Traditional vs. contemporary goldwork embroidery tools
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
In the last weeks, I was dedicating a lot of my time to goldwork because I'm taking part in Humbly Magnificent Couching Stitch online course prepared by Natalie Dupuis. The course is dedicated to couching in its many forms and I'm really enjoying it.
When one is stitching with metalic threads and wires one must have some specialized equipment.
We all use various threads for couching, and metallic needles from different manufacturers, but we also need special scissors for cutting metal threads, the majority have mellors, komas, various boards, leather, and parchment, and other supplies to shape raised parts in embroidery.
In Slovenia, the majority of goldwork was made for churches and for avba – women’s traditional cap that is a part of folk costume. Both display beauty and a Slovenian sense of aesthetics.
Today, my blog post is dedicated to presenting traditional Slovenian equipment for working with goldwork threads.
Thus far, I found only one source that describes the traditional tools: a book called Folk embroidery in Slovenia (Ljudske vezenine na Slovenskem). It was written by Neli Niklsbacher-Bregar and Marija Makarovič. The book dedicates less than one page to describe the tools and contains three illustrations. Today, my aim is to describe traditional tools as presented in the book and compare them to contemporary equipment.
First of all, one needs an embroidery frame. Today, we have hoops, slate frames, and various other wooden or plastic frames in different sizes. The Slovenian frame for goldwork was a little bigger that the embroidered part (čelnik) on the traditional Slovenian cap avba. As the embroidery measurements were fairly uniform in length and height the frame was rigid.
The gold workers had a special scalpel.
His blade was fastened in turned, conical shaped handle that was forked on one end.
(Niklsbacher-Bregar, 1970, str. 144)
The blade was put in the fork and a metal ring was added around the handle to fixate the blade.
Koma, broche/brodse/Bretsche or in Slovenian prečka:
Prečka was used te same way as a koma. Gold thread was wound around the narrow part, the upper part was forked in order to be able to help hold and tighten goldthread when the embroiderer needed it. On the bottom, there was a handle.
Prečka looks quite similar to broche or brodse or Bretsche. This helpful tool is beautifully described in dr. Jessica Grimm’s post can be found here.
The interesting thing is, that the Slovenian book illustrated prečka or Broche exactly the same way that can be found in the German book titled Ich kan handarbeiten. Illustriertes Hausbuch für die Techniken der weiblichen Handarbeit by Donner and Schnebel (I compared the illustration in dr. Jessica Grimm’s blog post to the illustration in Slovenian book).
The book Ljudske vezenine na Slovenskem mentions a few additional tools.
Metal shovelet is very similar to mellor. The only difference is the shape of the wider part of the tool. The mellor is more aerodynamic in comparison to shovelet; the latter has a wider, more shovel-like upper part.
The stiletto looked quite like the modern tool does. One example can be found on Tanja Berlin’s webpage. See the stiletto brass.
And for the end, scissors. We all know the need to use special scissors for cutting metal.
Niklsbacher-Bregar, N. (1970). Zlate vezenine. V N. Niklsbacher-Bregar, & M. Makarovič, Ljudske vezenine na Slovenskem (str. 137-152). Ljubljana: Centralni zavod za napredek gospodinjstva.
 The beutiful drawing can be found in the book Ljudske vezenine na Slovenskem on page 145.
The post was first published in 2021.