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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Selecting Colors for Goldwork Embroidery Project


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When it comes to selecting the right colors for an embroidery project, I admit that it’s not always easy. But when it comes to selecting colors for a goldwork project, my field of vision narrows considerably. With goldwork, I personally like deep and rich colors. So when I sat down to contemplate what colors to use on the stylized pomegranate that I’m working in silk and metal threads, I already knew that I wanted either a very rich purple scheme or a very rich red scheme.

Both deep reds and deep purples look very good with gold threads – they’re both rich colors that go beautifully with rich threads. Once I had the project set up, then, I took out my box of Soie d’Alger and rummaged through for all the purples and reds in the box. I also picked out greens – but more on that in a bit.

Goldwork and Silk Embroidery Project: Stylized Pomegranate

It was quite a heap of threads. Some of this is left over from the silk-on-silk satin-stitched stole I made quite a few years ago, and some of it comes from building stash from smaller projects, and so forth. Soie d’Alger has long been an absolute favorite thread of mine, so I admit, I collect it! I love using it for ecclesiastical projects, for needlepainting, for any goldwork / silk combinations… the list can go on!

Goldwork and Silk Embroidery Project: Stylized Pomegranate

I didn’t actually have as much purple as I thought – the darker blues up above don’t really count…

Goldwork and Silk Embroidery Project: Stylized Pomegranate

I’m a little more flush on reds. I’m a sucker for reds, and in my heart o’ hearts, I knew deep down, I’d be going for reds.

Goldwork and Silk Embroidery Project: Stylized Pomegranate

I’m still debating the green issue. I may just go with gold on the circular swash. On the other hand, the gold looks great next to a vibrant silk, so…. we shall see.

Goldwork and Silk Embroidery Project: Stylized Pomegranate

I wanted six shades of red, from very dark to a very light, and this was the only color grouping that worked out to six acceptable shades. The other groups of reds had three or four shades, and some of them were missing intermediate colors. So this was the color group I stuck with: Soie d’Alger numbers 946, 945, 943, 942, 936, 932.

Goldwork and Silk Embroidery Project: Stylized Pomegranate

This was the only set of green that had a selection of at least five shades: 2136, 2135, 2133, 2132, 2131. And the greens and the reds go well enough together, so right now, these are the colors I’m using. The green could change to gold instead. I’ll have to try a little bit of it out to see if I like it.

Now, if you are thinking about trying this project out, you are certainly not stuck with the same color scheme that I’m using! If you decide to go with needlepainting (long and short stitch shading) on parts of the stylized pomegranate, whatever colors you decide to use, remember that you’ll need a minimum of four shades of your color. I like to work with five or six on this type of project, because it gives me the ability to build a bit more depth in the shading, but you can get away with four. You don’t have to use silk. If you’re practicing, you might want to use cotton instead of making the investment in silk.

The metal threads are a bit more difficult. I’m going to have to work with them first to make sure of the correct sizes before I publish any kind of list of metal threads. I wouldn’t want to change sizes in the middle of the project, and then find out that anyone purchased metal threads based on my initial assumptions. I do know I’m using a #5 smooth passing thread on the body of the pomegranate. Other than that, we’ll have to see!

Next time we visit the project, I’ll show you some stitching!

For all the posts in this series, please visit the following links, which are arranged in the order of the project’s development:

Stylized Pomegranate Pattern used for this project
Setting up the Project on a Frame
Preparing the Ground Fabric with Felt Padding
Selecting Colors of Silk for the Project
The Stitching Begins – SIlk Shading
Continuing the silk shading – the left side
Finishing the silk shading
The Goldwork Begins: Smooth Passing Thread
Check Thread for Outlining
Chip Work Filling with Check Purl
Outlining with Stretched Pearl Purl
Filling the Bowl with Passing Thread
Finishing the Tips with Passing Thread
Finishing the Fruit
Beginning the Stem
Continuing with the Green on the Stem
Almost finished! Chip work on the Stem
The Finished Goldwork Pomegranate


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(12) Comments

  1. Wow ! It is a real treasure you have in your hands !
    So many shades of silk thread – a dream for me 😉

  2. MMmmm….Mary,

    I wouldn't have a clue about the colours so am only too happy to follow along and learn.

    Lots of wonderings but they will all come out in the wash I'm sure. I'm learning to wait and see!

    This is good. Thanks.

    Cheers, Kath.

  3. Red & green will get you an early Christmas gift for someone and it's a nice color combo. Deep rich browns in walnut tones go very well with red, too. I love the look of the stylized pomegranate. That, and the pineapple fruit, and thistle flower, have a diamond pattern that looks great in needlework and done on quilted chair backs; although this is more like fabric origami, which is a personal favorite for me. Thanks for sharing your project, Mary.

  4. I love your stash of silk thread… A real treat. I will wait for the metal threads list so that I can enjoy a day of shopping.

  5. As I read along, I was thinking that I would choose the red colors – which is what you decided on. They are so rich-looking.

    Your explanation of each stage of a project is really valuable. I feel that you are giving us an embroidery course online!

    Am going to work along in cotton threads, which seems to make sense for me as a novice embroiderer.

    Thank you, Mary, for another embroidery "adventure".

    -Sharon in France

  6. I'm discovering your online explanations. They are great. I like the way you tell us how you choose your colours. it is not an obvious things to do. It is so much a matter of feelings more than rational things. Thank you.

  7. I am a blues/purples/greens person, but that red with the gold will be beautiful. I'm so looking forward to seeing this project develop.

  8. Looking forward to seeing this develop. I'm wondering, are you considering offering "official" online classes such as Thistle Threads and other designers/teachers do? Or does that even interest you? It seems like you'd have lots of takers.

  9. Hi Mary, I've just spent hours catching up on all the posts of the last 3 weeks or so that I haven't been visiting.
    I continue to be amazed at your talent and the way you share with us all the ins and outs of your projects. I was thrilled to see your rooster, and now I'm captivated to watch this silk & goldwork project develop.
    I can't remember if I've ever thanked you for your generosity with your knowledge and adventures in embroidery, so I'll do it now. Thank you, Mary. You make me smile so often.

  10. Mary,
    You give the best details on projects you are working on I I have learned so much from Needle n Thread.
    Thank you so much!
    Linda Hull

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