12 Little Needle Cases

August: Goldwork

This needlework piece is part of my ongoing exploration of different medieval embroidery styles. A full explanation of the project can be found here.

When I started my little Saint Catherine needle case I knew she would be a lot of work. So I suppose it makes sense she should be broken up into two months. This month I will be working on the goldwork of her gown.

Progress thus far on Saint Catherine

From looking at the Bowden Cope, there are several different types of goldwork that create different textures on her gown. There is a vertical chevron pattern, a horizontal brickwork pattern, and a curvilinear geometric pattern that is used as trim.

Figure from the Bowden Cope

These different styles of goldwork stitches create different textures and capture the light creating movement.


As you may recall, the embroidery in this piece is done on one layer of linen over top of a layer of red velvet. The linen grain will act as guide lines for the underside couching stitches. The chevron stitches going vertically and the brick stitches going horizontally. The curvilinear stitches will follow the contours of Catherine’s gown.

I will proceed first with the brick stitch of the halo. Then the curvilinear border of Catherine’s gown, followed by the brick and chevron stitches. Lastly, I will add the pearl crown. When working with goldwork, one should always work with the least fragile threads first as the most fragile may be damaged with heavy handling.

I will be stitching primarily with Benton and Johnson 371 cotton/synthetic passing thread. Like threads that were used in the original, it is a fiber core wrapped with a thin piece of gold (synthetic). I have worked with this thread before and find it to be a great replacement for real gold wrapped thread. I will use a waxed linen thread for the underside couching and a chenille size needle.

A good explanation and tips and tricks for underside couching can be found in Tanya Bentham’s book Opus Anglicanum but if you cannot afford her book (which I highly recommend if you will be doing any opus anglicanum style work) check out the diagrams found at the Textile Research Center for Underside Couching.

After stitching the goldwork, I will carefully trim away the linen ground to reveal the velvet below!



Tanya Bentham’s Opus Anglicanum book is a fantastic resource for goldwork of this period

Sarah Homfray has done some great YouTube videos on Underside Couching

Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials — Underside Couching

The Textile Research Center — Underside Couching

The Textile Research Center — Opus Anglicanum

For information on later goldwork stitches I recommend Elizabethan Stitches by Jacqui Carey.


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