Anyone interested in silk embroidery thread and silk as a textile in general would probably be interested in Michael Cook’s website, Wormspit. That’s worm spit, not worms pit, by the way. It’s a great website that details how silk is produced by the silk worm, along with information on processing the silk, resources for cocoons, and all that kind of stuff.
Now, the casual embroiderer (that would be me) probably won’t go to the extent of breeding moths and raising their cute little larvae for the sake of spinning one’s own silk, but … I cannot deny the utter fascination I have for the whole process. I have spent hours on wormspit.com. I have shared it with people. I have talked to fellow teachers (biology & science teachers) about doing a school-wide silkworm project (they see a mercenary motive, I think)… but what I didn’t know about the creator of wormspit is that he isn’t just the silkworm guy. He has a blog, and he does some pretty incredible and creative stuff. He also contributes to Gossamer Strands, which has a great illustrated explanation of processing and spinning polyphemus silk.
I thought readers interested in needlework, and especially in goldwork, might enjoy seeing Michael’s beetle wing & goldwork embroidery.
Beetle wing embroidery is embroidery – either in threads or incorporating goldwork – around beetle wings that are sewn onto the fabric as part of the design. The wings are iridescent shiny things, in greens and blues and golds. The whole idea of beetle wing embroidery seems to have come from the East (Japan & India, especially), and was rather popular in Europe in the late-1800’s (makes sense, as England’s colonization undoubtedly brought an Eastern & Indian influence to fashion). For those who could afford it, it was not uncommon for dresses, bags, and accessories to be decorated with these bug parts.
You can see other examples of beetle wing embroidery online here and there.
On bugbios, for example, there’s a gorgeous example of a turban worked on muslin with gold and beetle wings.
On Show Me UK, you can find a great link to a larger photo of this dress found in the Museum of London. The dress is elaborately adorned with beetle wings and gold. On this site (geared towards kids), the appeal is that the dress is decorated with bugs’ wings. Regardless, the workmanship is stunning.
Michael worked up a beautiful example of goldwork and beetle wings. If you get a chance to look at it, do. If you want some tips on how to work with beetle wings, read his remarks in the comments at the bottom of the post.