After an annoying lapse of personal preparedness, I am now back from vacation – at home where I left my gold thread.  Sadly, no fish-stitching happened during my break because I was without it.

Goldwork is temperamental, exacting, and oh so rewarding.  I don’t pretend to be very good at it, especially compared to The Masters.  I bumble around at best.

I did play with metal thread embroidery decades ago, when I first encounted the SCA and began looking into historical styles.  I did couched work, direct embroidery with passing threads, and or nuée – a style that involves laying the gold threads across the entire width of the image-to-be, then overstitching it with colored threads to create pictures, almost in raster style, that glimmer as the gold peeks through.  But I had a goal back then – to advance embroidery in that organization, and all of these styles have a high learning curve.  Happily, I stumbled across blackwork – something that’s easy to learn and easy to teach.  I haven’t climbed back out of that hole in the years since.

Back to the project at hand – it’s clear that hooping over gold would destroy it, so for this phase of the work I have moved Two Fish to my flat frame.


The rather unusual scrolling flat frame is a Millennium from Needle Needs in the UK.  It’s a bit on the pricey side, but worth every penny.   Although the design isn’t centered in this early fit, I do not think that the minor bit of scrolling I may have to do will damage the work – for example, there’s no point where I would have to lap stitched fabric entirely around the top and bottom bars.

It became evident very quickly that an extra hand would be needed to do this part of the project.  Or two.  So I hauled out my ancient Grip-It floor stand.  I prefer a side stand rather than a trestle or tilt-top support that sits in front of the worker, and but side-supports are hard to find.

Ancient Grip-It works ok, but its main two drawbacks are that is easily overbalanced by a large frame like this, even when front mounted; and that the jaw is wimpy and doesn’t hold very well – and at the same time, I am concerned about pressure it puts on the finely turned wood sidebars of the Millennium.  Here’s my sadly overmatched Grip-It in action on an earlier piece on this same frame.  You can almost hear the joints squeaking as it strains to keep itself upright. To be fair, since I sit in a Morris style chair as I work, the off side of the frame does get extra support from my left side chair arm.

I’m on the hunt for a replacement floor stand, so if you have a candidate to recommend, feel free to post a comment.

As far as the stitching itself goes, I’ve begun.  Even with the floor stand, I find I need additional hands.

I want hand one to manage the stitch-down thread (one strand of gold-color silk floss, well waxed) poised on top of the work; one hand to receive the stitch-down thread’s needle below the work; one hand to provide gentle tension on the gold threads to keep them flat and even as I go along; and one hand to manage a laying tool to keep the two strands being couched in flat alignment to each other, and not crossing over each other. That’s two more hands than I currently have…

I can double up the stitch-down needle hand, stabbing the thing into the work on each stitch, then re-positioning the hand above or below and drawing the thread through the ground; but I haven’t found a graceful way to tension and direct the gold yet.  Since I haven’t worked this way in over 20 years, extensive re-training/re-familiarization is needed, and the going is slow but steady.


10 responses

  1. I love Judy O’Dell’s Just a Thought Needlework Floor Stand:

    1. Very nice, but it’s a front-type stand, and much like the one from Needle Needs, intended for use with my frame. However, my favorite stitching chair reclines, and I am looking for something that can sit on my right side and support the frame from there.

  2. Check out Mary Corbett on Needle & Thread. She does gold work and may have tutorials. I also love my JAT but it is an “in front of you” type of stand.

    1. Mary’s site is a regular haunt for me (it’s linked in the post). Her lasso trick for plunging ends has played large in my project. Thanks!

  3. That is so very beautiful. I am a stitcher of neither black work nor metallic thread. Admire your work so much.

  4. Elaine Cochrane | Reply

    This is looking really lovely – your choice of filling patterns and colours is perfect, and those gold paillettes in the green fish are a wonderfully subtle rich touch. Good luck in your hunt for a better stand – let us know how it goes.

  5. I have a lowry floor stand which I use to the side. It is metal, height adjustable, the arm rotates and so does the grip, which is very strong. I’d definitely recommend it.

    1. Thanks! Will investigate this one. Can it hold a cylindrical side bar of about 1.75 inches in diameter without crushing it?

  6. A lovely piece. Your blackwork is stunning! Needle needs occasionally also sell stands which are very good. But again, they are pricey. And with everything with them, take forever to deliver with no customer service. It’s this last point which ultimately leads me to always recommend on caution!

    1. Thanks! I know Needle Needs as a small hand-crafted business struggles with demand volume, and has fulfillment challenges. Shipment times can be very long. However I had excellent customer service when I received the wrong items in response to my purchase. And while the Millennium frame is pricey, it’s a quality product that I have found to be much better for the way I work than other less expensive similar purpose goods.

      Sadly, their frame works in the from-the-front configuration, and is not adaptable to side use, as I require.

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