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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Silver, White, Purple, and Black – Silk & Metal Thread Embroidery


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It’s always nice to take a break and see what other folks have been up to with their needle and thread, so today, let’s look at a reader’s embroidery project!

Particularly apt for the day, this is a piece of silk & metal thread ecclesiastical embroidery that Anne Gomes worked up for her church to use as part of a Lenten altar frontal.

Anne is proficient in Japanese embroidery – she’s the gal who worked up this video of twisting Japanese silks for us, demonstrating how to twist 4 strands of silk into one twisted thread. Using similar twisting techniques, she combined silk and silver threads for the filling stitches on this piece.

Besides Anne’s obvious skill with the needlework, what I really love about this piece is the combination of silver and white against the black background. The contrast is striking, and so much more preferable for this type of work (in my opinion) than gold on a black background.

In many examples today of ecclesiastical embroidery, gold on black tends to look a bit – well, chintzy. But I know this depends entirely on the types of threads used and the choice of ground fabric. I suppose I’ve seen too many examples of bright gold lurex thread on black polyester…

Crown of Thorns Embroidery silk and metal thread embroidery

For the crown of thorns, Anne used a #8 Japanese silver thread, which she couched with purple Soie 100/3. It’s hard to believe that there is purple in the piece – it’s very subtle, and from far away, you can’t see it at all.

It’s not the only place on the project that Anne used purple, though.

Crown of Thorns Embroidery silk and metal thread embroidery

For the nails, Anne twisted together silk and silver for the filling, then worked the long & short stitch for the body of the nail. On the head of the nail, she worked in a violet with the white and silver, to make the head of the nail darker. Due to the reflection of the light in the photo, the difference in the nail heads is more apparent on the other two nails.

If you look at the first photo above, you can see how the light picks up the white in the body of the nail, and how the darker head of the nail with the purple twisted in shows up against the white, especially on that top nail. It’s amazing to think that Anne didn’t stitch with ready-combined threads, but twisted all her threads together to get the exact nuances that she wanted.

The silk and the silver also demonstrate how the direction of stitching (again, note the heads of the nails) really makes a difference when the light plays off the threads.

Crown of Thorns Embroidery silk and metal thread embroidery

And here’s the piece hanging in place on the altar frontal.

Because she was working under a time crunch, the piece has not yet been lined, but as soon as Lent is over, she plans to line the black silk to give the whole banner a sturdier finish.

Nice work, eh? And a good reminder of the striking contrast that can be achieved when combining white and silver on black silk. It’s so dramatic! Thanks for sending the photos, Anne!

Tomorrow, I think I will show you a finish (if all goes well today) and share some tips on putting together a simple little table mat for an Easter (or Spring) centerpiece.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for church embroidery patterns – or religious designs that can be used for other crafts, including paper crafts, card-making, and the like – feel free to check out Church Patterns: Book One available here on Needle ‘n Thread for instant download.

Enjoy your weekend!


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(14) Comments

  1. Anne, how beautiful! your church must be so glad to have this piece. It’s striking, yet such a graceful piece. I don’t know how else to describe it. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

    Mary, I love your work and I find all of the information you share priceless. That includes work shared by your readers. I love to see everyone’s creativity. It’s both humbling and inspiring. Thank you.

  2. Anne, you did a fabulous job! It’s almost a pity to have it up for just Holy Week – or has it been up for all of Lent? If one were ambitious, a few of those could be made for also the credence table, the ambo, etc.
    Mary, I want to let everyone know how wonderful your Church Patterns book is! It’s my go-to resource when I need something for my church’s linen supplies.

    1. We started out on Ash Wednesday with just the purple brocade but that was a lot of purple. So, we added the black superfrontal. It is a different, smaller brocade. Then, when I finished the crown of thorns, we put that up the end of the third week. The motif itself is pretty simple, but the idea is to focus attention on the altar.
      I agree about your Church patterns book, too.

  3. Dear Mary

    What a beautiful piece of the Crown of Thorns and Nails embroidery, so appropriate for the season and a reminder to us of the crucification. You must be so proud Anne to have accomplished such an intricate beautiful piece of ecclesiastical needlework and I’m sure the Church are appreciative of your efforts to so lovely design. Thanks Mary for sharing this with us at this time.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Anne,
    What beautiful work. This is truly lovely. It’s fun to see the skillful mixing of colors. Subtle blending, although not visible from a distance adds depth to light and shadow. Very lovely work. I recognize the background fabric as an M. Perkins fabric. It is very lovely to see the ecclesiastical fabrics used so well.

    I do have to give a little chuckle about gold and black! I had the same thoughts about black and silver before seeing this piece. Take a look here at the Good Friday set I just finished. We decided not to include any actual hand embroidery due to time. It is only orphreys, but all hand stitched. https://www.flickr.com/photos/64398055@N08/13894814026/in/photostream/

  5. What stark beauty is captured in this work. I like how the interlacing of the double bands of the Crown of Thorns are two quatrefoils like the tracery of medieval cathedrals.

    Thank you also, Mary, for the technical description.

  6. Hi Mary,
    Beautiful work by a another gifted stitcher. I just this week got your book-have had the reprint for at least 10 years- used often but soooo frustrated sometimes when finding the lines were just a little off. Your book solved that problem!
    Many thanks to you both for great inspiration.

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