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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Embroidery Project Update 4 – Goldwork on Silk Background


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The gold couching is going in slowly on this current project. The sky background is worked in long satin stitch, with flat silk, in a gradiant of blues. Over this, I’m couching gold passing.

While I like goldwork, and I do like the effect of the gold couched over the silk, this evening I’m just not too enthused over my efforts. Perhaps this is because it is so much couching!

Agnus Dei Design, flat silk satin stitch couched with gold

I still need to straighten out a few of the lines. I’ll do this with a laying tool or melore, just nudging them into place a bit. The most tedious part of this type of work is securing the gold after it has been plunged to the back. Different instructors advise on doing this whole plunging thing differently. In Tanja Berlin’s instructions, she says to plunge after the gold has been couched. In Ruth Chamberline’s Beginner’s Guide to Goldwork, she says to plunge as you go. For the majority of this, I plunged my threads to the back as I went, catching them in the couching stitches to secure them. In the smaller spaces, though, I found it easier to couch the gold, leaving the ends lying on the front of the work, and then plunging them after the gold was couched. But then comes the most tedious part of all! Securing the gold after plunging it!! The left side of the design should go faster, though, as there aren’t as many small broken-up spaces.

Agnus Dei Embroidery Design, side view of goldwork couched over flat silk

Here’s a side view, so that you can see the “gleam” of the gold, which you don’t get from a straight-on shot. If the light is right, it does gleam straight on, a little bit. But from the side, it really shows up.

The gold really tones down the sky – almost too much – but I don’t think I will be able to judge the overall effect until the entire piece is finished.

The technique, by the way, is called Italian Stitch, which I first learned about in Lucy Mackrille’s book, Church Embroidery and Church Vestments. This book is a rare old gem, fetching prices up to $125 on Amazon and ABE Books. It’s hard to come by, but if you are interested in church embroidery, it really is a wonderful resource. I haven’t seen this technique by this name in any other book, although I’m certain it must have been rather frequently used in different church embroidery projects. In Lucy’s book, she used this technique on an Agnus Dei design as well, which gave me the idea in the first place. She does the entire background, though, including the grassy hill, in flat silks couched over with gold. The only things not couched in gold are the banner and the lamb. Her design also lacks the book at the base of the quatrefoil. And her design is smaller – probably about 8″ square, tops.

So, there’s my update for now. Hopefully, I’ll get the gold done this week so I can move on to more colorful aspects of the design.

If you want to see the progress of this project, you can check out the following phases:


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(3) Comments

  1. Thanks for the additional information about Italian stitch. It looks beautiful as you’re working it on your project.


  2. By the way, Mary, I also enjoy using Eterna silks, including the twists and overdyed. I think these threads are a great value, the look and handling of silk at such good prices.

    Are you familiar with Rajmahal Art Silk? Their threads, from Australia, have some rayon, hence they are very shiny. Limited colors, but vivid ones.


  3. Hi, JoWynn! I agree that the Eterna silks are a great value. They’re relatively inexpensive and still a very nice silk! I like their little combo bags that you can get on their site – they make for good “stash” for odd projects.

    I have used the Rajmahal Art Silk, but I don’t prefer it, because of the rayon content. I like to stick with all natural fibers, but this is just a personal preference. They’re a heck of a lot easier to use than regular rayon, that’s for sure! They handle a lot like silk, whereas most rayon flosses take some serious getting used to!

    Thanks for the comment!

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