Pearl purl is a metallic spring used in Goldwork, often to outline raised areas, but it can also be used on its own. It adds a striking 3D effect to any embroidery, and it looks like a row of metallic beads. It can be used as such, very tightly packed, or stretched out. Either way, it’s applied to the fabric using a couching stitch with polyester thread of a matching colour, to create invisible stitches.
1 If you can’t attach the polyester thread to pre-existing stitches on the back of the work, use the waste knot method: tie a knot at the end of the thread, and leave it apparent on the front of the fabric (1), a short distance away from the area where you’re planning on starting the couching stitch. Stitch a couple of tight tiny stitches to lock the thread in place (2).
The idea is that you stitch over the tiny anchor stitches as you go along, so that you can safely snip the waste knot once you’re done, knowing the thread is secured.
2 Stretch the Pearl purl to straighten it.
Depending on the effect you’re after, you can stretch it just enough to straighten it (see below), or stretch it further, to separe the rings of the coil a little more and make them look like a row of individual beads.
Cut the Pearl purl to the correct size, making sure you use Goldwork scissors. These scissors have a serated blade to prevent the metal threads from gliding out while you cut them. It’s too fine for the eye, but you can feel the ridges when you rub your fingers over the serated blade. Whatever you do, do NOT use your embroidery scissors to cut metal threads, or they’ll never cut thread again!
Lay the Pearl purl over the tiny stitches done after the waste knot, and couch it by stitching tiny stitches around it at regular intervals. If the Pearl purl isn’t too stretched, make sure that you give a little tug on the thread so that it does disappear inside the coil each time.
3 When you’ve couched the entire length of Pearl purl, attach the polyester thread at the back of the work, and snip the waste knot.
Fancy seeing it stitched in action? Here’s a short video: