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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Blackwork & Goldwork Kits by Jen Goodwin


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Kits for hand embroidery are one of the best ways to learn a technique or a combination of techniques. With a kit, you have everything you need available, you don’t have to make any decisions about threads and fabrics – decisions that might stump the beginner and slow down the process of getting into embroidery. Everything’s there, ready for you to start stitching.

But for embroiderers interested in the various techniques of surface embroidery, it’s often difficult to find good embroidery kits that are instructive, challenging, and satisfying.

Rarely can hand embroidery kits be found even in local needlework shops, where counted cross stitch supplies and needlepoint offerings generally reign.

So if you want to work embroidery projects that focus on various surface embroidery techniques, you have two choices, really: design your own, or seek out one of the many designers who sell their kits directly through their own businesses. I’ve mentioned a heap of these designers on Needle ‘n Thread over the years: Phillipa Turnbull, Tanja Berlin, Trish Burr, Alison Cole, Jane Nicholas, Yvette Stanton, Jenny McWhinney – and there are many, many more embroidery designers out there who teach and who sell their own kits through their own businesses.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Jen Goodwin’s embroidery kits. Jen’s a UK designer and instructor, and she offers many unique and beautiful embroidery kits available on her website.

Jen Goodwin Embroidery Kits

The kit that I have by Jen is from her golden medallion collection, and it’s called “Ginkgo”. It’s a decorative medallion combining blackwork and goldwork.

What I really like about Jen’s kits is that they are different. Some of them combine all kinds of techniques – she offers some that combine blackwork, pulled thread work, and goldwork. She offers several that feature a good combination of surface embroidery stitches for the beginner, there are some “light” goldwork designs that cover basic techniques.

In short, she covers a good range of levels and techniques with interesting, different designs that are somewhat abstract, and great for learning.

Jen Goodwin Embroidery Kits

The Gingko kit arrived in a little box that contained everything needed to work the embroidery project, except scissors and a frame. Threads, a pattern sheet, an instructional booklet, felt padding, fabric, needles, beeswax – it’s all there, ready to go.

Jen Goodwin Embroidery Kits

The threads, you might notice, are not all black. I really like the way Jen combines subtle color with her blackwork designs, to give them depth and interest.

Jen Goodwin Embroidery Kits

And I love the little beeswax flower included in the kit!

Jen Goodwin Embroidery Kits

The instruction booklet for “Gingko” take the stitcher from the set-up through the finish of the project.

This particular kit is an intermediate level kit (on her website, Jen points out the various kit levels available), so it assumes some knowledge of the techniques already.

Jen Goodwin Embroidery Kits

Though the instructional booklet includes close up photos and instructions on thread combinations and so forth for each area of the design, along with photos of the progress of the work, there is no specific instruction on the actual “stitching” of blackwork in this level kit. The blackwork patterns are also not supplied separately or charted at all – you use the close up photos as a guide to working the patterns.

For a beginner, this is probably not the place to start. And for stitchers used to working blackwork from a chart, it may throw you for a minute.

But once you study the booklet, you’ll see that the photos are enough to go on – you can see the patterns clearly, and the intermediate stitcher should have no problem working the design.

The stitcher is also taken step by step through the preparation of the ground for the goldwork, and through all the techniques involved, including chip work, couching passing threads, and stretching and couching pearl purl.

So if you’re looking for fun and challenging embroidery kits that are a bit different, take some time to check out Jen Goodwin’s website and selection of kits!

If you’re keen to try her designs, but don’t want to purchase a full materials kit, you can find her designs and instructions available for purchase as electronic downloads in Jen’s Etsy shop.

US readers, remember to do the currency conversion! Jen’s located in the UK, so prices are listed in British pounds.

Incidentally, Jen will be teaching in the US next May, at the Royal School of Needlework’s “satellite” classes in San Francisco. She’ll be teaching a three-week intensive certification course in blackwork. If you’d like more information on that, sign up for the RSN newsletter. It comes out about once a month, with all pertinent announcements in it.


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(8) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    This looks an interesting kit I’ve just been on her website and she has lots of courses in 2014 so I might try one. Thanks for sharing this with us and showing her kit content. I hope the w/e contains lots of embroidery.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Definitely a fun kit. Blackwork like this – once you get started, the repeated pattern is pretty easy to follow. And with the basic outlines in place, it’s like coloring within the lines. 🙂

    I enjoy blackwork but to be honest, I rarely actually use black. I like color and have fun emphasizing the different patterns using lights and darks. It helps the different elements pop out. I just finished an autumn themed blackwork biscornu but I got a little carried away with that. Also added beads. I’m so naughty.

  3. I am curious about the beeswax. I use it on thread for hand sewing, but I have not heard of using it on embroidery thread. Is that it’s purpose in the kit?

    1. Mary, I am also curious about the wax. I know what it is and what it is for, but I am not sure how to use it. I thought you were supposed to pull the thread through the wax but the piece I have is not willing to have its heart pierced by my needle. Is there something amiss with my wax or is the problem me (not unusual)?

    2. Hi, Christina – the wax is for coating the couching thread used with goldwork. Don’t put the needle through the wax – just hold the thread on the side of the wax with your thumb, and then use your other hand to pull the thread through, kind of pushing it onto the wax with your thumb as you pull it through. Do this about two or three times to get the thread good and coated. The thread will sometimes cut into the edge of the wax cake, and that’s fine. After you’ve run it through a few times, then run the whole thread slowly between your thumb and finger, to remove any chunky residue and to work the wax into the thread. Then thread your needle and you’re ready to go! – MC

  4. G’day Mary,
    These are delightful. I was curious as to sizes which don’t seem to be included on Jen’s site but eventually found some in her Etsy shop. I love the designs with their graphical content. Thanks for the intro on someone well worth following. Cheers, Kath.

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