Tagged ‘Golden Threads’

All that Glitters

November 5th, 2008 by Jill Hall

really IS gold, in this case.

The gold thread for the coiling vines is real gold, and, like the gilt sylke twist, was purpose-made for this project by Bill Barnes of Golden Threads in the UK. It is a gold wire wrapped around two ends of yellow silk thread. I know the next question is whether any is available for sale, and the answer is, maybe. Right now we’re tracking how much thread it takes to embroider the coils and counting spools of thread. If there’s any left over, it will certainly be made available. If there isn’t, and there is huge demand, well, look what happened with the GST. Every time I check, new colors have been added to the line, and two sessions ago there was great excitement when Tricia brought out spools for sale. Not one person around the table said “I want this color”, or “I’d like to have this one”; it was all “I need this one. And this one. And … this one.”


This past weekend’s experiment was exceedingly successful. Judy, who worked mostly at Tricia’s last week, arrived on Friday not babbling incoherently from too much gold work. She was still smiling and stitching and enjoying. Lyn J from Canada, Debbie A and Carli D from the NYC area all stepped up to the guinea pig table and took instruction from Tricia before practicing, comparing, and practicing some more.

Debbie reported that the gold is Not a pain to work with, in fact it is quite durable. She used one length for practice and was able to pick out mistakes several times and reuse the same length without trouble. The end you have to thread through the needle frays a bit, but Wendy reports that if you chew on it a little you can shape it up to re-thread.

Even after four days of coiling vine after coiling vine, Lyn, Carli and Debbie were still enjoying the work. I asked them if it seemed to take forever, because just watching them, to me, it seemed to go much more quickly than I’d thought (feared). They said that in the working it seemed to go slowly, but whenever they sat back to look, more was done than they expected, and less time expired. Lyn claimed to be Princess Slow-poke, but she accomplished several coils and none of the rest of us thought she was going slowly. I think she’s just accustomed to working more quickly than most and so this felt slow.

Here are pictures of Debbie and Carli’s pieces. Lyn was working well past the final bell on Monday, and Wendy didn’t remember to photograph her piece before we put it away. We will take a photo to post on Thursday, when we’re taking some studio photos of individual motifs. I think Carli was working on the right front and Debbie on the back.

Do you want to work some of the coiling vines? Our test group did so well we’re going to do it again. If you’re free the weekend of 11/21-24 (this is the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving – I offered to run a session over Thanksgiving, pointing out that Pen and I will be here anyway, but got no takers), either have practiced the plaited braid according to Leon Conrad’s instructions as amplified and illustrated by Linda Connors, and are willing to work on matching gauge and stitch density, send me a note jhall@plimoth.org We can take 3-4 people to work vines, and a couple more to work silk or GST on the coif & forehead cloth.

We are “pushing” the jacket to completion this winter, in time for display at the beginning of May. I am worried about the winter weather too, look at last year! but look for more sessions in January and February. If you want to suggest dates, send me a note.

In addition to the gold workers, we had three lace makers this weekend. Sue, Linda and Colleen nearly finished the last short piece – the second cuff, as well as the long piece. Colleen also managed to do some embroidery on the coif. There are two new plans afoot – to develop some patterns for white lace to adorn the smocks, coifs, cuffs, and collars of certain characters on our living history sites, and to develop a smaller spangled lace suitable for trimming the coif and forehead cloth. If you’re a lacer and weren’t interested in working metal but might want to do some white lace, let me know and I’ll keep you apprised of progress.

I don’t have much news on the symposium, mostly because I’ve been focusing on getting the interpreters what they need to finish the season. I have a couple of firm commitments from speakers, one probable yes, and I have to get back to the couple I haven’t heard from; the biggest news is that the registration will open first to those who have worked on the piece. They’ll get a 5-week headstart to register and then we will open the registration to everyone. We plan to start this in December, and of course news will appear here and in an email blast to the stitchers/lacers. SO please update your contact information. I know there are some who have changed email/moved etc since coming. If you know someone in that situation, please ask him/her to contact us in order to stay informed. You can update by sending me or Kathy an email or calling 508-746-1622 X 8248 (Penny), X 8119 (me), or X 8114 (Kathy).

Selecting the Gold Thread

June 30th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Tricia writes today:

New trial against old.If you remember, months ago we were trying out gold threads for the plaited braid stitch. Bill Barnes of Golden Threads had made a silk core wrapped with gilt strip for us. When it stitched, it was just too stiff to use, which was a surprise to me. When I gave him my comments, he responded that he had used three ends of Soie Ovale for the core and would I wait a few weeks for another sample using just two ends. He was sure it would work. Well – always trust the master!

We finally got the sample two weeks ago (another one of those international shipping dramas delayed it). Shown here is the sample alone and also stitched next to the previous samples that I had done. The thread is thinner but it still gives a nice and dense plaited braid. More importantly, it stitches easily. Well, as easily as a gold thread can! So I gave the green light to have miles of it made.Two ends of Soie Ovale instead of three.

A big thanks goes out to Access Commodities who have been coordinating this for us. They are the distributor of Au Ver a Soie thread and supply the silks that Bill is using for the thread. Lamora’s expertise with international shipping is one of the prime reasons we can make this happen!


Hi Mary, I’m glad it made you laugh. jmh

Rapunzel, Rapunzel…

March 6th, 2008 by Tricia

Let Down Your Plaited Braids.

Tricia’s writing again tonight, but first I want to mention the receipt of two more lace samples, from Carolyn W and Mary D.
close plaited braid Here you can see the trials stitched in plaited braid. What I found was that the 371 Gold Wire was the most flexible and easiest to stitch with. This made the line of plaited braid the fastest to stitch.

