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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Goldwork Masterclass – Book Review & Stock for You


Amazon Books

After thinking about it for a while, I realized I could write this review in one line:

“If you have any interest at all in goldwork, Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole is the definitive book on goldwork that you need to own.”

In fact, I think it’s such an important book for anyone who wants to learn goldwork and pursue excellence in goldwork, that I’ve decided to stock it. This will give US readers an opportunity to acquire the book without delay. Alison publishes her own books, so they are not available through other book sources. You can order them from her or from folks who order them from her. So, more on that at the end of today’s review!

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

I’ve read through Goldwork Masterclass three times, and I’ve gone back and read over different sections more than that.

It’s the book that’s been delaying me from moving through the stack on my side table! Lately, whenever I have book time, I end up picking this book up again. I have goldwork on my mind…

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Understand that it is a vast book, as far as content goes. It clocks in at just under 200 pages, and those pages are packed with everything you could possibly want to know about goldwork embroidery and how to do it.

The Table of Contents is four pages long!

In addition to the thoroughness of the book, the layout is both interesting and logical. The presentation of the contents is easy to follow, making it easy to absorb.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

The book begins with an introduction, explaining the background of the book and how and why it came about.

Alison Cole is one of the world’s foremost – if not the foremost – goldwork experts, but she is very accessible and easy to read. She doesn’t complicate things and her writing style is professional but delightful.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Then, we move into a brief history of goldwork – nothing too heavy, but it covers all the pertinent points in the development of embroidery with gold threads.

We get a little more historical content a little later in the book, too.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Then, the basic requirements – fabric, tools, threads, materials. This is a relatively short section, since the individual types of goldwork threads are covered in their own categories further on in the book.

It’s here that you learn about frames, hoops, transferring designs, and setting up goldwork projects, too.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Now we launch straight into the techniques of goldwork embroidery, starting from the foundation up.

So this first section on techniques focuses on padding, because most goldwork embroidery is worked over some kind of padding.

Each techniques section in the book is presented more or less the same way.

We get a photo of a sampler that covers the techniques in that section (you can see the padding sampler in the photo above)…

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

…and then we are taken through every aspect of that technique, learning how to do it, why, and troubleshooting the difficulties one might come across.

The instruction in the book is offered through photographs, diagrams, and text. It is a book that you need to read, primarily. While you can rely on diagrams and photos in some areas, mostly, to really understand the techniques, you’re going to want to read what Alison is telling her students in these sections.

Again, she’s easy to read and very accessible.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

At the end of each section, you’ll find another image of the sampler, with the Key on the facing page, saying what technique, what threads, etc., were used on each element in the sampler.

In this way, you have an excellent resource at each step of the way for looking at the finished technique and answering the question “how was that done?”

While this may not seem so important when discussing padding (though excellent foundational work is essential for an excellent outcome), you can see how this approach works when looking at individual goldwork techniques:

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

For example, here’s the sampler shown at the beginning of the section on couching goldwork threads…

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

…followed by thorough instructional content…

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

… and finished with the sampler and key.

You can examine the couching techniques, maybe find a particular finished look that interests you, and then reference the key to see what techniques and what materials are used to achieve that look.

You can then go back through the instructional content to learn how to produce that particular result.

The samplers, though, are really base of the “masterclass” concept. If you imitate what Alison has done and you work a sampler for all the techniques she covers, by the end of the book, you will master goldwork – or at least, you will have the beginnings of mastery under you command.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

So now that know how the book is set up, we’ll look at the techniques she covers.

After couching, we get Or Nué, which is a specific type of couching using colored threads to “paint” a picture over gold.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

This is followed by Other Couched Threads, like twists, check threads, and so forth.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

From here, we move on to pearl purl and plate, those hard, solid metal threads that are couched on in particular ways.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Then, we look at purls, which are spring like metal threads that are usually cut and sewn on like a kind of flexible bead.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

This is followed by a section on other traditional materials used in goldwork, such as kid leather, beads, spangles and sequins, pressed metal shapes, and so forth.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

There’s a small break here from specific materials and the techniques used to stitch with them, while we jump in to look at some historical embroidery where goldwork played a dominant role.

