Goldwork Embroidery

We were asked to find out about this strange embroidery on an old purse, using metal wire.

Goldwork on velvet purse

Goldwork on velvet

This picture was sent to us by the lady with the Durex knitting needles and she asked us to find out more about the strange type of embroidery which seems to use coiled metal.

Embroidery using metal threads is referred to as Goldwork and at first glance looks like metallic bead work.  Most metal threads are available in silver and sometimes copper as well as gold with some available in colors.
Goldwork is always surface embroidery or couching, where the gold threads are held onto the surface of the fabric by a second thread, usually of fine silk.  In this case, coloured thread has been used through coiled metal, making the finished work look as though pink and blue beads have been used.

The history of goldwork seems to date back at least 2000 years and can be traced back to Asia. Widley used in furnishings and clothing of nobility and royalty in Europe, goldwork reached its zenith in the middle ages when a style called Opus Anglicanum was developed in England which was used extensively in church vestments and hangings.

Goldwork tends to be reserved only for special use due to the costs of the materials and the fact that items worked in goldwork cannot be readily laundered.  It is not thought to be a widely practiced skill today.

We think the wire used in this case is Buillion or Purl, which is a very long, hollow spring, which can be stretched slightly.

It appears on initial inspection, that the work on this purse may not actually belong to the item originally, as the velvet has been hand stitched to the front of the purse.

If anybody can shed more light on this piece just let us know using the comments section below.

More information

The Goldwork Guild – Find out more about goldwork

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