Paisley by Susan Davis

25th October 2019

Or Nué, or shaded gold, is a style of goldwork embroidery that dates back to medieval times.

Back in the era when embroidery was regarded as high art, on a par with illumination, painting and tapestry weaving, Or Nué was used to create some of the most breathtaking ecclesiastical vestments ever produced.

The technique required the embroiderer to lay pairs of gold passing thread in careful lines and then couch it down with coloured silks. From these silk stitches, the detail of the image appeared. Through positioning and colouring, the artist achieved the perfect blend of light, shade and gold.

There were several forms of Or Nué. Medieval Or Nué was worked by laying horizontal rows of gold thread and forming an image out of a combination of different coloured couching stitches and exposed or covered gold thread. The couching stitches were laid adjacent to the gold rather than varying in shape or direction.

As time went on, other techniques such as Italian shading fell under the general umbrella of Or Nué. In this technique, the metal thread follows the contours of the motif being produced. It is then through a variation of density and colour of the couching silk that the image details are brought to life.

As in so many cases, we are fortunate nowadays that talented designers have taken ideas from various times and places to create wonderful new blended techniques. This is undoubtedly the case with Susan Davis.

Susan’s work first came to our attention when her exquisite pieceOr Nué Paisley Motif’, shown above, won the Grand Prize in the Inspirations 2018 Stitch Your Heart Out Challenge. Since then, Susan has adapted and developed her prize-winning piece into a new, smaller design called ‘Paisley’ so that you too can try this historic technique.

Reinterpreting traditional medieval Or Nué, Susan has chosen to lay her gold threads in a spiral and her delicate teardrop shape with its stylised flower is formed by the use of strategically placed, coloured cotton stitches.

‘Paisley’ from Inspirations issue #104, is a beautiful blend of early Or Nué and the more modern Italian Shading, allowing you to try out both in one delicate yet challenging piece. Just as in medieval times, the work requires concentration and it does take time! Perhaps more than any other technique, the placement and direction of your stitches are vital.

Similarly, it is important that your tension is even and there is just enough space between the coils of passing thread so that they don’t distort when you couch them down.

As your motif emerges, you’ll discover a new appreciation for our hardworking, nameless medieval forbears, producing items using this technique which would have demanded 20,000 to 30,000 manhours. Can you just imagine the dedication required to achieve that?

Fortunately for us the project ‘Paisley’ is small and achievable, yet perfect in every way. Ensure that it is displayed in a prominent place, as this tiny, glittering masterpiece is sure to make an impression as much as any 15th Century Flemish vestment or altar frontal ever did.

Make Your Own Paisley

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Paisley by Susan Davis is an exquisite piece of Or Nué embroidery; the perfect introduction to this technique.

Printed Magazines

Inspirations Issue 104

Digital Patterns

Paisley – i104 Digital

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Paisley includes everything you need to re-create this stunning design: Fabric (unprinted), felt, embroidery threads and needles.


Paisley – i104 Kit

Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step details on how to create this project, please refer to our magazine or digital pattern.

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Susan Davis

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