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 Supplies A-Plenty!


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I recently placed an order through Hedgehog Handworks for some goldwork supplies, in anticipation of an upcoming needlework project that I’m looking forward to writing about. Some of the threads I received are kind of interesting, so I thought I’d show them off!

When you order real metal threads from Hedgehog, they generally come in little plastic boxes of various sizes. For shipping, I suppose this is nice, because it keeps the threads intact. But if you order an abundance of types of threads, when you open the box, you may find that you have … well…. LOTS of little plastic boxes!

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

Right now, I don’t mind the boxes so much, since the gold threads are nesting safely within them. But I know I’m a bit of a packrat when it comes to those types of packaging containers. Once the gold thread is gone, I will feel obliged to save them for “something else,” and the next thing I know, I’m going to have little plastic boxes multiplying in my cabinets, until I’m overrun with little plastic boxes!

But I suppose I’ll face that dilemma later!

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

Once the supplies were taken out of the shipping box and stacked up, they didn’t look quite so abundant, but still, it’s a nice stock of threads for the project I have in mind.

Mostly, I ordered pearl purl, smooth purl, matte purl, check purl, twist, smooth passing, and rococco, along with some different sizes of spangles.

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

I also ordered these two specialty threads.

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

This is a frieze / bullion twist, a combination of a check purl (frieze brilliant) and a smooth purl or bullion, in silver (check purl) and gold (smooth purl). It’s kind of a thickish metal thread, heavy looking and very rich. I’m not sure if I’ll use it soon or not. I’ll have to play with it a bit!

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

This metal thread is called Sadi Twirl, and it’s a bit different. It’s two coiled springs made out of metal wire in different colors, twisted together. The coils are not smooth and tightly coiled like smooth purl, which is limp and very supple, but rather this stuff is coiled with space between the coils, and the actual coils are somewhat stiff. They aren’t as stiff as pearl purl, but the thread is fairly stiff overall.

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

You can see the tip of the thread here and get a better sense of the coils and the wire used to make them.

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

It was heaps of fun going through the new goldwork supplies. Once I sifted through the order, I had to figure out how to store them. Rummaging through my cabinets, I came across a couple empty stationery boxes that I had brought home from work for just this type of situation! One of them was perfect – I stacked all the little boxes inside, and had room for a bag of goldwork “scraps” left over from various projects.

Goldwork Threads / Real Metal Threads / for Upcoming Embroidery Project

Ahhhh. I feel so smug and organized! I put the lid on the box, labeled it “Goldwork Supplies,” and resigned it to the project shelf until I can get this one started. I’m hoping to launch into it this week – so I’ll spring it on you soon!

Where to Find Goldwork Supplies

Japanese Embroidery Center (Japanese Threads)

In Canada: Berlin Embroidery

In Australia: Alison Cole Embroidery, Mary Brown Designs, Jane Nicholas Stumpwork Embroidery

In the UK:
Benton & Johnson, Golden Threads, Golden Hinde

If you know of any other goldwork supply resources, please do let me know and I’ll be happy to include them on my list!


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(15) Comments

  1. These supplies are absolutely gorgeous!! I’ve yet to attempt goldwork and have been wondering about something…do the threads tarnish over time?

  2. Hi, All!

    Aren’t they fun? I can’t wait to get started with them…. so much to do, so little time!

    Angie, some are couched. Others are sewn on as you would beads after the metal is cut. I’ll be covering this in a little more detail soon!


  3. *dribble*

    got to stock up after my first buy up of goldwork supplies soon! How exciting! (from Tanya Berlin, whom I’ve found to be great)

  4. I was out from net for a week and now so many things to read…
    Those supplies are gorgeous!
    Do you think those links are good for buying silk ribbons? I want to try some ribbon embroidery next year…
    Have a nice week!

  5. *sigh* For now, I’ll have to settle for gold-COLOR rather than gold METAL, I suspect…anybody wanna hire me and pay boo-hoo bucks so I can do goldwork? It’s in a good cause!! 🙂 🙂 (joking!)

    I’m thrilled to see the topic arise, Mary–I keep wondering what the heck these various things are and how they’re made, and….

  6. Regarding tarnish:

    Yes, gold metal threads will tarnish when exposed to the elements. As I understand it (and welcome corrections if I am wrong) there is silver under the gold which is what causes the tarnish. From what I can tell, if you frame a goldwork piece behind glass you can avoid tarnish for a longer time. I haven’t found any definitive information on how long it takes for gold metal threads to tarnish when they are or aren’t exposed to the elements. I have also read that there is some sort of coating on the gold to retard tarnish.

