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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Japanese Real Gold Thread


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There are two hand embroidery treasures that I have locked up in a dark box, in a dark closet, wrapped safely in tissue paper, awaiting The Day, The Moment, the Ideal Time. This hank of Japanese Real Gold Thread is one of those treasures.

Real Japanese Gold Thread

The other treasure is a similar hank, only a finer thread. They’re the only elements in all my supplies that I consider truly precious. Golum could not consider them more precious!

Real Japanese Gold Thread

This particular hank of gold thread is my favorite. Photos just don’t do it justice! It is real gold thread – 18 karat gold, beaten thin, applied to a paper backing and wound on a silk core. I bought it from John Marshall a few years ago. He bought it from a Japanese weaving house that was closing. The threads were made somewhere around the 1970’s.

And they just don’t make ’em like they used to!

Real Japanese Gold Thread

This stuff is gloriously gold, gloriously gorgeous.

I do love it so.

But what is the point of hoarding this much gold thread in a dark box, in a dark closet, wrapped safely in tissue paper?

I’ve told myself time and again that I would use it Some Day.

Real Japanese Gold Thread

I do believe Some Day has come!

I’m using it on the Medallion Project – which you can read about by visiting the Medallion Project Index. I’ll have a more colorful update for you later this week!

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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(36) Comments

  1. I have a couple of those hanks of gold. I know how gloriously gorgeous it is. My some day has not come yet or though one or two projects have put in a good bid to be ‘the one’.

    I’m so pleased that your day has come 😀

    1. Hi, Colleen – you can get them from the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta Georgia. If you google them, you’ll find their website and online shop. Hope that helps!

  2. Oh my, I have never seen anything soooo beautiful!!! Wow, I’m pretty speechless. It looks like hair. Remember how Rumplestiltskon spun gold out of straw? Mary, is it heavy? Or is it wispy like hair? Does it get couched or do you use a needle? Ok I have to go back to the pictures. Sigh……

    Melissa Bird

  3. Wow…I CAN see some lovely colour peeping through! How I have enjoyed watching this unfold. Your work is simply gorgeous.

  4. Those are gorgeous in photos, I bet they are even better in person. If I has such threads, I’d have a hard time bringing myself to use them, because then I wouldn’t have them any more. On the other hand, it would be sad if such beautiful threads were never seen as they were meant to be.

  5. No fair! You’re teasing us with a TINY photo that shows you’ve outlined the vermicelli section with pearl purl, outlined the next ring with what looks like smooth passing thread (or is that the real gold thread?)as well as stretched pearl purl inter-twined with red silk, AND maybe even added some red silk satin stitching? And is there some couched gold separating the red from the blue long-short stitch? Please post a photo showing the bigger picture of what you’ve done. Janet.

    1. Sorry, Janet!! Don’t worry – I’ll show you everything eventually! But you’re right so far. The gold passing is actually this Japanese gold, though. A little less wiry than gold passing, and somewhat more liquid looking, when worked on rows. I’m not 100% keen on the inside line of pearl purl along the vermicelli, but not much I can do about it now. It’s “ok” but the ends are problematic. Still working on that, and wondering… MC

  6. YOU. ARE. SO. BRAVE!!!!! (caps are for emphasis not rude yelling) Squeeee! I’m excited for you and a little nervous too. I can’t wait to see it!!!

  7. I started using real gold couching thread in my Japanese Embroidery Phase X piece, Double Cypress Fans. I purchase it from the Japanese Embroidery Center (Atlanta, GA). t’s especially effective in areas where many rows are couched next to each other (vs a line of only 2 strands). It is so beautiful! I find it softer, and easier to kink and strip than imitation gold threads, so it requires good technique. You can see it in the last 4 photos at this link, the wheel is real gold (#4). https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1229537860611.36467.1294026589&type=3&l=917db73e36

    Thanks for another great blog post, Mary!

  8. I laughed at your reference to Golum. Of course his precious was for evil, but yours is for beauty! The thread is beautiful.

