I’ve been learning about goldwork embroidery for just over a year now by working from a few kits and trying a couple of projects from books.
I thought I’d share how I came to do this project as it’s the first time I’ve completed a design which is not from a pre-made kit or beginner-specific tutorial. Over two posts I’ll explain some of the processes, equipment and materials I’ve used.
I do want to say that I’m not an expert in goldworking, embroidery or any other textile art and these posts are not meant as a tutorial.
I’m assuming readers do have some previous knowledge of embroidery equipment and stitches, so not all the terms are fully explained for beginners. There are links explaining some techniques that are less commonly used in modern embroidery.
The above geometric design is something I wanted to try as fan art project ever since I started learning about goldwork. I’ve been a long-time reader of the comic book series Strangehaven and this logo was made for the Abiogenesis Press imprint which Strangehaven was originally self-published under. Gary Spencer Millidge, the creator, kindly gave me permission for his logo design to be used.
Step 1: Breaking down the design
As a symmetrical shape this looks pretty simple to work with, but, once I started planning out what stitches and goldwork techniques I wanted to use this became quite complicated. I tried two partial tests before I thought of the way I’d like to proceed with it.
The main issue was how to work the central triangle of the design and keep that consistent for the joined circles with open centres. Originally my idea was in using only silver wires and threads to create an outline of the whole shape, but this eventually developed to wanting to fill the shape with a combination of wire cutwork and embroidery stitches.
Step 2: Fabrics
In the first testing stages there were a few problems. I have to put my hand up and say this was mostly due to my inexperience at breaking down a design to figure out which specific techniques would look right and then testing those ideas by trial and error.
The first two fabrics I picked were a hand-woven green dupion silk and then a much finer silk in shot colours. Trying to be thrifty I picked these from a selection of pieces I already had. The choices turned out to be a mistake! The dupion silk was quite slubby. It was also stretchy even with a calico backing, so the logo pattern deformed when in a tightened wooden embroidery hoop. After I noticed that I didn’t begin trying to sew the design.
The blue/orange shot silk was far too thin and fragile, prone to tearing from the needle and tension of the threads (a medium weight calico backing was tacked on also). I got as far as couching some 1 Pearl Purl in silver and a length of fine Rococco thread, which I was testing for outlines, and then tried a gold metallic thread for a satin stitch before I found I wasn’t very happy with the way the fabric was looking.
Both silks also proved difficult for using with the prick and pounce method of transferring designs which I prefer to use for smaller pieces; the dupion barely showed the white pounce powder and it was difficult to see the outline even after going over it heavily with a white fabric pencil. With the shot silk; the logo came out a bit too blurred when using pounce powder and so I tried the trace and tack method instead.
I went back to the drawing board after these experiments and eventually decided on using a power-woven silk dupion. I also realised that I would definitely need some extra equipment because I wanted to change to a different setting-up technique.
Step 3: Equipment
I’d been using an 11 cm wooden embroidery hoop which I just held. It soon became apparent this put a strain on my wrists and arms because of some of the techniques used. A floor standing clamp for hoops and frames was a necessity. I’d also experienced some difficulty getting the right level of tautness for the materials and so with that I decided it was time to move to using a roller frame so I could use a braced frame technique (where a backing fabric is sewn onto a frame and then tightened slowly with string) for even tension across the fabric.
After researching what some of the more affordable options were: I chose the Elbesee Posilock Floor Frame and the same brand for a 30cm x 30cm Hand Rotating (roller) frame. I will be listing all the materials and equipment used for the completed design in the next post.
I can say that using the floor stand makes a massive difference to me. Some of the techniques, such as couching down threads and wires, are just so much easier with both hands free as there is a lot more control without strain. It was a bit of a revelation, and learning experience, after having used only hand-held hoops.
With the arrival of the stand and the roller frame this meant I could move onto the next test. I will cover the details of that and completing the final version in Part Two.