RSN Basic Goldwork assessment and comments

RSN Basic Goldwork – Assessment and Comments

RSN Basic Goldwork Assessment – the final piece!

It all feels a little surreal writing about my final RSN Certificate piece being assessed! The process of completing this piece was very different for me than the previous pieces. I had a looming deadline of moving back to Australia, and at times felt it difficult to properly focus on the piece and the technicalities of it. I felt I didn’t have the time to properly think about each individual element and technique.

Having said that, I found it was also a good piece for me to do in the circumstances I found myself. So much of gold work is just couching, it did feel monotonous. And then once you’ve completed the couching, you’ve then got all the plunging to do! Another rather (time consuming and) monotonous task I found. So whether this is a case of just too much going on in my little mind to be able to properly focus, or just a technique that’s not really for me, I guess we won’t know for a little while. Once I’ve ‘redone‘ this module I’m sure it will become more clear!

So, what did the assessors think of my gold koala?

First Impressions

For this requirement, where they are looking at the coverage of paint lines, thread condition, and general cleanliness of the fabric, I scored ten out of twelve.

They commented that whilst the paint lines had been covered, and the condition of the couching thread was ‘generally good’, there were a couple of marks on the fabric, and on one occasion, one of my initial couching stitches (of the calico to the silk) hadn’t been covered.

A good reminder to always look carefully at the quality of your fabric to begin with. Silk often has slubs in it. And despite this being ‘natural’, the RSN prefers you to use the ‘smooth silk’ variety, and avoid the slubs. It’s also a good reminder to carefully think about where to place those initial couching stitches! I admit I didn’t give a lot of thought to this, and did unpick a few that weren’t covered. I obviously missed one! So a clear design and working plan from the outset is absolutely imperative.


For this I scored eighteen out of twenty. To be honest, given how ‘heavy’ the koala is and one-sided the design is, I thought this was generous!

Their first comment was that it was an ‘ambitious design to interpret into gold work’. No kidding! And I know I’ve said before, but I really don’t think this was a design well suited to ‘basic gold work’!

The other comments were that the koala was ‘densely worked’, and therefore created a ‘slight imbalance’. I made note of this myself, which is perhaps why it wasn’t more critically assessed. They liked the ‘directional flow’, and ‘texture’ created in his ears. Also, my background fabric was a good colour – something I wasn’t quite sure about!


Here they are looking at the security of the padding (both string and felt), that the felt padding is evenly applied, and the string padding tapers well.

For this I scored six out of eight. I’ll be honest, I was a little surprised at the comments made on this point, as they were never brought up by the (numerous) tutors I had for this piece. And I was actually told the felt padding was good!

The comments here were that the felt is uneven in places. Along his back and on his leg, there needed to be additional layers to either support the gold (on his leg), or smooth out the area (his back). I did notice his back, and wondered (too late) if an additional layer of felt may have helped. Again, it’s disappointing that the assessment is where you learn these things, rather than class.

So more practise is required in understanding how much felt padding really is required!

The initial step in goldwork hand embroidery is to apply the padding. This image displays both felt and string padding completed


Couching, Plunging and Pearl Purl

This is a rather ‘extensive’ section, covering things like your couching stitches being at 90 degrees to the gold in a brick pattern, no ‘overlapping’ of the gold threads, the plunging hasn’t resulted in the core being exposed, and that the pearl purl has not been overstretched, and has been couched down ‘invisibly’.

For this, I scored twenty out of twenty-eight. A little disappointing in some areas, though I knew that I had exposed the core of the thread when I was plunging his little fingers.


The comments were that my brick pattern and couching stitches were good, however a little too widely spaced on his leg. I was given a tip on how to consistently get the couching stitches the right distance apart after I had done all of the couching. This is where having a variety of tutors is a good thing – you may eventually get the feedback. In my case it was a little too late, but I knew it might be a potential issue.

One thing I was a little surprised at was the comment all my stitches were at ninety degrees. I took quite a bit of care to get this right. But I also knew there were some that were definitely not right!


With regards to the core exposed after plunging, they noted that the Japanese thread can be re-twisted after it has been plunged. Again, something that may have been useful before the assessment, but it’s a ‘good to know’ tip for the future. They commented and were pleased to see the improvement in the plunging throughout the piece. Which makes me wonder if it is a matter of what assessor you get if improvement thought out the piece is allowed or not!

