A good friend of mine was getting married and asked if I would embroider matching covers for 3 photo albums, a memory box and a ring cushion.
The background fabric was the deep scarlet red silk dupion of the bride’s wedding dress, the embroidery technique – a slightly modern twist on traditional Goldwork and the design, created with the bride, represents Yin and Yang, the time of year (it was a winter wedding – hence snowflakes and holly) and the fact that the bride and groom are both born under the Pisces (fish) star sign.
Goldwork was traditionally used mainly on military dress uniforms and clerical vestments and used ‘threads’ which, in the past, were at least some part gold. Today’s threads are more likely to be metals or plastics masquerading as gold – but are still very effective and far more affordable than the original. As most of the threads used in this technique are metal the embroidery sits on the surface of the background fabric and various materials (soft string, felt and carpet felt) can be used to raise the threads to give a 3D effect.
The holly leaves are worked in soft kid leather with a gold colour coating and outlined in Pearl Perl – a coiled metal thread. The holly berries are padded with a small ball of soft string and yellow felt, then covered in tiny ‘chips’ of another Goldwork metal thread called Bright Check – the long tube of woven metal is cut into tiny pieces and applied to the surface by sewing a waxed thread through the ‘chip’ like attaching a bead.
The flourishes forming the fish are worked in Jap thread – this used to be a cotton or silk thread core wrapped with a very thin strip of gold; however these days the covering for the cotton core is a gold-coloured plastic strip wound around in the same manner. This is attached to the background fabric by couching with (in this case) a matching coloured sewing thread so as to hide the holding stitches. Another Goldwork technique, not used here, called Or Nué uses coloured embroidery cottons or silks to couch the Jap, producing shaded images with the gold Jap showing through.
The fixings for the rings are gold coloured bars from large toggle clasps used in jewellery making and these are attached with gold shirring elastic. There are a few snowflakes stitched with gold metallic thread and a couple of gold sequins.
The embroidery was worked in a 10” hoop with seat frame and the silk was backed with calico to help take the weight of the Goldwork and prevent damage to the delicate fabric.
The back of the cushion is a plain piece of silk attached to calico – I am afraid I cheated and bought a 10” x 10” feather cushion pad from eBay!