Silk and Gold Tudor Rose
SNAD Collection

Goldwork

Goldwork is a technique long used to signal affluence and has attracted artisans and patrons with its luxurious shine and alluring texture for thousands of years. Goldwork consists of three or four basic stitches, which in combination create beautiful works of art.

A Little History

Goldwork was developed in Asia over 2,000 years ago. In Europe, its production peaked during the Middle Ages. It was used most frequently in church vestments, military regalia, and clothing of the royalty and nobility throughout Europe. During certain periods, goldwork embroidery was restricted to the upper classes: Edward III’s edict of 1363 proclaimed that no one whose income was below 400 marks per annum could wear cloth of gold or embroidery. During the Protestant Reformation in 1550, Churches stripped off all gold and silver from garments, and embroidery was removed from the church displays.

Opus Anglicanum, a highly valued form of ecclesiastic goldwork, has featured prominently in the Vatican’s textile inventory since the Middle Ages. Or Nue (or Italian Shading) took prominence in the 1400s, followed by the Tudor, Elizabethan and Stuart styles until the 17th century. Spanish Matadors opted for silk and goldwork suits in the 1700s, and goldwork’s largely symbolic status of wealth and prosperity continues today. Goldwork today includes to all types of metallic threads, which are usually laid or couched down, is still prominent in religious ornaments, military wear, royal garments, and high fashion.

Sources

A-Z of Goldwork with Silk Embroidery. Australia: Country Bumpkin Publications, 2008.

Brown, Mary. Goldwork Embroidery: Designs and Projects. Australia: Sally Milner Publishing, 2007.

Cole, Alison. The Midas Touch. United Kingdom: Publishing Solutions, 2008.

Dawson, Barbara. Metal Thread Embroidery. London: B. T. Batsford, 1968.

Everett, Hazel. Goldwork: Techniques, Projects and Pure Inspiration. Great Britain: Search Press, 2011.

Fouriscot, Mick and Simone Chateau. La Broderie or de Rochefort. Paris: Éditions Didier Carpentier, 2000.

Lemon, Jane. Metal Thread Embroidery: Tools, Materials and Techniques. London: B. T. Batsford, 1987.

McCook, Helen. RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Goldwork. Great Britain: Search Press 2012.

Ramsey, Gloria. Couching Decorative Laid Thread Embroidery. London: B. T. Batsford, 1976.

Zimmerman, Jane D. Techniques of Metal Thread Embroidery. California: Self published, 1980.