How to use metallic threads in your embroidery
Currently, metallic threads are all on my mind lately. There are some secret projects in the making that may or may not include some golden stitchery *wink*. The last time I stitched with golden threads for the cross stitch advent calendar pattern, it was a real pain. I used a machine embroidery thread which has a great color, but it’s not a dream to work with.
I have heard lots of horror stories starring metallic threads as the main character and it sort of took the enthusiasm out of me to venture in this type of threads further.
But you know, they look so pretty! So I got all of my threads out and made a side-by-side comparison for several stitch types. Here are the results:
From top left clockwise:
- DMC light effects E211 (the white/violet one)
- the metallic thread that came with a machine sewing thread set
- DMC Diamant D3852
- Guetermann Sulky CA 02776
- DMC metallics E3852
DMC light effects E211
This thread is really harsh and stiff to embroider. It definitely takes patience to work with it. For this particular hue of color, I find it hard to see the glittery effect at all. Maybe it would work better with stitches that cover larger areas like cross stitch or satin stitch to see the difference to ‘normal’ cotton thread.
metallic thread that came with a machine sewing thread set
This thread is splitting and misbehaving like crazy. It also has very little sheen to it and I suspect it loses the metallic parts fast when you wash it. I don’t recommend using this cheap stuff.
DMC Diamant D3852
The Diamant thread consists of 3 strands of tightly wrapped metallic thread. You could totally split up those single strands to get a finer line. If you use the complete strand I noticed the looped stitches like chain stitch or feather stitch form way rounder loops then all the other threads tested. It needs a bit of space to enfold it’s look, so closed stitches or very small ones are not the best choices for this thread.
Guetermann Sulky CA 02776
Actually, this thread is intended to use in machine embroidery. It is very fine and consists of a single strand. I used it with two strands here, one strand might break easily. This one made the best flat satin stitch of all 5. It was the only one that stayed in place and did not bulb.
DMC light effects E3852
It’s a 6 stranded floss and similar to the white/purple light effects threads. The golden version does behave better though and is not as harsh and stiff as the other one.
What do I recommend?
At this point, I have really only tried these 5 different threads. I will choose between the golden DMC light effects and the DMC Diamant thread for my particular project. The look of the Guetermann Sulky thread looks great, but I know how hard it is to stitch with – so no, not using it. What I definitely recommend is going for a higher price point thread with metallics. The cheap sewing supply thread is just crap (in my case).
For metallic threads, there is one company which is making marvelous threads for a long time. Sadly I had no sample here to try it out YET. What is it? It’s Kreinik. You can find a lot of information over at Mr X stitch’s post on metallic threads.
Lessons learned with metallic threads
Metallics really, REALLY fray and wobble fast!
Keep the threads very short. Yes, it’s more work, but this way the threads have to go through the fabric fewer times. This results in less chance for the threads to break or untwist or fray. There are also thread conditioners like Thread Heaven that protect your threads and can make it easier to stitch with metallic threads. Alternatively, dampen your thread with a wet-ish cloth – especially with very harsh threads that don’t lay well. I don’t have a thread conditioner at hand, so I tried the dampening method. It really helps to get the harsher thread types more flexible.
Patience is king
Stitching too fast will result in you wanting to pull out your hair soon. Every time your thread entangles because of pulling it through too fast, it’s more prone to break or look wonky sooner. So take your time and stitch slowly.
Get the right needle
If your needle’s eye is too small or narrow it will cause your thread lots of friction every time it moves in there. Also, it’s way more difficult to get multiple strands of metallic thread through you needle, they do behave differently than cotton (yeah, they like to misbehave and spread in all directions).