First, there’s a section on Opus Anglicanum, or English work, which involves silk embroidery (mostly in split stitch) and certain methods of goldwork. There’s a practice piece in this section, and plenty of instruction.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

This is followed by a section on Elizabethan & Stuart Goldwork embroidery, and the techniques common in those eras.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Here, you’ll find plenty of step-by-step photo instruction for surface embroidery stitches commonly worked with gold threads during those eras.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

The sampler for this section is really pretty!

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Then there’s a whole section devoted to fillings created with goldwork threads and combined techniques.

There’s a vast sampler associated with this section – it’s fabulous!

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Next, you’ll find a section on other creative materials that can be employed in contemporary goldwork. There are many ideas here that will help you expand you vision when it comes to embroidery!

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

Next is a section that’s more inspirational than instructive (though you’ll learn much from the examples), where we see the combination of goldwork and other embroidery techniques. There is a gallery here of Alison’s work and the work of others.

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

As we near the end of the book, there’s a section on ceremonial goldwork, with history, thread types and techniques…

Goldwork Masterclass by Alison Cole: Book Review

…and finally, a section on other goldwork-related goodies, which includes information about laces, galloons, trim, and the like.


This is the definitive book on goldwork in all its aspects. It’s the ideal reference book and instructional book for anyone interested in learning goldwork or interested in progressing in skill and ability.

As far as pros and cons go, it’s all pros! You could perhaps cite the price as a con, as it is not an inexpensive book. The book is self-published, though, which is a huge investment on Alison’s part. It is extremely professionally done. It is a beautiful book. And, simply put, books like this don’t come cheap when you’re doing it yourself.

Where to Find It

Because Goldwork Masterclass is self-published, it is only available through Alison Cole directly or through needlework shops who stock it.

I’m currently stocking a limited number of copies, and you can find them here. If there is a demand, I will most likely stock more. The price for the book is $59, which includes priority shipping in the domestic US.


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(44) Comments

  1. That sure sold out quickly! I think my order got in. I may need to look up her stumpwork book, too. So many books and wonderful techniques….

  2. You can count me in for a copy. I have ordered from Alison before but am hesitant right now ordering internationally with all the potential delays.

    I am sure this has been mentioned before but have you thought of a paid stitch-along if you offer kits for your recent design with goldwork? I am sure you have a lot on your plate though.

    1. I’ve already ordered more. 🙂 If drop me an email, I’ll add you to the advanced notice list. Thanks!

      I might do something of that sort – I’m working on some ideas now.

    2. I recently ordered this book directly from Alison along with her “Tree of Life” project kit. To quote Alison, I was gobsmacked when my package arrived within two weeks! My plan is to work my way through the book before tackling the project.

  3. As you are now out of stock of the goldwork masterclass book please put my name on your waiting list when you restock. I am willing to prepay.

  4. Crikey, I went to order this as soon as I finished reading your email, and you’re sold out already! Will you be getting more in soon?

  5. Good Morning Mary,
    My goodness – the book is sold out on your website. Please stock more – I would love to order a copy. What a magnificent book.
    Take care and have a good rest of your week!

  6. I definitely want a copy of this book but they are already sold out. Please do stock more. I have been admiring and wishing for the book for over a year. Thanks for the wonderful review and hopefully more available to buy.

  7. Well I received this post this morning at 9:25 am on the 22nd and the book is already sold out. I if you are ordering more please put me on the list. Oriole Adams-Harris

  8. Sold out already!!! Such is the wonder of a positive Mary review! Seriously, I had been hoping for an honest review of this book, because I wanted to buy it but am limiting the number of embroidery books I buy as use are downsizing. So, Mary, if you restock – I’m hoping to buy!

  9. Well thank you very much for making me blow my budget for the next few months 🙂 ! Seriously, thank you for the detailed review, really informative and helpful in deciding whether it’s a good buy.
    For your readers in the UK, I found it at Golden Hinde.

  10. Because of a rehab appointment this morning I was late getting to your blog today. Will you be ordering more of these books.

