When we first started chatting about the altar cover that we’re working on here in the Studio, I mentioned the whole issue of selecting the right materials and so forth for the project.
I think one of the greatest difficulties is making a decision when there are too many choices!
Especially if you need to keep things relatively simple in order to finish a project more efficiently, I think it might be best to have fewer choices.
One of the first things we did (I’m back-pedaling here) when we knew we’d have to be working with goldwork threads is pull out all my drawers of goldwork threads.
Some of these are pretty old already! But fortunately, because of the way they were stored (the majority of them, anyway), they’re in pretty good shape!
Back in they day – oh, how long has it been now? – an online shop called Hedgehog Handworks was my favorite source for goldwork threads in the US. Unfortunately, Joady and her husband retired some years back, and we don’t really have a shop in the US with this broad of a selection of goldwork threads anymore.
The threads at Hedgehog that came from Access Commodities were always packaged in this acrylic boxes, which used to annoy me a little bit, because of space. Over time, though, the boxes have been a huge boon – they have kept the threads intact, uncrushed, and usable.
Additionally, I store all my goldwork in collector’s cabinets that are stainless steel, that keep the light and dust to a minimum, and they’ve withstood the test of time pretty well.
As you can see, there’s lots to choose from.
But as I started picking and choosing and setting some threads out to try, I realized that, before I even bothered, I needed to check availability. So that, of course, took lots of research along the way… and that always slows down the stitching part of things. Why stitch with it, if you can’t get it anymore? That was the question that governed a lot of my choices.
The metal threads I knew I could get, I went ahead and played with, making up little baskets of possibilities.
As we were going through this whole ordeal of choice, I wanted to keep everything in either the drawers I use to store the threads in or in baskets, with nothing loose lying about the place. There’s a reason for this…
This drawer is mostly threads that are couched, that came in zip bags or in glassine envelopes. Some of the Japanese thread in this drawer is … oh! So lovely! It’s older thread, but in pristine shape. I’d love to use it on the present project, but I don’t know if I have enough, the likelihood of being able to find the same thread with exactly the same tone of gold is pretty low.
And that’s another point: all the thread that needs to be used on this project should be new. I don’t plan on mixing threads from these drawers with new threads, because the gold tones may very well be off. And I don’t have enough of any one thread to finish the entire project. Hence, the availability issue!
And these threads – with the exception of the colored passing threads – have all been used in part. They’re still usable to personal projects, for smaller projects, for bits here and there, demonstrations, and whatnot, but again, it wouldn’t be too wise to try to incorporate them into a large project where I’d have to add more (new) thread to them, in case the gold tones are off due to age and storage.
All these drawers and baskets are kept out right now on one end of a work table, but they’re all kept carefully shrouded in layers of towels to keep sunlight and dust off them.
I’ve also been very careful to keep the air conditioning on, rather than opening windows in Kansas heat and humidity. Of course, it’s also been up around 100 degrees lately, so that’s no surprise!
The stack of drawers and baskets will probably occupy space for about another week, and then I’ll tidy them all, return them to their dark corner, and reclaim some work space!
Behind that work table, we also have an idea wall.
This is a wall where I’ve taped up images, alphabets, drawings, and the like that I find inspirational for this project. Perhaps there’s a technique I liked, perhaps there’s a design element that caught my eye, an alphabet that works with the interior of the church, or a color that works particularly well. Whatever the case, I collected images from online, from books of designs, old church folios, etc., and made copies or printed them, cut them out, and taped them to the wall.
This idea wall will shift a bit as the project continues. I’ll pull parts down, tape up other ideas, and so forth.
So that’s another look at this major goldwork project that’s developing here in the studio these days. More on it later!
Looking for More?
If you want to read previous articles on this project, you’ll find them through the links below:
One of the best goldwork books available for extensive goldwork instruction is Alison Cole’s Goldwork Masterclass. I keep this book in stock in my shop, where you will find a curated collection of fine embroidery books from around the world. If the book is out of stock, drop me a line and I’ll send you an email as soon as they arrive again.
If you want to read more about the book, you can find my review here.