Beginning Goldwork Embroidery

If you have always wanted to have a go at goldwork embroidery but but it all looks really confusing then let Sarah guide you throught he process right here! Below you will find out all about the different types of threads and metals, what equipment you need, what fabrics are good to stitch goldwork on and then follow along with our beginners goldwork embroidery video to have a go at your first piece of goldwork!

Goldwork threads and metals explained!

Equipment for goldwork embroidery

Beginner's Goldwork design to stitch

What is goldwork?

Brief history of goldwork embroidery


Embroidery fabric for goldwork

You can basically work goldwork on any kind of fabric! but there are fabrics you can use that will make the process easier, especially while you are learning. Try a natural fabric such as a cotton, linen or cotton/linen blend. These won't stretch, distort or slide around in your embroidery hoop. Try a neutral colour at first such as ivory, sand or pale pastel colours as a strong colour can make it difficult to see your stitching. Once you have more experience you can ramp up the colour!

A backing fabric is often useful too although not essential. If you are intending to work alot of stitches on one piece this can become very dense and start to distort the fabric. A piece on the back will just help to stabalise everything.

We have a lovely selection of linens available in our shop here that are perfect for the beginner. Don't forget your calico backing too, cut to fit the linens.

Goldwork embroidery threads and metals

TThere are lots and lots of beautiful threads available and it is easy to get sucked in by beautiful colours and exquisite silk and sparkly finishes. My advice though would be to go with something inexpensive while you are learning; using expensive threads puts pressure on you that you don't need! Stranded cottons/floss are great to start with; DMC and Anchor both make these in a fantastic range of colours and they are readily available all over the world. They are colourfast so can be machine washed if you want to sttich on clothing. They come with six separate strands and you can choose how many you want to use in a needle so it's easy to get a different thickness of thread with just one skein. Another nice thread to use is Madeira Lana. This is 50% cotton and 50% acrylic so it has the beautiful soft feel of wool but with the strength of a manmade fibre (and again can be machine washed). We have a lovely selection of these in the shop here.

Embroidery frames

It's a good idea to have both hands free for goldwork so get yourself some sort of frame to hold your fabric in and a clamp to hold the frame steady. Ring frames, stretcher bars and slate frames will all do the job nicely depending on the project your are working on.  hold your frame in some sort of clamp so you can have two hands to work with (more on this below). Just a note on this, you are more likely to find the stretchbar frames in the US and the ring frames in the UK and Europe. We have both available on our website here, in lots of different sizes.

Frame clamps: These aren't essential but if you decide you love embroidery and want to do alot then you might want to consider one. They clamp around your chosen embroidery frame allowing you to use both hands freely. I use the versatile table clamp in all of my videos (I use two for ease of filming but you only need one!); you can see a video of that here.

  • Stork scissors blade
  • Chenille needles 24 loose

Embroidery equipment for goldwork

You will need a few other things before you can begin but they are essential!

Needles - This is a huge subject and the sheer number of different types and sizes available can be overwhelming; It is important to have the right one as the wrong one will leave you unnecessarily frustrated. We have a whole video about the different types and when to use what and also a video on how to thread your needles to (there is a tried and tested method!). You can see both of those by clicking on these links:

Scissors - You will need to cut your thread with something (I saw the ladies in India sometimes breaking it with their teeth but I don't recommended this!). It's worh investing in a good pair of embroidery scissors. These are small with a sharp point and will give a nice clean cut of your thread. Using your kitchen scissors just won't 'cut it'. Literally. We have a nice pair of embroidery scissors for sale in the shop here, go on treat yourself.

Embroidery designs for goldwork

This is the tricky part of the subject! There are loads of designs available on the good old internet that you can seemingly just print off and use. Please be aware however of copyright and respect the designers skill and time it takes to make the designs. Copyright varies from country to country but with the wonderful world of social media, it is easy to upload a picture of something you have stitched and before you know where you are it is out of your hands (if you upload something you have stitched to the internet, always credit the designer). Basically, you can't make money by using someone else's design without their say so. If you intend to sell it or make kits out of it etc, and it's not your own design your are breaking copyright laws, UNLESS it says somewhere with the design that it is free for you to use (some magazines do say this so check first) or you have been given permission to use the design directly. If you want to stitch it for your own personal pleasure then thats absolutely fine!

We have free designs on our website for you to use non commercially (i.e. please don't make money from them). You can download them from here and print them off. I will keep adding to this to build up a library of designs for you to use.

Of course the best thing to do is to design your own, but this is another subject all in itself that I will tackle another time!

An embroidery teacher!

Now you need to learn some stitches! There are lots of books available with embroidery stitches in, and with so many stitches available it's worth having a few on your shelf as reference; It's not possible to remember everything! Why not borrow them from your library and see which one you like? Here are a few to look out for:

  • Betty Barnden - The Embroidery stitch Bible
  • Left Handed Embroiderers Companion and Right Handed Embroiderers Companion (2 books!) - Yvette Stanton
  • A-Z of Embroidery Stitches - Country Bumpkin Publications
  • Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches - Mary Thomas

Even better than a book though, is to actually see someone doing the stitches in real time! We have a very extensive sttich library here at Sarah Homfray Embroidery with videos being added frequently. They are free for you to watch and you can see them here on the website or you can view them on our YouTube channel here. If you watch them on YouTube you can always ask me a question in the comments underneath and I will do my best to help you! We have made a playlist with all of the videos that we think would be useful to a beginner which you can see here.


I hope this has inspired you to have a go at goldwork embroidery. These are just the basics, so start simple and learn the main techniques of goldwork then you can add more to your knowledge as you become familiar with the materials and the methods. Check out our shop below for the essentials you might need to get going!

Happy stitching!

Sarah