Tag Archives: metal thread embroidery


A bit of a challenge here, and almost like I invoked it through charms.

After making the big eyeball cushion and then these little crocheted cotton eyeball appliques abstracted from the big cushion, yesterday I was diagnosed with Shingles, and the point of invasion is around my left eye. It’s like I leaned out the window and yodeled the Elf Knight’s name. So summoned, he came.

I have been to doctors and am under the standard regimen to ameliorate and contain the infection, but the inconvenience of one-eyed stitching remains. Luckily, so far focal length complications have not set in. Still, I can’t just sit here, I have to be doing SOMETHING, so I soldier on.

And so today we have more experiments.

It’s getting confusing, so to supplement the last post, I have added identification letters. Items not discussed in today’s note are in the last one.

First off, the other fine silk and specialty needles aren’t here yet. Sadly one of the threads I ordered is a long lead item, and will not be available until after the September submission deadline for this project. So it has been nixed. With luck the rest of the order should be here by the end of the week. And on to this crop of equivocal results.

Gold Swirl AI liked the two strands of couched gold I did (Item F), but wondered how three would look. So I tried it, both with the gold color silk couching stitches and black ones. I couldn’t get the three strands to lay as neatly as the two, and the bulk just made handling and plunging them more difficult. So if I use couched gold, it will be the two-strand bit. And I am not that fond of the black threads holding down the gold, so I will use the gold color faux “art silk” I brought back from India.

Heavy Whipped Black Swirl B – This is two threads of my heavier unnamed silk, worked in reverse chain, then whipped with one strand of the Japanese gold. Love the look. Hate doing it because as I found before, the wrapped gold shreds itself. Plus the line is too heavy in company with the others.

Pekinese Stitch Black Swirl C – This started out as two threads of my heavier silk, a line of back stitch. Then I attempted to thread the gold through the stitches, in swirls. Bad idea, as this sorry little twisted tentacle shows. After this bit I have given up all thought of using Japanese Gold #5 as a passing thread, and will stick to couching it. That’s what it does best.

Counted Fills I and L – Two strands of the YLI 100 weight silk. It quite hard spun which works nicely for stitching over 3×3 threads. I think I have a winner here for the counted bits, pending receipt of my other candidate, still in the mail.

Heavy Black Outline J – Two strands of my unnamed silk, worked in reverse chain. I like the bolder line made by reverse chain over that produced by chain the “normal” direction. I do not pierce the fabric as I go under the legs of the previous stitch. I find that gives a more fluid line that better follows curves. There’s more on this stitch here. I like the stitch, but it’s too heavy in this particular thread. The motif outlines should not twice the thickness of the stems. If I go for the stems in the couched gold, this one just won’t do.

Lighter Black Outline K – Two strands of my Golden Schelle silk. This thread is only a fraction thicker than the spooled YLI, but it is more lofty. Two strands of it done in reverse chain is a much more suitable thickness for motif outlines. Again, I think I’ve got a winner. This is a hand dyed thread produced using recipes contemporary with the design of this coif, and my stash is largely from their initial dyeing experiments, therefore in some of the skeins there is a tiny bit of variation in the depth of the black achieved. The later Schelle skeins I have are a luscious, uniform and saturated black, but I am choosing to use the early ones. I won’t go out of my way to maximize the mixed tonality effect, but I do think that just using it naturally as it reels out will lend a very subtle historical look to the stitching.

Skinny Swirl/Outline M – Stem/outline stitch, in one strand of the heavier unnamed silk. First, I find it far harder to achieve a smooth and sinuous line in stem/outline than in reverse chain. And this is just too thin and wimpy for this design. I need a bolder outline than this stitch/thread combo can provide.

Slightly Thicker Swirl/Outline O – Same stitch and thread combo as M, but using two strands. Better. But K just looks better to me.

Stippled Fill N – One strand of the YLI, taking tiny dot straight stitches. A very common treatment found in historical blackwork pieces. No counting required, the stippling is usually used to model the roundness of the shape being filled, with denser and less dense areas. While I’m not a big fan of this treatment I will probably use it on some areas that need filling but are too small for easy use of a counted design.

Am I now ready to go? Almost. I still want to get my hands on the remaining silk, plus the tiny blunt beading needles. But I think I have identified my preferences. I may start in on the big piece tonight, working a counted fill in one of the larger areas. Now which fills to use….

It’s a darned good thing that I have two free books full of them, plus more in my as yet unpublished doodle notebooks. And if you are following along and want to use those fills – a note of caution that I do include in the foreword of both of them. The overwhelming majority of those fill designs are NOT taken from historical works, and in fact have ZERO historical precedent. In general, the more complex, the more likely it is my own flight of fancy. But even my flights of fancy stick to the design precepts of the historical fills. I use only 45, 90, and 180 degree angles – simple straights and diagonals. No “knights move” stitches over 2×1 units. No other elongated stitches, either. One unit = 1 stitch. Those things are wonderful addition to the designer’s vocabulary, adding all sorts of new angles to play with. But they are also absolute markers for the modern style, and I leave them to others.

