Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Guessing the Market

There's sort of good news: Finally, I might have found an artisan who is capable and willing to reproduce medieval gold thread for me. Real, no-compromise gold thread, as it was found in the excavations at Villach-Judendorf in Austria: Gilt silver wound around a natural-coloured silk "soul", 0,2 mm thick and used for weaving (brocade) as well as for embroidery. (You can use several threads at once when doing couch work - I have a nice photo somewhere showing just that. After all, medieval people had their lazy streak too!)

"Normal" gilt or gold threads are imitation gold, wound around a core of cellulose or other material, but not around silk. And getting gilt-silver threads (not the japanese version, where a strip of paper is gilded or silvered) is really hard already, even if it's "just" gilt, not pure gold. Those threads are usually much thicker, too.

The downside? There's a hefty minimum order, and gold thread is not cheap. Quite the opposite, actually: Real gold or gilt thread was exquisitely expensive in the Middle Ages and it's still exquisitely expensive today. I'm very, very tempted to order the thread, but it's an investment that should not go too wrong.

So now it's time for me to play my most beloved game of them all (well, not really): "Guess The Market". And this time, I'm shamelessly using this blog to get some input from you, because I've been told time and again that I'm no normal textile stuff customer (though you probably aren't).

Do you feel the strong desire to buy authentic-to-the-soul gold thread? Modeled after a find? Even if it is really thin and really pricey? Would you use it for weaving, for embroidery, or for both? How much need do you have? And how much would you be willing to pay for, say, 10 metres? Or do you prefer to buy the cheaper imitation gold thread?

8 comments:

Gina-B said...

You might want to try Benton & Johnson here in the UK. Years ago Soper Lane had gold thread made by them, over a silk core, yes, it was pricey, but they are really helpful and I don't think the minimum order was actually too large at the time.

Would I order/use? Well, I have, and do. Problem is, I do have quite alot still! Though, one day it will run out and more would be needed... What I've found is that because it is so special, the end product (after all other costs and time and work go into it), tends to be very pricey. So, fine for something which I will 'showcase', but out of the price market for most people. (Most of my orders still use a silver gilt thread, but with a cotton core, as this is 'standard', so less pricey) Saying that, there's always someone who will come along and surprise you!

Oh, and laying down two threads when brocading is quite normal in medieval TW too.

Occasionally other cores are used historically for these threads. Nancy Spies' book, Ecclesiastic Pomp and Aristocratic Ceremony, analysises the types of metallic threads used in tablet woven brocades and may be a good read for you to be able to check other options too.

I'm watching your whole project with great interest and can't wait till it's up and running by the way!

cathyr19355 said...

I, on the other hand, probably would not buy genuine medieval thread, even if I ever do develop the nerve to attempt genuine, Viking-style brocaded weaving (which is the only thing I would be likely to want it for). But then, that might well depend upon how "pricey" it ended up being.

Good luck with your project!

hsifeng said...

Have you thought of ordering with Tricia of Thistle Threads? It appears she has also had someone develop a real gold thread in the recent past (for the Plymouth Jacket project):

http://thistle-threads.com.mytempweb.com/blog/index.php/2008/07/theres-gold-in-them-hills/

http://thistle-threads.com.mytempweb.com/blog/index.php/2009/06/real-gold-and-silver/

http://thistle-threads.com.mytempweb.com/blog/index.php/2009/05/threads-stripped/

http://thistle-threads.com.mytempweb.com/blog/index.php/2009/05/threads-wrapped/

a stitch in time said...

Thank you all for your hints and helpful comments; I'll look further into things.
Gina, thanks for mentioning the use of two threads at once in weaving, too - that had slipped my keyboard, I was so concentrated on embroidery at the time...
I know that there are other cores used, but most common in what I have found is silk. And I've already got an easy one, because the silk is naturally coloured, not dyed red or yellow.
My hope is that I can offer the thread for an acceptable price; for that, I will also consider investing in a whole kilo. I need to think about it first, though, to be sure about my options and to have an idea about how much the thread would cost in sale. You'll read how it turns out in any case.

Arachne said...

And in Eric of Pomerania's Belt they used three silver gilt threads together for one supplemental weft!

Racaire said...

hmmmm... would be interesting to work with it :)

Racaire said...

...addition: yes, it would be very interesting to work with it, but at the moment I am afraid that I can't afford the money for an expensive real gold thread... :(

a stitch in time said...

Racaire, well, it isn't cheap - but then it would be for couched work, in your case and that means that if you embroider with a metre of the thread, you would see the full metre (minus a few centimetres) on the surface of the work. So...