  9. Oh, it is gorgeous! It is! At first glance it almost looked like hackle for tying flies, but no one would ever dunk this beautiful stuff in a stream for fish to chew on. My second thought was corn silk, but I’ve never seen silks that deep, rich gold. I can see why you’ve saved it for a truly special “someday”. Thank you for sharing your “someday” with us!

  10. I agree with you, we can’t keep things forever. Lately, I’ve been doing exactly the same thing, looking through my hidden stash and thought when will it ever get used, and by whom, if not me? Anyway, you’ve got a real treasure, and you – of all people – should be allowed to use it!

  11. Oh oh oh, no no no! Please don’t make us wait. There’s some pretty, mystery pink in that last picture.

  12. G’day Mary, Glorious is one of those self proclaiming words that say it all. And glorious your gold thread surely is. Looking forward to watching you place it.
    I found John Marshall’s site especially interesting. Another one to follow keenly.
    Thanks Mary, Cheers, Kath

  13. That is a treasure indeed. I am not one to suffer from envy, but I can honestly say that is what I am feeling right now. I understand your reluctance to use it on anything but a super special project. Still, use it you must, for it’s true magic will only be revealed once it has been used in an embroidery.

  14. Of all the elements, seen in the last picture, the real gold thread stands-out in its elegance. If I had such a thing in my stash, I would definitely be nervous to use it. And the fact that I need to cut it or trim it, and may be waste some bits and pieces.
    It is best suitable for experts like you Mary !

  15. Im looking for the right Gold thread to put into MY WEAVING HANDLOOM . Is that possible to get some sample for me to try on to my weaving loom. Hopeing this is the right right gold thread im looking for.
    Thank and looking forward to hear from you soon.


  16. Interested in purchasing asmall amount of real gold thread. What amounts do you sell it in? Also how strong is it? Pleaseinform me of the cost also. Thank you

  17. In a few months time I will be working with real gold thread. Do you have any tips or places where I can get direction on the best way to use this thread. I will be mending 100+ year old drama costumes that use real gold thread and also furs and other expensive items. However my main concern is the gold thread part. I have been sewing for about 12 years mostly hand work and embroidery and am ready for the new challenge.

  18. Hi,

    I’ve read your comments several times and share your love of this thread. My name is rose Estes and I own the Hauser Gallery located in the tiny coastal town of Seal Rock on the central coast of Oregon. I know of John Marshall and have learned a lot about this extraordinary thread from information provided by him.
    Through a fortuitous moment of being in the right place at the right time, I have a quantity of this gold thread available for sale on both my website: http://www.hausergallery.com and my Etsy shop: https://www.etsystudio.com/shop/TheHauserGallery/
    Should you desire more of this lovely thread, we do have a fairly wide variety of colors, sizes, and textures.

    warm regards from one lover of beauty to another,


  19. Looking to purchase some 100 percent real gold sewing thread, that will test real gold on a gold tester.

    1. I don’t know that you can find 100% real gold thread that doesn’t have some kind of alloy involved. Perhaps contact Benton & Johnson in the UK.

  20. Hello Mary,
    I have seen in some very old chasubles worked with gold threads.
    The threads seems to be worked over something like stiff card or straw board. The card is cut out into the shapes required then stitched into place. Then the metal threads are worked over it.
    Does this method have a name ?
    Also what is the method used to fix the metal thread into place.

    Many thanks for your help and advice, Ross

    1. I don’t know if it has a specific name. It’s considered stitching over board or stitching over padding (sometimes, it’s felt – almost like a dense carpet felt; sometimes, it’s shaped pieces that feel a bit like a smooth paper maché; it really just depends on where it came from). The stitching that holds the gold wire on are more or less couching stitches on the side of the card, right next to it, and then the wire is folded to cross back over the card. You might check out Alison Cole’s Goldwork Masterclass book – I’m pretty sure she covers this technique in there.

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