Embroidering with Metallic Thread

Embroidering with Metallic Thread

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Metallic thread is fun to use to add sparkle and shimmer to holiday projects. It's also great for adding a bit of "bling" to garments, too!

Metallic thread can be a little tricky to work with. Sometimes you can have repetitive thread breaks, or thread nests. The following information will help you to avoid those "threadaches," and have a successful and enjoyable time working with metallic thread.


Metallic thread is thinner than rayon or polyester thread. It has a polyester core, so it has more stretch, too.

Because metallic thread is thinner than other types of thread, it should be used in small areas of a design, a freestanding lace design, or with designs that are specifically digitized for metallic thread.

For this example, we stitched a freestanding lace snowflake with metallic thread.

To do this, we hooped a piece of heavy weight water-soluble stabilizer.

Because freestanding lace is double-sided, we wound a bobbin with metallic thread.

One of the tricks for getting great results when working with metallic thread is to let the thread relax before it goes through the tension discs and take-up lever.

We placed the spool of metallic thread in a cup. This trick works with smaller spools; larger spools and cones may be too heavy.

The thread will unwind in the cup, and relax a bit before going through the tension discs.

Metallic thread is sensitive to friction, resulting in shredding and breaks. There are special needles made to work with metallic thread. Those types of needles have larger eyes to ease the amount of friction. 

We also run the machine at a slightly slower speed to help ease the friction on the thread.

Normally we run the machine at about 600 stitches per minute. When working with metallic thread, we run the machine at about 400 stitches per minute.

Those three tricks -- relaxing the thread, using a special needle with a larger eye, and running the machine at a slower speed -- means that this 20,000 stitch snowflake was embroidered without one thread break! 

If you're doing all of the above and still getting thread breaks, try loosening your bobbin tension just a tiny bit.

A small turn to the left will loosen the tension; a small turn to the right will tighten it.

You can mark the "default" or starting point with a bit of nail polish so that it's easy to change back to the pre-set tension after you've finished working with the metallic thread.

If you see the thread looping when working with metallic thread, that's an indication that the top or bobbin tension is too loose.

It can also mean that one of the settings is too loose, and the other is too tight. For that, you'll need to adjust both thread tensions to eliminate the looping.

Here's a wonderful example of how metallic thread was incorporated into a garment. Barb from Tennessee embellished this cranberry red turtleneck with the Bandana Paisley designs. She used gold and variegated gold metallic threads with the designs.

Christina from Nevada made this beautiful purse for an upcoming cruise.

She used a Blackwork design and embroidered the entire design in metallic gold. Blackwork designs are just one color, and have open areas and small detail. They're excellent candidates for metallic thread.

Peggy from Virginia made this wonderful table runner for her daughter. Peggy used silver metallic thread for the snowflakes.

Peggy writes, "I've calculated that there are 104,965 stitches in this table runner. I used silver metallic thread, and slowed my machine down to avoid thread breaks. It worked -- I never had one thread break throughout the entire project!


Enjoy working with metallic thread to add a bit of sparkle and shimmer to your embroidery projects. If you have any questions about working with metallic thread, please send an email with your question to stitch@emblibrary.com.


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