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Pearl purl application icon
Pearl purl application

​Pearl purl is a spiral metal thread ideal for lines or to outline areas.  It can be used in lines of couching or overstretched and wrapped with a coloured thread as its core.

Pearl purl was certainly in evidence in the 17th century as the National Museum of Ireland holds a pair of gauntlets originally owned by William of Orange, and the Victoria and Albert museum holds several artefacts from this era featuring various types of purls, including an embroidered book binding probably stitched by a member of the Broderers’ Company in London.

Pearl purl application is generously sponsored by Jennie Lovett


Avoid touching the metal thread as much as you can as this will cause the metal to tarnish.

To overstretch it, use the method above, but keep stretching to obtain the effect which you want.  The central core can be anything you wish it to be - stranded colours, silks, chenille threads or even other metals - as long as they sit comfortably in the twist of the pearl purl.

Pearl purl application method stage 1 photograph

Before using pearl purl, stretch it slightly to loosen the coils.

To stretch pearl purl for normal use, hold one end gently but firmly with a pair of embroidery scissors and the other end with tweezers and gently pull the two ends apart with a bouncing movement.  The stretch should be even across the entire length so that the individual twists in the metal appear at regular intervals.

This allows the thread with which you attach the pearl purl to sit comfortably between the coils. Do not confuse this with overstretched pearl purl, as described above.

Pearl purl application method stage 2 photograph

Using a sewing thread that closely matched the colour of the pearl purl, bring the thread to the front and take it over the pearl purl, about 1cm from the end.

Pearl purl application method stage 3 photograph

Pull the thread tight to form the stitch. Here, the stitch is lying on top on the pearl purl and is clearly visible.

Pearl purl application method stage 4 photograph

Keep pulling until the thread pops between the coils and becomes invisible. Continue attaching the pearl purl in this way.

Pearl purl application

Structure of stitch


Common uses

Embroidery Techniques

Related Stitches

Identifying Pearl purl application

​Pearl pearl can be identified as tight coils of twisted metal thread couched onto fabric. It can also be identified in its overstretched form as a stretched twist of metal thread through which another thread has been pulled through so that the inner core thread is visible and part of the design.


Examples of Pearl purl application

Triptych 2, RSN Collection No. 587

Triptych 2, RSN Collection No. 587

Triptych 2, RSN Collection No. 587

Triptych 2, RSN Collection No. 587