The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts


Metal thread making


The making of metal threads for embroidery.


Status Critically endangered (see ‘Other information’ for further details)
Craft category Precious metals
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees 0
Current no. of skilled craftspeople 4
Current total no. of craftspeople 4 (in two businesses)



Metal threadMetallic embroidery threads are made using round or flattened wire, usually gold, silver or copper, which may or may not have a core of another material. Machines are used to plait and combine the wire. Metallic threads are used for embroidery, particularly in historical costumes, the theatre, and for insignia. The Royal School of Needlework’s training in gold thread embroidery also provides a big market.

Photo: Elizabeth Tapper.




Local forms




Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training issues: There are no trainees in the craft.
  • Training issues/business issues: Cost of training an apprentice and their wages, whilst also paying full time employees still have two full time people.
  • Market issues: can buy cheap inferior imports from Pakistan and India.


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

  • Benton & Johnson – 3 full-time staff, one of whom is due to retire
  • Golden Threads – based in East Sussex. William Kentish Barnes is in his 70s and is looking to pass his business on.


Other information

  • Status: Metal thread making has always been a very small industry, but while the numbers involved are small the two firms are both doing well.