  11. This looks enticing even for those of us who can’t afford to stitch with metals: the padding to make dimensional shapes, the layers of surface stitches pictured in that Elizabethan looped edging stitch…thanks for the glimpse. I was in midst of trying to teach myself whitework “mousetooth” edging on “peahole hemstitch” so maybe I could benefit from this goldwork compendium.

  12. Akkk. Mary, you did too good a job of selling it – sold out already! Hopefully either you will get more or Needle in a Haystack will carry it. It looks wonderful!

    1. Hi, Jennifer – if you would like a copy, please drop me an email and let me know, and I’ll put you on my advanced notice list. I’ve ordered more and they’re on their way!

  13. I agree! My copy is about ready to be coil bound I have read, re-read and looked at so much. The plates in this book you could frame.
    Now if I could get the courage and my fingers just to try a bit more. I’ve done very little but really want to try more.

  14. Hi Mary!

    Thank you for the lovely and comprehensive review! I hope you are well in these weird times!

    Love Alison

  15. Dear Mary

    The Goldwork Masterclass book looks like a really good in-depth instructional book and I can see by the photos above that it has lots of tips and techniques for the reader which is great and I think this book would suit most embroiders those that are beginners in this area and advanced goldwork embroiders. I love the laces and galloons and trims. Thank you for reviewing this lovely book and for sharing it with us and thank you for the photos and sites on where to buy it. Great book and review.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Hi, Rebecca – please drop me an email and let me know, and I’ll put you on my advanced notice list. I’ve ordered more and they’re on their way!

  16. Hi Mary,

    Received my Goldwork Masterclass book yesterday. That was fast! It is all and more than I expected. I am doing my happy dance. If any of you are even thinking about buying this book don’t wait. It’s worth it.

    Thank you Mary for all you do for us in this world of embroidery. I follow you and learn so much from you.


  17. Maravilloso el artículo!!
    Lástima que la vida es corta, para todo lo que una quisiera poder hacer.
    Este libro es un ventana a un mundo mágico, que, (aunque no sea por completo), no se puede dejar de recorrer!!!

  18. As usual, anytime I read your posts (I get behind at times dealing with my business and health needs) they ALWAYS trigger me with ideas to try and how I try to look and think outside the box. I am a Vine reviewer for Amazon and in the last month or two, I have been given a plethora of craft kits and supplies. Sometimes I will get a craft kit because it is a craft that I would like to try. Other times there are items in the kit that I ‘need’ for something else that I want to do. I am so grateful as I am on SSD and money for supplies can get scarce. I got a kit last week that has faux leather, LOTS of pieces that you can make bows with. I can see myself making a couple of bows, but not enough to even make a dent in all the faux leather I got. However, as I read your excellent review of the Goldwork book, I saw what looked to be the shape of leaves or some type of applique. It hit me then, that while I can not afford to buy the gold for making up these designs, I can use the gold or silver faux leather, etc. cut out and then stitched down using gold-colored embroidery floss, etc. The more I looked at the pictures, the more ideas that I got! My head lately has been buzzing with ideas on how to use all the things that I have gotten. I am so glad you are here Mary, to help educate us and spread the news of new items on the market. Thank you so much!

  19. Mary, First of all, best wishes for your mother and the rest of your family.

    Next, I understand that the first order of Alison Cole’s new book has sold out but that you have additional copies coming. If there is still space on the wait list, would you please add my name.
    Many thanks!

    Donna Halpin
    Hudson, Ohio

  20. I’m highly interested in obtaining a copy of this book. I’ve sent photos of my work to a couple of embroidery instructors, when asking about possible enrollment in coursed, and they have told me I’m beyond what they teach. I know I can go further, so I think this book might help.

    How do I go about it?

    B. J. Zirkle

    1. Hi, Barnett – if you drop me a line at mary(at)needlenthread(dot)com, I can add you to the advanced notice list for when these come back in stock. Thanks!

  21. Thank you Mary for such an in-depth review of Alison Cole’s Goldwork Masterclass. I have ordered the book directly from her. I am looking forward to reading it and putting it into practice. Have you thought of a class teaching some new gold work ideas? Just wondering…

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