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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A Golden Finish – er, Almost!


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I’m creeping towards the finish with the couched gold thread over the silk background on the Medallion Project. So close!

Goldwork & Silk Embroidery

The little meandering thread of Elizabethan twist – a goldwork thread that’s quite fine and made of two tiny 2% gold wires loosely twisted together – has almost reached the finish line!

When working this vermicelli goldwork technique, it requires two hands, so having your work on a stand of some sort is really essential. One hand holds the wire and manipulates it into a general direction, while the other hand does the couching. What’s nice about working with the Elizabethan twist is that it is a fairly flexible thread, without being “limp” – it has some wire-like rigidity to it that makes it easier to manipulate and bend along the meandering, twisting path that the gold follows.

Goldwork & Silk Embroidery

There’s no “pattern” for the path. You just start and let the thread wind along, couching about every 1/8″, with the only “rule” being that it’s best to move in some direction other than completely vertical. Remember that the silk threads are laid in a vertical surface satin stitch. So as long as the gold thread crosses over the vertical satin stitch either completely perpendicular or at some angle to the vertical stitches, then the gold thread won’t sink between the satin stitches.

Goldwork & Silk Embroidery

Getting there! I couldn’t believe that I didn’t make it to the end! It took approximately three hours to fill that one background “petal” that you see in progress here. I ran out of stitching time and had to leave the last little bit of silk uncovered (probably about 45 minutes’ worth of stitching) until the next session.

So there we are – almost finished!

To read more about this project and see it develop step-by-step, feel free to check out the Medallion Project Index. Many of the articles may answer questions that you might have about techniques or materials, too. You can also find some questions and answers in the comments area on each article. If you have any questions you can’t find the answers to, feel free to leave a comment below!

Enjoy the weekend!

If you’d like access to all the tips and techniques discussed in the Medallion Project, including complete step-by-step coverage of the Tudor-Style Rose, conveniently collected in one document, interlinked, referenced, and indexed, why not add the Marian Medallion Project e-book to your library? It’s packed full of all kinds of embroidery tips for undertaking a project like this, all in a convenient electronic format for easy searching.


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(47) Comments

  1. Amazing!! Mary, when you’re done with this process, could you post pics of the back? I’m just curious how it will look with the couching threads since I know that the satin stitch really doesn’t cross the back. Thank you again for sharing all your expertise.

  2. W.O.W.!! I don’t think I could do that, at least without sitting it aside for a month every so often. Its so BEAUTIFUL!

  3. Good Morning Mary,
    This project is turning out so lovely! I have never seen this technique before and the overall effect just makes the project perfect. I hate it when I have just that little bit left to do, because at that point it is so much harder to finish! Strange yes, I don’t know why, maybe it is me (LOL) but I have several projects just at that point. Is there a stitching disease about NOT completing projects? Maybe a good subject for a post sometime?
    Dottie J

  4. This is the first time I’ve heard you mention a time amount. Do you keep track of how long it takes you to make a project? I’m a retired Home Economics teacher and in planning lessons I usually made notes about how long it took me to accomplish a step so I could plan for class periods. Or would you rather not realize before you start that this is a 200 hour project?

  5. I’m curious about something. In previous newsletters the beautiful blue monogram was in progress and the goldwork area still open. Now the monogram area is open. Are you working on two Medallions at the same time?

  6. Wow is right! Exquisite indeed. I know my rough fingers would be a disaster working over that silk thread. I can just imagine them catching one of those long threads and snagging it.

    The effect of what you have done is so beautiful Mary. You are indeed an artist!


  7. See, that’s where you’re stronger than I am — I have been known to mutter “but I only have *that* much more to do” and wind up staying up way too late. It’s always “one more row, one more motif, one more section….” and the next thing you know it’s way past bedtime and 4:15 still comes at 4:15!

