Once upon a time, just over three years ago, a friend and once-fellow-teacher called me.
She: “Can you teach me how to do gold church embroidery?”
Me: “Yes, I can.”
And so we started by covering the very basics of goldwork embroidery. Nothing paid or formal. Just a casual arrangement to meet once a week when she had an hour or two to spare.
Once she understood what threads do what, she decided the best way for her to start would be to actually start, to begin with a real project that could be used upon completion.
Her primary interest was learning to work with real metal threads that can be couched. To that end, we began a “sacred monogram” project. We transferred the design onto velveteen, appliquéd felt padding, and then couched gold passing thread.
After several months of her working on the project quite slowly, the inevitable happened: life got busy, she had to prioritize, and the goldwork was side-lined.
I sent my slate frame and my floor stand home with her, so she could work on it when she had time.
A good two and a half years went by, and although we occasionally touched base, the embroidery was still languishing, neglected, not going anywhere.
A couple months ago, the phone rang. It was … not the same person.
Instead, it was a young gal who lives in the same town – a 19 year old college student. She was calling to explain that she was persuaded to take on the rest of the goldwork project so that the project didn’t go to waste.
She needed some more gold thread. After a week or so of trying to coordinate our schedules, I met up with her. I discovered that she was mostly new to embroidery, beyond some basic stitching when she was a little kid.
But, really, what does that matter?
So I set her up with a little more gold passing thread and some check thread for outlining the filled letters and working the filigree parts.
We discussed how (and why) to wax the couching thread and how to couch the check thread, discussed a few little tips on plunging and whatnot, and about 10 or 15 minutes later, she went on her way.
And that was the end of that.
A couple months later – just this past week – the phone rang. “I have that piece finished. Can I drop it by?”
And she did.
And there it is. Above.
Minimal experience with embroidery.
No previous experience with goldwork.
19 years old.
Doing a favor for a friend.
She worked the whole piece, except the main body of the I and a little bit of the left side of the H.
And darn it, it looks terrific! She did a stellar job! The couching is even, the corners look incredibly good, the plunging is all done neatly. The whole piece looks superb.
The moral of the story: you don’t have to be a pro to embroider something beautiful. And you don’t have to wait until you have “advanced” along some imaginary prescribed route to tackle more “advanced” embroidery techniques. All you need is determination!
The piece, which can be used as a medallion on a vestment or on an altar frontal or banner, is about 8″ across at its widest points (both direction), stitched on burgundy velveteen backed with linen, using #5 gold passing thread couched over felt and outlined with check thread.
The design can be found in Church Patterns: Designs for Hand Embroidery, Appliqué, Paper Crafts, Painting, and More.
After that much couching, I can’t help wondering if the poor girl will ever take up embroidery again. I hope she does!
And to top off the happy ending, my favorite slate frame and my floor stand are home again. It was happy reunion all around.
Life is good, no?
Enjoy your Monday!
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