend!

If you’d like access to all the tips and techniques discussed in the Medallion Project, including complete step-by-step coverage of the Tudor-Style Rose, conveniently collected in one document, interlinked, referenced, and indexed, why not add the Marian Medallion Project e-book to your library? It’s packed full of all kinds of embroidery tips for undertaking a project like this, all in a convenient electronic format for easy searching.

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(42) Comments

  1. Hi Mary! Or should I say Ave!?! WOW–your medallion is a stunner. Your client will be in very good company upon completion of your project. A quick Google of “cinquefoil window” produces a lovely photo of a window at Lincoln Cathedral where the form is used with similar colors. Keep the classics coming!

  2. Breathtaking!
    Gorgeous work Mary…wish I could stitch like you….some day!

    This is the first look you’ve given us of the entire medallion and it was definitely worth the wait. I’d love to hold it in my hand and admire the thread & stitching.

    Well done!

  3. Mary, it looks stunning. The recipient is going to love it. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful (and involved!) project.

  4. It is so beautiful! Wow! Thank you so much for continuing to share your beautiful works of art with us. It is so inspiring!

  5. Hi Mary,
    I am so in awe of this beautiful project every time you show it to us and I am even more in awe of the that it has been embroidered by some one I “know” (a very loose definition as you are an internet friend”)……the fact that we have seen your gorgeous stitching from the beginning and watched it “appear” on our screen is really an honor. Thank you so much for your continual inspiration, even though the Medallion is way beyond my skills!!!!!!
    Thank you so much.
    Dottie J.

  6. Yes, definitely, the goldwork is so worthwhile. It really adds a wonderful quality to the piece. I think you’ve carefully chosen just the right amount of goldwork overall, enough to move the observer and make a statement that this is an important piece of art, without being overwhelming or gaudy. A quietly celebratory feel just right for a worship service.

  7. Whoa! I was going to say that they better be paying you well. But, I don’t think the amount could ever pay for all you’ve put into it, no matter how much it was. that’s not meant to be disrespectful to your client but as a reminder of all that has gone into this project. $ Just somehow can’t compensate for that.

  8. That goldwork is just exquisite! It’s beautiful, I would love to be able to do that. But I’m guessing I’d start with something easier and smaller.

    Every picture you take of this medallion is prettier than the last. I know I don’t comment on every post, but I do drool over the photo’s – every time! 🙂 Be glad I’m not there in person lol


  9. That goldwork looks exquisite. Well, it all does, but from only a little distance it looks like a solid gold bezel, doesn’t it?

    A work of art, to be sure.

  10. Mary, it’s stunning! I just love the look of couched Japanese thread and it really sets this piece off. You have a really good balance between color and gold. It’s very rich looking. Your work is always exquisite and worth the time it takes!

  11. Absolutely glorious! What a wonderful thing to see – and best of all we have been able to see every step along the way. Many thanks and congratulations on this wonderful example of ecclesiastical embroidery.

  12. That medallion is so beautiful! Your work is exquisite. Talent combined with an eye for color combines to produce a beautiful piece of work that you should be proud of.

  13. Mary,

    This is looking stunning. I like how you’ve managed to balance the colors and design so that it has a effect from a distance, but still does not look coarse up close.

  14. This is absolutely gorgeous, Mary! Like so many others, I have enjoyed every post about this project from the beginning. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  15. Mary,

    The pink looks wonderful with all the areas filled (After all the comments, I just had to see how it turned out.)Maybe it’s the lighting, but the gold around the cinquefoil really seems to make it pop! Absolutely gorgeous.

  16. Hi Mary, I LOVE this project and admire that you’ve kept up with it so well I probably would have procrastinated and put it off. ANYwho…lol, I was just curious what you intended to use this piece for once finished? Do you intended to frame it? I think that would be the best option it’s just so gorgeous! Keep up the good work.

  17. Oh Mary! The Medallion is Beautiful! When did you get the confidence to take on that level of embroidery? I get nervous just looking at the speciality threads and big designs. What is a good starting project for the silk and gold threads? How will I know I’m ready to take on that kind of project?

  18. I have smooth bamboo rods that are meant to be made into bamboo pens for calligraphy. I wind *any* metal thread I intend to couch onto these. (No worries with snagging – the bamboo is totally smooth). Why are komas so dratted expensive?

    Anyway, you imply that passing thread doesn’t need to be wound like that, yes? I find it so much easier – the thread just ‘winds out’ smoothly as the rod rolls. You can see the advantage with the Koma – it would roll more smoothly because the edge are raised, and the actual thread is away from the surface the Koma is resting on. Mine is a bit of a quick and dirty fix, using the bamboo – but definitely much easier than trying to couch from a skein/loop of whichever thread.

    That’s such a great point about Jap Thread not holding a pinch so well! A good reason to choose a passing thread over Jap Thread for a project. Thankyou.

  19. G’day Mary,
    I guess it takes so long because of the multitude of ‘complicated’ stitches. Stitching that needs extra attention and decisions that have to be made after each section so ‘the whole’ flows aesthetically.
    Each problem solved causes another to become imminent. As in painting, it’s all about problem solving and problem making and solving and… each colour and tone added causes a visual reaction to the previous application, for better or worse, and needs to be evaluated at each step, and so it goes. Not that any to this would be news to you!

    And, it takes so long because you take pride in your work and won’t accept 2nd best.

    Bless you Mary, you’re always so positive and encouraging, and you must have ‘bad’ days at times. Take care of yourself and keep up this very special ‘work’ you’re doing for all of us. May you always benefit from it especially. What flows onto us is an amazing and much appreciated bonus.

    This project is so special that the mind boggles for adjectives to describe it. Good on you Mary, Cheers, Kath.

  20. Dear Mary

    This is truly inspiring, artistic, professional, beautiful work, aaaaamaaaazzzzziiiinnnnnggggg.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  21. Hello, Mary.

    Question: How did you manage to get the goldwork points in the cinquefoil frame so fine? Could you show us a close-up?


    1. How does one take a sharp corner with the pearl purl, on the inside edge, and the wrapped pearl purl on the outside edge of the quinque foil? Does the purl stay in one piece, and one just bends it at the corner? I think I understand about plunging the Japanese gold thread at the corner points, but a close up of the corner would be so much appreciated to see how to handle the entire thing!

      Such beautiful work! Thank you so much for sharing and teaching all of us.

  22. Oh “M-M”
    You are right. It is SO worth it ! There is no substitute for “Patience” when you know the finished product is going to be Magnificent ! Well Done !

  23. Hi,

    Gold work embroidery are really awesome..I would like to know whether I can find these purls for gold embroidery in India eps in chennai..plse reply as soon as possible to my mail id

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