April 27, 2012

Book Review: New Ideas In Goldwork by Tracy Franklin

Over the years I've bought numerous books on goldwork and other metallic thread embroidery, but this is the one I consistently return to time and again. Today I'm going to review it and let you know just what's in store for you between the covers of:

New Ideas in Goldwork by Tracy Franklin
(Published 2008 by B.T. Batsford.)

Tracy Franklin is a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework and her embroidery is , as you'd expect,  a study of beauty and perfection. In New Ideas In Goldwork she not only introduces goldwork at a level for beginners, but follows it through to advanced and experimental stitching, making this a book for all levels. To give you a good feel for what's on offer, I'm going to run through it chapter by chapter.

Chapters One and Two are the expected introduction to tools, threads and materials. Goldwork threads are something quite unique and if you haven't done any before you'll want to spend a bit of time here familiarizing yourself with the shininess. One take home point if you aren't familiar with goldwork is that these threads aren't at all like other embroidery threads and are usually stitched onto the surface of the fabric (couched), not stitched through it. They also have fantastic names such as pearl purl, check purl, imitation Japanese, rococco and flatworm. There are several pages of photos to give side-by-side examples of how the different threads look, and she gives each a quick explanation that gives you a good grip on how they're made. At the back of the book is also included a list of suppliers and although they're all UK based, it's a good starting point for sourcing supplies yourself.

In Chapter Three she goes on to explain the techniques by way of samples. Starting with padding properly, she continues on to couching correctly and plunging the threads, showing with clear photos how to deal with tricky corners or expanding circles. She goes into the various ways of getting the slippery, worm-like purl "threads" couched (trust me, they totally feel like worms when you hold them and it is simultaneously disgusting and awesome) and creating the brightly textured chip work. This chapter is one to come back to again and again, making sure you have the basic techniques down.

Chapter Four is Creative Metalwork Samples and here is where it gets funky. In these pages are the things I've not found in another goldwork book - it's breaking the rules, playing with the unusual characteristics of the threads and being messily creative. Almost twenty pages of awesome experiments for you to try yourself, encouraging you to step out of the traditional goldwork bounds and play with the effects you can create.

Finally Chapters Five and Six go into the creation of entire works: from instructions on how to replicate some designs, to examples of work from both Tracy and other embroiderers, with ideas, thought processes and design stages set out. This is the section for inspiration and the works there range from the beautifully traditional to the conceptually beautiful.

New Ideas In Goldwork is a beautiful, informative and inspiring book which not only teaches you how to perform the traditional art of goldwork, but encourages you to step out of the confines of those same traditional techniques - something you see still too rarely in published books on metal thread embroidery. It's a book which will work for all stages: beginner stitchers to advanced; goldwork newbies to couching queens. A must have addition to any stitching library and I give a rating of 5 out of 5 Gold Needles!


  1. Gosh, your book reviews and links are such wonderful temptations, and I LOVE that flower in the bottom pic. 

  2. Thanks so much for this review. I've always wanted to try goldwork and have checked out many books from the library that have been a little too intimidating. I'm excited to see what this one is like.

  3. Rachel Q. Landers SiskApril 28, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Thanks!! :) I had never thought of goldwork... love the pics too.