The Gilt No 5 Passing and 2% WM No 5 Passing were the second best to stitch with, but took almost 50% longer to work with. It is hard to say why this is. The thread is stiffer which might make the bend at the needle larger and therefore harder to pull through the fabric. Also, when working with the tight plaited braid, the stiff threadsclose plaited braid copy don’t separate as well when placing your needle under stitches to make passes.

Unfortunately the silk-cored Gilt No. 5 Passing took the longest to work with (two times the 371 gold wire time) and was the most difficult. The needle and thread didn’t go through the fabric as well as the others. It seemed very slightly larger – almost like a No 5.5 Passing. When we reported back to Bill, he asked if we could wait for a sample with one less end of silk in the core. We will wait.

The Leoni thread needs to be looked into a bit more. The thickness of the thread was thinner than we were looking for. It also seemed to be damaged in the spooling process with the wrap rubbed off in many places.

The good news was that we could use a real metal wrap; the bad news so far is that it takes longer to work and the silk core needs tweaking.



March 5th, 2008 by Tricia

Tricia writes tonight, beginning a “thread” about gold threads for the vines on the jacket. I’m most grateful, as we’re opening the museum two weeks from Saturday and the Day Job is insisting on more of my attention. I’ll try to take some photos tomorrow of that busy-ness. But tonight:

How I wish I could spin straw into gold these days! We are working on the gold thread for the vines on the jacket and we are closer to an answer, but not quite to a decision yet.

Bill at Golden Threads took a light yellow silk (Soie Ovale from Au Ver a Soie) and spun gilt strip onto it for us to try. We would love to use silk-cored gilt No. 5 passing for this jacket to be as close as we can get to the original historical thread within the economics of the project. We could use 2% WM gold strip, but since the project is funded mostly from your sample kit purchases at this point, that might be too rich for us.

I took a series of gold threads and stitched plaited braid at the same scale as the jacket close to each other to see which one could form the stitch well and how easy it was to form the stitch. One measure I used was how long it took me to stitch about 1.5 inches of the line with the thread.

Five threads were tried:

gold threads number one- #371 Gold Wire by Benton and Johnson. A great faux thread made by evaporating metal onto a plastic sheet and slitting it to wrap the core thread.
- The experimental thread by Golden Threads, three ends of Soie Ovale wrapped by gilt (electroplated) strip.
- Gilt No. 5 Passing by Golden Threads. The same gilt strip as above, but around a cotton or poly-cotton core
- 2% WM No. 5 Passing by Benton and Johnson. A higher amount of gold on the strip that results in a richer color. The threads of the time period were around 2.5% WM gold.
- A thinner gilt passing thread by Leoni in Germany

Here you can see all of these threads very close up. One of the things that distinguish western gold threads from Eastern (Asian) gold threads is the width of the wrap, these are very narrow. Also most western threads are wrapped with 100% metal instead of a foil on a strip of paper or plastic. The faux thread (#371) is an exception to that rule. Tomorrow the stitched plaited braid samples.


Gratitude, and a little Light Housekeeping

June 11th, 2007 by Jill Hall

First, the light housekeeping:

Reminders for the June stitchers:

  • If you have and are able to bring a magnifier and/or a lamp, please do. We’d appreciate it very much.
  • If you’d like a seat cushion and can bring one, please do.
  • Please avoid strong perfumes. One of our number is allergic.

Thank you.

A question was left in the comments (thank you, I love comments!), about whether a pdf of the ladder stitch with zigzag interlacing is or can be available. The answer is that Tricia is working on a book of goldwork stitches and this one and many of its relations will be included.

Alison’s sample arrived safely. No mail today, not sure why. Perhaps there’ll be a double batch tomorrow.

Now the gratitude:

An effort of this sort really relies on an extended network of people taking time from their regular duties to look up data, pull out samples, get permissions, find materials, and all sorts of things. We wanted to periodically acknowledge the growing army of behind-the-scenes individuals and institutions who have been working the help this project and its ‘extras’ become reality. Here is just the first installment of thank yous. Any omission is inadvertent, will be corrected, and is purely the result of our being overwhelmed at this point!It is fabulous to see how many people in this community are excited about the project and its potential to energize and expand on the historic needlework field.

Manufacturers and Distributors

Access Commodities – Lamora Haidar has been tireless in giving advice and helping us locate enough silk in particular dye lots for the jacket. In addition, she has supplied frames and is trying to revive a manufacturer of slate frames. And most importantly – she has invested in having a new line of threads fabricated by Golden Threads for the jacket and will make them available through distribution. We can’t thank Access Commodities enough for that type of support.

Zweigart USA – Jim and his staff have donated 7 yards of Kingston Linen to the project for the jacket and sample kits. They also worked tirelessly trying to get us the linen after it got delayed in customs.

Lakeside Linens – Pat was wonderful to take time from her day to help me locate who in the USA might have a secret stash of high quality linen that could be used if our linen didn’t make it out of customs. She suggested Dave at Norden was my best bet.

Norden Crafts – Dave and his staff located a few small pieces of Kingston Linen that allowed us to get started while we waited for our larger supply to get released from customs.

Golden Threads – Bill Barns has allowed us to bend his ear of dreams of metal threads of old. Then he made them! Bill is currently making a new line of just wonderful threads that will be distributed by Access Commodities. More in the blog later about these amazing recreations!

Benton and Johnson – Neil has also allowed me to pick his brain about gold threads and passed on much valuable information and samples. They are keeping us in gilt paillettes for the jacket.

Coats and Clark USA – Ann Blalock has supplied us with threads for educational programs at the Plantation to enhance the stitchers’ experience. They have also offered to help us with extending our programming to children around the USA.

Jill & Tricia

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