  8. Just beautiful! It really takes precision work to keep the laid threads so perfectly straight, and to keep the vermicelli work so even. It’s really fascinating to see this progress, and will be more so as you go on to the other parts.

  9. I am in awe of the beautiful work you do and how absolutely elegant this project is, especially when I consider how small and delicate the threads and pattern are. I love your E-mails, pictures, projects, and patterns.

  10. Oh, my, Mary, that is so beautiful! I’ve never done anything like that and have no reason to do so now, but I am certainly enjoying your project. I look forward to seeing it completed.

  11. Bonjour Mary,
    It is very beautiful the silk with gold… I like it a lot and thanks for showing the process and work it involved.
    Good weekend, we are having a wonderful snow storm and everything is so white, a real picture.
    France from Québec.

  12. This is awe inspiring. I just can’t image creating something so beautiful but it makes me want to create pretty things and hope that I can make something like this one day.

  13. It is beyond beautiful! It looks like molten patina sterling poured onto the fabric with gold metal etching. I just love this project and really look forward to the photos!

  14. Mary, do you work every day? Do you work a certain number of hours? I try to get a discipline going for my needlework, but it is not happening! Just wondering about how you work it all in.

  15. Yes I can concur that it really shows a glow.

    I am a tad stumped as to the letters?

    I am keen to see now what colour the letters will be and if this work is going to be part of the your final piece. I can’t believe that all the time doing this section is practice.

    I thought the blue was the letter colour. Just a practice run?

    How many hours are in your day Mary….48?

    All I can say is go for it girl it will certainly be a piece to be proud of.


  16. Mary! What fabulous embroidery you do! I am in awe, I truly am. I haven’t had a lot of time to read your posts in depth until now. How can you ‘wash lots of vegetables with your hands’ and make mud pies, and do all this fabulous work PLUS posting it to encourage all of us out in the world? You are to be commended, applauded and admired.
    So, now that I have that off my chest I must ask – are you doing the Medallion for your own pleasure or is it a commissioned piece? Someone is very lucky to know you.
    I have a Lion of St Mark tapestry (Candace Bahouth) that is waiting to be finished. That is to say the finishing is yet to be done. I have set the piece into a framework of burgundy “suede” which I want to “diamond quilt” with gold thread and then set bullion curls into the spaces created by the diamond quilting. I am quite afraid to do the diamond quilting (diapering?). I recognize that I will have the same problem with the suede that you are experiencing with your snowflake work. Knowing that there is someone out there who is as mad a stitcher as I am is so encouraging! Thanks for all of your hard work

  17. Unbelievable. Glad you had a ‘little bit left to contrast with the magnificent gold. Thank you for showing the work at this stage. Just superb.

  18. Hi Mary — That is so beautiful!!!!!! You have really opened my eyes to what embroidery can be. I’m dying to try it. Like Susan, I’m glad to see the half-finished section. Wonderful!!

  19. This is just WOW! Beautiful!! Can’t wait to see what color you will chose for the Tudor roses. I love this project and the goldwork background is fabulous.

  20. Mary, I have been following this project with interest from the beginning. I must say I am stunned with how consistent the work is; the latest vermicelli are just as evenly worked as the first. I’m eager to watch it progress further.


  21. Mary, your work is stunning and love to watch you as you progress from stage to stage. You are an inspiration to us all, and thank-you for sharing your expertise in all aspects of needlework from projects to materials to just what books to purchase

  22. Hi Mary, I noticed you mentioned “stitching time” in this post. How do you organize your time to ensure you get your blog done, design work done, stitching, and other stuff that goes into a day. I often feel I’m missing out or short changing one thing or the other and running to catch up.

    I’m interested to see how successful fiber artists manage their time.


  23. Hi Mary,
    I’ve never been a fan of Vermicilli work. But seeing an actual piece, just close up photos of ‘how to work it’ I can see how the gold makes the white background shine as well!
    Ok, now I like it!

    Do you know of any extant pieces that use it?

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