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.
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.
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.
Pull the thread tight to form the stitch. Here, the stitch is lying on top on the pearl purl and is clearly visible.
Keep pulling until the thread pops between the coils and becomes invisible. Continue attaching the pearl purl in this way.
Structure of stitch
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.
Helen McCook, RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Goldwork (2012) , p.53
Catriona MacLeod. (1976) 'Some Hitherto Unrecorded Momentoes of William III, (1650-1702), Prince of Orange and King of England from Lismullen, Navan, Co. Meath', Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review pp.128-143. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/30090008
'Broderers’ book cover', Victoria and Albert Museum (2021). Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O39255/book-cover-and-broderers-company/ (Accessed: 23 September 2021)