An exploration of chipping used in traditional metalwork hand embroidery

SFSNAD CSP: Metalwork Level 1 – Chipwork

Chipwork - Maybe my favourite metalwork technique!

I really enjoyed most (not all!) of the samples included in this part of the metalwork sampler completed as part of the SFSNAD Metalwork level 1 project. 

It is also a technique that covers a lot more than just ‘chipping’, as I was to learn!


This is probably the technique which comes to mind when someone mentions ‘chipwork’.

It is the technique of cutting purl into squares, and applying them in a seemingly random manner which best reflects the light.

We completed a few different samples here: on one layer of felt, on multiple layers of felt, with no padding, and seeded.

It was also a great experience to use some of the additional couching threads – lizerene and milliary, to outline the circles I made for my samples.

Looped and beaded Chips

This is where it really did get fun!

Using any combination of purls, we created various looped combinations, and also little ‘antennae’ with beads. 

This really does open up the world of different possibilities when using these materials!

Chain Stitch

This is the point at which my brain said ‘oh the possibilities’ to this technique! All of sudden it became so much more than just miles and miles of couching!

This is a technique that did seem to ‘damage’ rather easily. But, anytime we use purl, we do need to be careful, and this is no exception.

Chain stitch in metalwork is stitched much the same as it is with a thread. Except your mellor becomes so important! It helps to guide the thread, and hence purl, into place.

You can stitch chain stitch without a lot of extra detail, which gives quite a ‘sophisticated’ feel to it. Or you can add extra purls in for added detail and contrast!

A bit like basketweave became a favourite, so did chain stitch!


Long flat chipwork

And, at the other end of the spectrum, is long flat chipwork. As you can see from my sampler, I struggled with this one! I ended up taking the first attempt out and trying again. But, I’m not sure I was much more successful second time round!

I really struggled with getting each chip cut the same length. And I was unsure of how to stitch the bright check up against the rough purl to create a smooth join. A question for when I can mail it off! 

From a visual perspective, I also should have used either smooth purl with the bright check, or wire check with the rough purl, to give a more ‘visually pleasing’ result. But, live and learn as they say!

I’m not sure I will use the checkerboard pattern in any future design, but the possibility of using purls without having to use soft string padding certainly opens up possibilities!

Chipwork in Metalwork - a world of possibilities!

One of the great things about this course, and indeed this sampler, is the opening up of your mind and skills to the possibilities out there for these materials. And chipwork was no exception! It is so much more than chipping, and the design possibilities are really opened up once you understand how the different materials behave not only whilst being stitched, but also as they age.

Join Catherine from Hillview Embroidery as she explores the chipping technique used in traditional metalwork hand embroidery.

8 thoughts on “SFSNAD CSP: Metalwork Level 1 – Chipwork”

    1. It makes me wonder about all the other possibilities and has me tempted to do all sorts of things with the materials we have at our disposal. This course has been a real opener for me with what you can do!

  1. Such entertaining variety and so many textural possibilities. And I’m sure it was Mostly Fun, even if it had a few frustrating moments!

    1. I admit that is one of my favourites on the whole sampler! And so easy to do too. I’ve really enjoyed metalwork this time round – so many possibilities! I’m not sure I’ll ever be one that focuses just on metalwork in the one-piece, but I can see it coming into new designs as I learn and play with these new techniques.

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