Goldwork is a surface embroidery technique that’s been around for a long time. It has enjoyed popularity since the Middle Ages, and recently is enjoying the renewed interest of needleworkers around the globe. Because of the nature of the material used in goldwork (hammered gold wound around a thread core) and their expense, couching has always been the primary needlework method in goldwork. Just like any other kind of needlework, a great way to learn the technique is to work a sampler. Here’s a design for a somewhat intricate sampler that covers many aspects of goldwork.
This sampler comes from an old book, Church Embroidery by Hinda Hands, which is out of print and no longer in copyright here. The sampler itself is not necessarily church-related in design, as you can see. The author’s purpose in including the sampler in her book is to instruct on the techniques that one should master in goldwork.
My intention here is to give you the sampler pattern, which may certainly be adapted to different uses, and then to unfold for you the techniques suggested by the author for working the sampler.
I think the pattern is really nice, but it’s not really for “beginner” needleworkers. You should at least have some knowledge of embroidery, such as setting up a project (including transferring your pattern), basic embroidery stitches (especially couching), and a certain comfort with embroidery. Now, that’s not to say that, if you’re determined, you couldn’t just set out and try. The hang-up with goldwork is that you do have to lay out a bit of an investment in the materials, but as I unfold the directions for working the sampler, I’ll talk about materials, where to find them, what to use as substitutes (names of materials have changed a bit since the book was written) or less-expensive alternatives, and whatnot.
Here’s the pattern, which you can click on for a larger image. You’ll want to increase the size of the pattern to no more than between 10 – 14 inches across. You can do this by using an image editing program, or you could just use a copy machine.
I’m thinking about working this sampler with willing ladies in our guild this summer, so it will be a while before I can give “live photos” of progress.
Regarding the design itself, the first step I would take is enlarging it to the size I want, then tracing the lines of the design (without the stitching images) on vellum with a fine black pen. Then I’d go from there. There are some modifications that I would make on the pattern before beginning it with needleworkers new to goldwork. For example, some of the spines on the larger leaves call for plate – I would alter this, because plate is not so easy and it would be even more difficult worked in close spaces.
So what do you think of this pattern? Do I aspire too high for beginners in goldwork?
I’m thinking it may also do well “re-designed” for a sampler in silk shading, although I’ve got a different practice sampler for that! If you can think of any other uses for this design, I’m all ears!