Pearl Purl

With the Pearl Purl, their only real comment in terms of improvement was that it was overstretched in areas. For this I was quite disappointed, as I did this in class, and was told before using it that it hadn’t been overstretched. I will need to look closely at other work to find out just how overstretched it was.

My ends did meet neatly and cleanly though, which was a good thing!

Chipping and Cutwork

I actually think the chipping was my favourite part! Either that, or it was just the relief of not having to couch and plunge again!

When I was doing my self assessment in a mad rush, I was actually really worried about this part – I was sure my chips were not cut either small enough or evenly enough. And their first comment was that it had been cut small and evenly, and applied neatly!

So for this I scored eighteen out of twenty.


On the chipping again, they made the comment that on some areas it had been overworked. Fair enough – and I did feel whilst working that this might be the case.


With the cutwork, they commented that it was a ‘beautiful example of cutwork’. A very nice thing of them to say! I had no idea if I had actually done this properly, so it was nice to see that overall, it was successful.

Their only real comment was that a couple of them weren’t quite long enough to meet the fabric. On looking at it again, I can see what they mean. This is probably just a case of being more careful, and more practice, to make sure I understand this technique more.


Oh, the dreaded mounting! I’m still impressed I managed to start and finish the whole mounting process in half a day! It’s also the part I consistently lose the most marks on. I guess one day I will get there!

They made a comment that lacing it would have been a good idea, as puckers had appeared. If you are rushing to finish your mounting, you are likely not going to have time to lace. And also, there weren’t any puckers when I handed it in. If they appear, they tend to do so after a day or two once the fabric has relaxed again. Having now received it back, I can see there are a couple of quite small puckers, so I understand why they made the comment. It does mean I’ll have to think about how I go about mounting these ‘heavy’ pieces in an intensive period though. Perhaps the default should be to always lace them.

rsn basic goldwork piece a gold koala


Overall result

So overall, I scored 78%. Despite it being very similar result wise to my silk shading, I’m not too upset by this. I had a lot going on, and didn’t have time to really think and reflect throughout the piece as I normally do. Not taking months and months to complete also helps, as it was a quickly worked piece. I knew throughout working it that there were things I ‘should’ be re-doing, but I just didn’t have time. So perhaps a slightly different perspective on something when you haven’t spent the better part of a year working on it! The comments were also not of a great surprise (with the exception of one or two). This is the way it should be if you ask me!

Their closing comments were rather brief – it is ‘an original design for gold work, which has created a striking piece’. They can see ‘a lot of work has gone into it’. And if I had my time again, I’d choose a different design with less work for a tight timeframe!

Returning of the work

Just a brief comment on the returning of the work, since I obviously couldn’t pop in to collect it!

I was quite worried about this, as over the years, some of the gifts and parcels I’ve sent back haven’t always arrived in the condition in which they left. The time most on my mind was when I sent baby blankets for my sister. I sent them to my Mum (probably couldn’t remember my sister’s address!), and they were soaked and dirty when they arrived. She had to wash and clean them up for me before passing them on! Admittedly this is the worst that’s ever happened, but it was at the back of my mind.

But, the combination of the two postal systems has worked this time round, and it arrived safely! The box is a little ‘squashed’, but thankfully they kept the bubble wrap cushion around the work, so it wasn’t damaged. They valued it at the cost of the course, which perhaps meant it got treated a little better!

So whilst there is no guarantee, as with anything mailed, that nothing will go wrong, I was thankful it has arrived back in the same condition it left. I can always get another box, but I can’t get back all that work!

It was also the first time my husband saw this piece. His only comment so far is that it is ‘very gold’!