I will certainly try to stick to fills that are “historically plausible”, but if I transgress and include an identifiably anachronistic one, well, time (and with luck those who cast an appraising eye on the finished work) will forgive me.


I’ve started in trying out various approaches and threads for the Unstitched Coif project. Here’s last night’s progress on my sidecar companion piece. It’s the same ground and threads I will use on the main project, but done to keep mistakes off “center stage.”

This isn’t final work, just doodles. I am not proud of it, there are lots of things that are sub-optimal. Let’s go through the bits.

First, the couched double strand of Japanese Gold #5. Still getting my mojo back with metal thread couching, I did cross my strands at the beginning of the bit up near the sad little flower, but by and large it worked. And it’s much easier on the flat frame where I can use two hands to stitch, rather than on this little round, where one hand is used to hold the frame itself. If the other hand manipulates the couching thread, I still need a third to tension and bend the metal thread around curves. Sadly, I am only equipped with two hands.

I used a gold color “art silk” for the couching threads, and was able to plunge the ends neatly using a loop of polyester sewing thread to capture them. That thread does not remain in the project. I thread a folded strand into a needle that’s slightly larger than what I would use to stitch, and with the loop trailing, pass it from top to bottom through my ground, then use that loop to nab the metal threads’ ends and pull them through to the reverse.

As far as appearance, not bad. I’ve managed tight curves using this stuff before, and I am confident that I could do it again. But the contrast between the blackwork and the many gold stems might be too great. We will see….

The 2mm paillette sewn just south of the gold stem. It works. It’s the right size for the uninhabited spaces between motifs. I will probably use them to spangle the piece once the majority of the stitching is done. And yes, I used the same faux gold tone silk to affix it, with three stitches.

The thicker gold sprig at the top. Again, that’s the Japanese Gold #5, but used as a passing thread. Only partial success with this bit. I used a reverse chain stitch, and passed the chain loop underneath the legs of the previous stitch, but did not pierce the fabric. While I like the sparkle it adds, it was not easy to do. The wrapped thread denatures, and the #28 needle was impossible to thread. I most definitely need a different needle if I want to use this stuff as a passing thread. Still even though it’s not a heavy plaited stitch and may not be exactly documented as a specific stitch used on historical coifs, the texture sings to me, as an echo of Elizabethan/Stuart era aesthetic. If I can figure out a better needle size, I may use it for some of the logically thicker stem sections. But like the plain couched bit, I am afraid of overwhelming the blackwork. Even more so with with sparkle.

The black and gold stem. Two strands of one of my thicker, stash-aged filament silks. Very fuzzy and prone to catching. I tried out both regular chain stitch and reverse chain (top and bottom of the stem respectively), then I whipped the entire stem with a single strand of the Japanese Gold. Again I had problems with the gold thread unraveling, even though the only place I pierced the ground was at the beginning and end of the stem. Different needle, for sure. And possibly doing it in the other spiral direction. Perhaps I was unknowingly adding to the metal thread’s twist by working in the established direction. But if I can make it work, I do like the look. Perhaps as shown here, I could vary stem treatments, twining full gold with black/gold. Or I could try out a line of double running, back or outline stitch done off count, and whip that, or work another threaded-behind surface treatment with the gold. More thought (and a better needle) is required.

The sad little flower. Been over this one before. My initial stab at counting on this ground. Working over 3×3 threads with one strand of Golden Schelle thread. Not pleased. Nothing wrong with the thread but it but a touch too heavy for the effect I want. That plus my own eyes, the needle size and unfamiliarity with working so fine a count make this bit suboptimal. I also tried using two strands of my slightly thicker stash silk for the outlines, in reverse chain. Too thick. Good for stems at that thickness. Have to experiment with using only one. Or perhaps using two of the Schelle strands for the outlines. More work is needed before I settle on “just right.”

The bit of fill at the very top. This is the debut try-out of one of the finer, newly purchased threads. This one is the one I got off Amazon – YLI 100 weight silk. The tiny spool holds 200 meters.

It has a very smooth finish compared to the others I have, and is quite ethereal. I waxed it with beeswax (as I do all of my threads used for countwork), and that helped give it more body. It was difficult to keep my needle threaded though, because being that fine it could have held a state banquet for fifty more threads of its diameter in the ample eye space of my #28 tapestry needle.

On the effect achieved – yes, I made a mistake in the fill design I was playing with (Ensamplario Atlantio II, #29). I chose that one because it would magnify differences in warp and weft stitch length, both straight and on the diagonal. I am getting more used to working with the magnifier three inches from my nose, and although I have some stitches wrong, they are all in the right spots. The effect though is rather leggy and spider like. This thread may be too tightly spun and smooth for best effect. I will try it out with a double strand next.

So there is my first round-up of experiments. Nothing done yet on the main project. Some food for thought. Some nope. And I am on tenterhooks waiting for the other two threads and the finer needles. But until they arrive, back to the lab for more bench tests!

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