Embroidered Appliques: How to Apply Goldwork Pieces

Designing a set of church vestments is a challenging endeavor. There are so many things to consider. When a decision is made on a set there is a sense of relief because it is time to get on with the fun of creating a project.

We currently have a beautiful project in the works at our Ecclesiastical Sewing Studios. It is an altar hanging set with a pulpit and lectern fall and a superfrontal for an altar. The set will be for a traditional church and their desire is to use elegant goldwork appliques

Alpha and Omega – beginning and end. This is one of the symbols selected for use on the vestment set. It is a large applique made with goldwork threads and embroidery threads mounted on a stiff backing. The reflection of the gold threads makes it difficult to capture the image in photos. Yet that is a desirable effect with the finished vestment. The applique has a narrow edge that is very useful when it comes to mounting. This narrow edge is designed to help hold the design in position and as an aid to use when couching the design in place. The although the narrow edge is fairly consistent in size/width, there may be few places where it is a bit wider than the trim which will be used to couch in place.


To used these appliques, the ground fabric is stretched and pinned into place on a frame which has a piece of calico (or muslin). Using the motifs in the fabric, the Alpha Omega design is centered on the fabric. This might take a few tries to align things perfectly. Locate the desired position on the fabric. Centering on a design line helps.

The aligning part is fairly simple. Once the applique is aligned and in position, pins hold it in place temporarily.


There is a narrow fabric edge that extends from the embroidered emblem. Prior to placing the emblem on the fabric, the edge was evened up and trimmed in a few places where it would be wider than the gold threads that will be used to couch and hold the design in place.

This edge is usually covered with gold couching threads as a way to have a neat finish. Prior to using the couching threads, the emblem is hand-tacked in place. There are a number of gold threads that will work for this. Japanese gold threads are nice options.

The Japanese gold threads are available in 4 sizes with No. 13 being the largest of the threads and No. 8 being the smallest.

Japanese Gold Threads are also referred to as K1 to K4. K1 is the alternate name for No. 13. Goldwork couching is always done by using pairs of threads. The threads are placed side by side or two threads are placed parallel to each other. A stitch is taken over both threads to hold them in place. While that is the general idea for couching Goldwork threads, there are a few more details (the technical stuff to gain mastery) that can be saved for another day.

For this project a No. 3 gold gild twist was selected as the thread to use for couching the applique in place.


Both goldwork threads would work well. The decision to use the twist is because it affords a bit more flexibility and ease in stitching when turning so many corners.

Alpha Omega Goldwork applique

To make this job a bit easier, muslin (or calico) has been stretch over a frame. Next, the brocade is centered and pinned in place over the muslin. The frame is tightened and the applique is work is ready to go. Select a nice needle when doing hand couching of goldwork threads – an embroidery or crewel needle sized between 9 to 12 is a nice starting point. Some of my favorite needles are John James needles made in England. Please check with your local needlework or quilting store for needles or they may be purchased on sites such as Amazon.

Suitable threads for couching include Au Ver A Soie 100/3 in a gold tone. I like the color #241. Krenik Japan threads also work well for couching.

Two pieces of the gild twist are used side by side and placed along the yellow edge of the applique. The needle comes up on the outer edge of the gold threads and goes down between the god threads and the applique. The needle goes in and is pulled toward the center of the applique. This snugs the threads close to the applique. Two threads cover the design fairly well. I may apply a third row of threads just to be certain all of the yellow extension is covered.

Goldwork appliques add a love the look of extensive hand embroidery in a way that is much faster to apply. It is also a great way to begin working with gold threads before jumping into larger goldwork projects.

Photos of the finished work will follow in a bit.

Soli Deo Gloria





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