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22 thoughts on “RSN Basic Goldwork – Assessment and Comments”

  1. I quite like your Koala Catherine! It really is an ambitious project for a beginner’s goldwork :). Interestingly, I worked my goldwork module when moving back from the UK to the Netherlands. Tutors ‘forgot’ to tell me to baste the outline of my design so I ended up with quite some puckering. Still, it is my favourite embroidery piece I made at the RSN!
    Regarding the ongoing inconsitencies with assessments; yeah the RSN knows and still nothing really happens. One of the things people should probably not close their eyes on, is that the RSN needs money to keep certain prestige parts of her operations running. The Certificate and Diploma (and now the advanced Diploma) students are the people who provide that money.
    When I started my Certificate in 2010, the RSN was a really lean organisation. I suspect it wasn’t really financially secure. But it was a happy place with a very nice vibe. Likely, in order to survive, the RSN came under new managment. People who where managers instead of stitchers took over. The amount of ‘non-stitching’ personell rose fast and activities were branched out. Although I understand that this was probably needed to keep the organisation going, I feel that the RSN maybe lost her soul a little in the process.

    1. Thanks Jessica, I’m glad you like my koala!
      You have raised some good points about the RSN and the way they view the C&D programme. I personally don’t mind paying the money, as it would be a great shame to lose such a brilliant organisation. But my concerns are that there are inconsistencies in the teaching, which should be addressed (especially if they know about it). I also don’t feel the focus is really on learning and making the most of your time there. It’s fine to become a business, but you do need to add value. And I think it’s that value which on occasion isn’t there. And it won’t be all students and all tutors. Which means those that do raise concerns probably have valid concerns. And perhaps the tutors may need help and guidance to make sure they are all on the same page in terms of expectations, teaching, and value to the students.

  2. I think your koala is great Catherine, especially since we talked about him when you where thinking of the design. It is annoying though that again there are inconsistencies between tutoring and assessment. However, from your comments on starting the pheasant you have learned quite a few tricks and things to help with future projects. Do share those in a future post! I think it is amazing how you managed to get him done in such a short amount of time with all the other things going on in your life. It is also reasuring that he arrived back in Australia safe and well, as I was wondering about postage. It is a good thing that they valued him at the cost of the course. Did you have to pay to get him posted to you? Well done again, and congratulations on getting your certificate!

    1. Thanks Marlous! I’ve learnt a lot about a technique I knew nothing about, so I will share with you those differences over Inspirations in the coming weeks.
      I was pleased about the postage too. I didn’t have to pay additional for it, which was good. Obviously there is no one but those in the postal system who can actually make sure it arrives. Maybe I should have more faith!

  3. He’s certainly very gold – your husband is right about that! I’m glad the koala got home again, but there does seem to be a bit of a theme with the assessments picking up on things your tutors told you were ok…. I think I would find that a bit dispiriting if I were an RSN student.

    1. Very good indeed! And I have no idea how to frame him either to make the most of it!
      You hear enough comments around to know you are not alone in the comments made being different to the original tutors. It is dispiriting as you say, but you know you aren’t alone, so just have to move on and develop from it!

    1. Thank you! It is an interesting process, and despite the downfalls, you do learn from it, which is the main thing. I’ve still got a way to go on my technical skills, but that’s part of the process!

  4. I think he is stunning, especially considering everything else going on around him! Glad he got home safely, I know how worried I was trusting my silk flower embroidery to the post and that was within the UK!

    1. Thanks Margaret! There certainly was a lot on my mind at the time, and I was somewhat relieved just to have it all done! It’s quite scary leaving your embroidery to the postal service isn’t it?

  5. Thanks for sharing Catherine. As always I learn so much from your posts, and Congratulations you have finished the Certificate! Will you go on to the Diploma subjects?

  6. This piece is amazing! I know nothing about gold work. The critiquing is quite extensive. Your Koala is so beautiful. I would have never guessed it was your first gold work piece. Great job! I give you an A++++ 🙂

  7. I learned something new, I didn’t know you could re-twist Japanese thread after it had been plunged. I will have to write that down somewhere. For stretching purls, Alison has a nice rule: 4 inches should be stretched to 6 inches. That should be enough to stitch your thread between the coils.

    1. Thanks Dima. That’s interesting about what Alison said, as I don’t remember them being stretched to that extent. I’ll have to follow up with the RSN on this point. Let me know how you get on re-twisting the thread, I’m keen to know if it works!

  8. Very interesting Catherine, and your Koala is beautifully stitched. It is just a shame that some of the things picked up by the assessors could have been dealt with in class at the time. Look forward to reading about your next piece.

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