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What is Goldwork?

The History of Goldwork~How's it done

The History of Goldwork......St Cuthberts Stole

Goldwork is the word used to describe embroidery done with metallic threads but not necessarily just gold; other colours are also used to create the richly textured embroideries such as silver and copper. Modern techniques also produce other less traditional colours.

The roots of the embroidery technique date back 2,000 years where it was found in the Middle East before moving to Europe in the seventh century, when a technique known as ‘Opus Anglicanum’ (English Work) developed  to richly decorate church vestments and ceremonial dress. Examples of detailed Goldwork from pre-Norman Britain are found in Durham Cathedral including the stole of St Cuthbert (photo right).

ThreadsAncient examples of Goldwork are rare as the threads were made of beaten gold wrapped around a silk or animal hair core, so were often removed from garments. Lincoln Museums hold a pair of hunting mittens believed to have belonged to Anne Boleyn which are decorated using the Goldwork techniques in silver.

As the technique began to be used for decorating garments of the rich, Sumptuary laws were introduced to restrict their use to royalty and the very wealthy. Though ancient examples of Goldwork are rare, enough exist in museum and cathedral collections to demonstrate the progression of the technique over the centuries to modern day use, still on ecclesiastical vestments and ceremonial decorations and to decorate clothing or produce framed works of art.

Because of the cost of the materials and the time and skill required to create the embroidery, Goldwork has traditionally been used exclusively for occasional and special pieces – Silk-Pig now lets you share in the splendour of this age old technique.

How's it done......

Goldwork is surface embroidery or 'couching' where metallic threads are held on the surface of a fabric with a second thread, usually of a fine silk. The ends of the matallic threads are usually pulled through the base fabric and secured with the couching thread.

Metallic threads in a range of colours, sizes and patterns are used.......

Typical Goldwork threads

 The piece is prepared with backing cloths and stretched in frame.......

Framed work

 Fine silk threads are used to hold the metallic thread down in a technicque know as couching......


Silk-Pig - unique, hand crafted silk and gold work purses, bags, hair decorations and bespoke costume decoration.

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