Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Embellishing the seams of a pouch with gold thread

I'm finishing the seams of a pouch in pink silk and gold thread. It's slow work, and I still need to finish the seams at the top. I really like doing this type of embroidery, but I'm not always concentrated enough :-).

This technique involves braiding two loops together while at the same time stitching them over a seam. We wrote tutorials about it here. Most examples of this type of braids were done in two different colors of silk, but I also found some examples in which both silk and gold thread were used:

Staufer, A. (1991), Die mittelalterlichen Textilien von St. Servatius in Maastricht, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung Riggisberg, p 158, a Spanish 135th century pouch, with a braid in green silk and spun gold thread (a metalic strap wrapped around a core)

Schmedding, B. (1978), Mittelalterliche Textilien in Kirchen und Klöstern der Schweiz, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung, p 190, a 15th century Swiss pouch with a braid in spun gold thread and green silk, p 288, p 230, “Reliquienhülle” with braids in gold and blue and gold and red (long strips of brick stitch embroidered cloth, I don't know what they were used for...)

Some notes on gold thread

I think chapter 3 of Nancy Spies' Ecclesiastical pomp and aristocratic circumstance is a nice basic introduction to the different types of metal thread that could be used in the Middle Ages. She gives quite a number of references, and she also included some interesting pictures.

This is another great book, because it describes, among others how, “thin” metal thread used in pouches could be, e.g. around or less than 0.2 mm in some cases: Ceulemans, C. (1988), Tongeren. Basiliek O.L. Vrouwe Geboorte. I. Textiel van de vroege middeleeuwen tot het Concilie van Trente, Leuven: Peeters

In my pouch, I' m using 4 parallel strands of spun gold thread of less than 0.2 mm thick each. It's a metalic strap wrapped around a core. I do think it fits the picture described above, but I don't know what it's made of. I bought this thread at an antiques fair, last summer. The vendor told me it was French, but didn't know more about it. (it's the one on the left)

Here are some on-line shops which sell spun gold thread, with a % in gold or gilded silver:, e.g gold, 2 % wm smooth passing thread nr 4

I must confess that the Benton & Johnson website is a bit of a mystery to me. Has anyone ordered there yet? Does anyone know if they have the type of thread I described above?

If you know of other shops/vendors which sell spun gold thread, we'd love to hear from you! And, if you know other interesting references, we'd love to hear that too :-)


The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

I am not very knowledgable about thread construction, but Tricia at this blog is. I think she can answer questions about Benton and Johnson threads and if there are other sources of the spun gold thread you are interested in. Please, go introduce yourself.

Machteld said...

Thanks, we will :-)

Alettesiriane said...
Ernst Zisler sells the gold thread needed to make parts of our bunad(national costumes

Machteld said...

Thanks! Those costumes look beautiful, by the way :-)

Anonymous said...

Benton and Johnson actually manufacture the threads so there is a good chance that you could send them a reference and ask what they make which is suitable for your purpose.

a stitch in time said...

Since you are looking for gold thread, I'll do a shameless plug here: I sell spun gold thread that was custom-made to my specifications which just happen to come directly from the graveyard finds of Villach-Judendorf in Austria and date to the 12th century. The thread is 0.2 mm thick (which was the most common thickness according to my studies of gold threads) and consists of an undyed core of real silk, wrapped with gilt fine silver.
I sell the thread both in a package (embroidery starter kit) with plant-dyed silk thread or on its own. It is lovely to work with, very nice and flexible due to the fine silver instead of the usual white metal (WM) alloy most manufacturers use, and is well suited to both brocading and embroidery. You can see a sample embroidery pic here:

and you can also contact me via my website,

Machteld said...


Thanks for shamelessly plugging your wares:-) I'm sure we're not the only ones interested!

Isis and I want to use it for the embroidered braids, and for making tiny golden knots, which we haven't managed yet... :-(

Helmi said...

wow, I love this blog. Thanks for sharing

Stacey said...

Very pretty.

Alison Addicks said...

Bart and Francis in Belgium are selling gold and silver thread

Machteld said...

Thanks for the link!

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