GOLDWORK

Characteristics

Gold thread completely covers an area Gold threads are closely couched in areas using colour NUE GOLDWORK A coloured design is laid on the foundation fabric The gold thread, usually in pairs, is laid in horizontal straight lines across the design, beginning at the bottom. Each area of colour is couched vertically as each gold row is laid. The coloured thread is taken over the gold thread as often and as closely as is required by the design. Areas of gold that do not require any colouring are couched either in self-coloured silk or transparent thread.

History

The art of goldwork is as old as the arts of goldsmith and weaver. Pure gold, beaten into thin sheets known as aurum battatum, was cut into extremely thin sheets. It was sufficiently malleable to work into warps, stitch through open weaves and wind around a silk core to couch onto the fabric.

Later gold thread was made by covering silver wire with a gold coating which was drawn out into any thickness. The thread was then hammered flat and wound round a core of silk or synthetic yarn. It could also be spun and drawn through a series of holes in diminishing sizes until the thread was fine enough to spiral into purls (fine wire spiralled into a hollow spring) and bullions (bulky purls) which could be cut and used as gold beads. Today gold plating has been overtaken by plated alloys and synthetics.

Goldwork was and is used in ecclesiastical work and the gold yarn, real gold, was very valuable. During periods of history, gold from garments was exchanged for money to buy ammunition, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. Thus people often raided gold from garments, banners and ecclesiastical work. In England there were laws to forbid people other than royalty or nobility from wearing gold. William the Conqueror imprisoned people who wore gold.

Parfilage or drizzling was common. A special instrument like an unpicker was used to remove gold thread from garments. In her diary, a duchess complained at afternoon tea that someone had drizzled gold from her garment. In the Vatican, ecclesiastical garments are kept in glass cases and often one can see the lines where the gold has been removed.

Or Nue, also known as Burgundian embroidery or Italian shading, is a method of laying gold thread to completely cover an area. Or Nue arose from the painting and enamelling that was fashionable in 14th century Burgundy. It was used extensively in ecclesiastical embroidery and for religious symbols such as bishops’ crests. This was the introduction of colour into gold embroidery. A coloured design is laid on the foundation fabric. The gold thread, usually in pairs, is laid in horizontal straight lines and couched over in a coloured thread as closely as is required by the design. Areas of gold that do not require colouring are couched either in self-coloured silk or transparent thread.

References

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