Goldwork Sampler

Goldwork sampler (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Goldwork sampler (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

I have now rejoined the cathedral embroiderers in Oxford and hope to be able to make regular appearances every Wednesday. The sampler I started about 6 years ago has been rescued from its neglect at the back of the wardrobe, undergone a bit of a redesign and is under the stab of a needle once more. 3 sessions has seen slow progress – I spend almost as long on public transport getting to Oxford as I have sewing time once there but I take heart from the fact that a Victorian altar frontal – by G.F.Bodley (nothing to do with Oxford’s Bodleian Library), a High Anglican manifestation in gold thread on green silk damask, is now in its tenth – and possibly last – year of restoration. Time verges towards the archaeological in such matters.

Goldwork sampler showing gold thread cut and used as beads

Goldwork sampler showing gold thread cut and used as beads


Sadly time has brought about other changes and our sewing place has been moved from the eyrie above the verger’s office within the cathedral to a stone bothy outside, a few paces from the cathedral’s east end. Health and Safety issues and resultant problems of insurability raised their ugly head and having decreed the stone steps inadequate as the only means of entry and exit, the team were ejected. We now share our rustic abode with the cathedral music library and each time we meet have to jiggle frames and chairs to fit everyone in. The big table we once had is a dream of the past and begs the question as to where Suellen might cut out a chasuble, let alone a cope. But we plough on, finding all sorts of things amusing and generally twittering amicably like a set of house sparrows.

Goldwork sampler: underside - forest of  plunged  threads awaiting treatment

Goldwork sampler: underside – forest of plunged threads awaiting treatment

I thought I would do a post every now and then to show progress on the sampler – who knows it might also have the effect of making me get on with it a bit faster? Goldwork is a steep road for me as it’s not really my cup of tea so it will be helpful for me to share progress with people reading the blog. Anyway even if I’m not especially enamoured of it I can still see that there is a need to master the techniques in order to help maintain and restore beautiful works of the past, like the Bodley frontal.

Goldwork sampler -  the design is just about discernible

Goldwork sampler – the design is just about discernible


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  1. Posted November 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I find Goldwork fascinating, but not always immediately appealing to work. That said, I love learning new techniques – maybe the same enthusiasm will keep you going on the sampler!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Yes, some things have got to be done, Rachel and as I usually do what I like doing, a bit of goldwork isn’t going to hurt!

  2. Posted November 24, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I love the effect of Goldwork especially when combined with silk shading; definitely something I want to do more of!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Yes, I am looking forward to a bit of or nué – just trying to work out where in the design it should go.

  3. Susan
    Posted November 24, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful blog, Mary. I remember admiring things you had sewn/made in your house in Chiswick years ago and the work shown in photographs here is fabulous. It was great to see you at the concert on Sunday.
    Best wishes,

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Thanks for looking at the blog, Susan – I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. Hope you’ll dip in again from time to time.
      The ‘Songs of Waterloo’ concert was enormous fun. Live and lively music put a real omph into a cold and miserable Sunday to produce a scene straight out of Thomas Hardy as we, the rabble of an audience, joined in with the snatches of song we could remember and a bit of clapping and stomping for the bits we didn’t. We should do this more often and will be eager for any further concerts your band dreams up. Lovely playing, narration and singing from you all – complete with your own charming rendition of a poor abandoned girl (I have great photos and will blog it briefly – soon.)

  4. Bev S.
    Posted November 24, 2015 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    It is very impressive!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      You are very kind to say so, Bev.

  5. Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    The gold work sampler looks very modern although I am sure the techniques are ancient. How mean of the powers that be to make you all relocate – health and safety obviously consider a few stairs too dangerous. Perhaps another room with a larger space for your work table will become available? Still, it must be lovely to meet up once a week and urge each other onwards and upwards with the restoration work. Full marks to you Mary for persevering with a method that is not your favourite – I think a special treat for yourself is definitely in order! Best as always.. Lydia

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      I fear the bothy will be the embroiderers’ home now for the foreseeable future – once again there’s a bit of a feeling in some administrative quarters that embroidery’s not very important – it’s easier to go off to Watts of Westminster and spend a fortune … To be fair on an ancient historic site there’s no spare space anyway. Hey ho!
      As a group we have a jolly time and as for my likes and dislikes, isn’t it always rather good to have a go at something that’s not quite your favourite thing?

  6. Penny Cross
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Completely absorbing work-in-progress words and pictures, Mary. I shall look up all the references for further enjoyment, and watch for further postings on the Goldwork House Sparrows. Thank you.

    Public transport in your part of the world is such a good plan, in theory, when one almost needs a mortgage for car parking rates in such an intensely busy place if one can actually find a space. I knitted a sock on a two-hour bus journey to Norwich last winter. The windows were steamed up so no views anyway but my favourite row counter rolled away and was never found despite several kind fellow passengers scrabbling on the muddy floor.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I gather public transport here is much better than 10 years ago, just before we came when there were only a couple of buses a day – now at least they are every half hour. Oxford has virtually no parking – even if you work there, though Park and Ride is quite good. I do hate queuing for the bus though on the way back.
      You make me laugh about the knitting on the bus. I went into Oxford yesterday and, like you took some knitting but the only needles I had in the size needed were metal and they kept slipping out of my cold hands – yes, once on to the floor but easy to recover, unlike your row counter. I managed 10 or so rows at the bottom of a sleeve, which is better than nothing. I did once try tacking patchwork pieces but … never again.

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