    I have a framed piece that I did about 5 years ago and see absolutely no signs of tarnish. On the other hand I have another recent piece that I put down for about 6 months and it wasn’t well protected. I think I see a little bit of darkness (tarnish?) in the chipping. As soon as I noticed this I kept the piece carefully covered in plastic while I finished it and then I sealed it in a ziploc until I was ready to frame it.

    In a Royal School of Needlework (RSN) goldwork class we were told to store metal threads in a metal box because they said that plastic would hasten tarnishing. While I wouldn’t want to contradict the RSN, I have been keeping my metal threads in plastic bags (and those miserable little boxes! 🙂 and also in a metal box. I haven’t yet seen a problem with the plastic storage, but perhaps the threads haven’t been kept in plastic long enough. By the way the RSN provided their metal threads in small acid-free paper envelopes. (Does anyone know where to buy these?)

    1. Particularly if you perspire a lot learn to work in light cotton gloves – not really that hard actually – if you can only get from the supermarket turn inside out and trim the seams as much as possible before you use. Also helps with using antique fabrics – particularly silk.

      Acid free paper envelopes – art conservation materials suppliers – ask your national art gallery

  7. Don’t you just love receiving packages no matter what you have ordered. The anticipation of taking the wrapping off and opening up the box is just soooo much fun. Whats inside is just the added bonus!
    Annie… in waiting for a snow storm Michigan

  8. I haven’t done enough with the purls to have any design concept in mind. I am anxious to see what you have planned Mary. You are amazing. I love the different metals. They are so beautiful and the final product is absolutely facinating. I am always inspired by your work. So, work on my dear, work on!

  9. Hi, All! Thanks again for your comments – and Margaret, thanks heaps for the extra information! You are a veritable Fountain of Helpful Information! I appreciate it!

    Annie – You are absolutely correct – any package is a source of pleasure and excitement! I’m sure you’ve had your snow storm by now… hope all is well up your way!

    Heidi…. thanks for the kind words. Yes, I’ll work on. Unfortunately, right now many things are pressing, and it seems few things are getting done!

    Meri – nope, I don’t think any of them are silk ribbon carriers. You might try Treenway Silks in Canada – they have some GORGEOUS silk ribbon!

    Hi, Pamela! Um… well, I couldn’t hire you, I’m afraid! Isn’t that the pits of it? Most of us are not fortunate enough to be paid to do our hobby… and, at least for me, my hobby is probably the most expensive thing I do with my regular income! Aaack.

    Megan – sorry to set you drooling! I thought of you when I wrote this post! I prefer ordering from Tanja Berlin as well, when I need (and can afford) the 2% gold, for special (and long-lasting) projects. But I like the supplies from Hedgehog, and it’s a lot less expensive as shipping goes!

    Magpie – Margaret’s answer on tarnishing is pretty thorough… I’ve not had a problem with threads tarnishing, actually, yet, and I’m probably not as careful with them as I should be (as you can see from the ziplock bag in the box!) I usually keep them stored, though, in the original packaging they came in. The 2% gold doesn’t tarnish as fast, from what I understand, and there are some imitation metal threads that are supposed not to tarnish at all… so I suppose it depends on the thread.

    Thanks for the comments, all!

  10. Hi Mary

    Second post of the day.

    Re tarnishing, most wires tend to patinate, like gold becomes duller over time and silver tends to grey.

    I have regularly taken wires out of people boxes and found them to be tarnished the only place for them once this has happened unfortunately is in the bin.

    Wires that are cheaper have had a tendancy to tarnish alot quicker although this is not always the case.

    We tend to package the goldwork in plastic grip seal bags, which over the past ten years has been successful, I have some wire that has been in bags for years and has no signs of tarnishing.The main reason for the plastics bags is purely visual, as the gold can be seen alot better.

    However the preferred method of keeping the wires is in glassine bags which are slightly opaque, so the wire can be seen slightly through them. The other method is keeping them in acid free tissue paper, however you can then spend ages labelling up or riffling through your stocks.

    Hope this helps

  11. Hi Mary

    You mentioned that if you know of any other goldwrok suppliers then you would be happy to add them to your list, I have only just noticed this post and we do smaller and larger quantites of the gold wire, which send all over the world.

    We also do a number of the spiral thread which you called sadi purl.

    Thank you

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