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An encore to yesterday’s ornament.

I posted yesterday about a small gold ornament embroidered on fabric, and the post received this comment:

Looking at your ornament, I realized that because I had seen that particular technique only separate from the fabric ground, and because I was thinking about it as structurally similar to macrame and rope knotting techniques, it had never occurred to me that it might have been created using the ground fabric to help create and maintain the shape, rather than being created “in air” and then attached to a ground fabric by sewing. I’d been making them (and teaching people to make them) by using pins on a board with the wire wound in pairs on bobbins, as if I were making a sort of bobbin lace. I’ll have to experiment with this approach. I’m curious: given that some of the surviving pieces using this technique are quite long, what would your approach be to dealing with the lengths of wire needed, if they need to be loose in order be able to “sew” them through the fabric as you create the knots?

Well. This does need more than just a few words in reply, so I’m making it a blogpost.

Firstly, and most importantly, this is a special form of gold thread embroidery and not a wire ornament, so if you are thinking “knots in wire”, you have the wrong material in mind.

Let me show you – here’s the ornament again:

And here’s the thing in closeup.

Gold thread is a pain to photograph – but it’s so pretty when it works!

You can clearly see that it’s not a wire, but a spun gold thread – a thin, narrow strip of gilt silver wound around a silk core. You can also see how the threads go through the fabric at the corners; start and end of the ornament are in the lower right part of the picture.

Hopefully you can also see that it is a real knot, not a braid or bobbin-lace-like crossover between a braid and a weave.

I thus have no clue on how you would be able to do this particular knot in wire, over pins, with the wire wound on bobbins, as there’s not only crossovers – it is basically real knotwork that is stitched through the fabric at the corners, and the gold thread goes through loops.

I can tell you how I do it, though: I snip off a piece of gold thread in the length needed (that took about 16-17 cm), fold it in half and tie an overhand knot into the very end. (I feel very badass when I do this. Knots! In gold thread! It’s the fastest way to really anchor the gold, though, and it doesn’t take up a lot of material, so it’s an efficient thing to do, but it still feels like a badass move.)
Then I take a (rather thick) needle and a piece of (thin) linen thread. The linen thread goes through the gold thread loop, then both ends of the linen thread are threaded through the needle’s eye.

Now I have the gold thread secured to the needle, with enough slack via the linen helper thread to comfortably do the stitching. Pulling the gold thread through using the linen loop needs some care, but it works really well that way, and it’s a rather quick way of making the ornament. After the last knot of the work is done, I just pull the end to the back of the fabric, pull out the linen thread, and that’s it.

I don’t think this approach would work with wire, though; spun gold thread is a lot more pliable than solid metal, even if it’s fine solid metal that has been nicely softened.

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One Response to An encore to yesterday’s ornament.

  1. hrj says:

    Thank you for the explanation! From the scale of the photo yesterday, I hadn't seen that you were working this in gold-wrapped thread, so I was connecting it in my mind to the Birka ornaments with similar designs that are done in wire. (Not the ones with wire spun around a lost thread core, but the ones using simple pairs of wires.) I may still think about experimenting with a "sewn" technique for the Birka-style ornaments, but for those I'm still inclined to think that it's a braiding technique.

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