In my last post, I appliqued the goldwork to my pouch material. Now it was ready for some final bling. The edge of the goldwork was a bit “pixelated” and rough, so I thought a great way to finish it up and round it out would be to edge it in pearl purl and freshwater pearls! If you’re gonna bling it up in the SCA, might as well go all the way in.
For those who haven’t heard of it before, “pearl purl” is a real metal thread used in goldwork embroidery. The name is a reference to its appearance. The word “purl” indicates that it is wire wound into a hollow tube, with no fabric core. It resembles a tiny spring. The “pearl” comes from the shape of the wire — the wire is round in cross-section, giving the coil a bumpy appearance, akin to a row of golden pearls.
I purchase my pearl purl at Berlin Embroidery, a great online resource for goldworking supplies. The wire is a bit springy when it first arrives. The wire is typically stretched in length slightly to open up the coil for couching stitches. This also has the effect of making it a tad bit stiffer so that it doesn’t “boing” about all over the place as you’re couching it down. For this project, I’m using No. 3 gilt pearl purl. After stretching it slightly, I ran it around the outside of my piece, couching it down with the same green silk that I used in the Or nue. The darker silk helped to visually separate the individual coils with a bit of shading that helps the “pearls” of gold stand out.
Once I had one layer of pearl purl down, it was time to put on the real pearls. I found a strand of freshwater pearls in my stash that were perfect for this project, and laid down a row of them just outside the pearl purl. I had done pearl work on a few other projects, with varying success – I found them a bit wiggly or not really staying in line as well as I liked. This time around, I did some research online and found a suggestion that I ended up really liking. The pearls are each couched as follows:
- First pearl: couch down once to the fabric
- Second pearl: Bring up the thread before the first pearl, run it through the first and second pearls, and down into the fabric
- Third pearl: Bring up the thread before the second pearl, run it through the second and third pearls, and down into the fabric,
- Last pearl: Run the thread through the last pearl, and then again through the first pearl.
This ends up with every pearl having two couching stitches – one shared with the pearl before it, and one shared with the pearl after it. This creates a very stable couching, which also (because of the shared stitches) keeps the entire strand in line. I knotted off the strand every 1/8 of the way around the circle, so that if the couching stitches ever break, I’ll only have to redo a small section of them.
Once the pearls were on, I ran a final row of pearl purl just outside them. This creates a “channel” for the pearls to sit in, as well as providing a nice outline.
Next time: finishing the pouch.