Machine Embroidery with Metallic threads, a definite possibility
Who doesn’t love a bit of shiny? Coming from the Queen of Metallic machine embroidery, I am not ashamed of it! Years ago, I actually made usage of metallic threads a signature in all my designing, and I use it on just about everything, from wearable items to home décor; stitching on light-weight Batiste to leather and pleather! Before I even go any further, let me just point out that a thread is a thread is a thread…metallic threads are also just that, a thread… and I love and use all of them, regardless of their type, brand, or label. Beautiful embroideries can be created with metallic threads, whether the complete design is stitched in metallic threads, or hints of metallic threads can be seen here and there in the design.
Now that we have determined that metallic threads are just another kind of thread, we need to understand their type. Some metallic threads have an inner core of nylon, where others have rice paper. During my early years of stitching out machine embroidery designs, I was mystified to find a fine white powdery residue inside my bobbin case, especially when using metallic threads. Mystery was solved when I started investigating every thread and stabilizer that was used for every project. Long story short, it was a tedious way to discover something I could have found on the internet! To find out the type of core, simply twist the end of your metallic thread until the fine metallic sliver gives way to either a nylon type fine thread or simply dissolves, which means it is rice paper. Then there are those glittery thin ribbon type metallic threads which are so enticing yet never easy to stitch with!
There are many myths out there about metallic threads, about using specific metallic needles to using only certain brands etc. As far as brands are concerned, there are gazillion brands of metallic threads in the market. Every one of them causes an immediate reaction of “I want to use it”, with me. There really isn’t any trick to using these threads on your embroidery machine. No need to stand on your head; hold your tongue just right; or toss the spool to the other side of the room so it would stitch properly. The trick is simply to understand that your metallic thread is a thread and how it reacts/acts with your machine is what needs to be adjusted!
I am sure most of you just had an “AHA” moment! The threads are the tools and the machine is the means of using those tools. All embroidery machines, and sewing machines, have thread tension disks. These disks are the first step towards stitching with metallic threads or for that matter, any specialty threads. As metallic threads are heavier than regular 40 weight machine embroidery threads, it is therefore necessary to adjust the tension disks by loosening the top thread tension. It is irrelevant whether the metallic threads are 50 weights or 40 weights. Compared to machine embroidery threads, all metallic threads are heavier. For experimental purposes, place the two types of threads on a white sheet of paper. You will instantly see the difference. To loosen the top thread tension, read your machine manual. Top thread tension should not be confused with bobbin tension which is a completely different area of the machine. We are using metallic threads as the top thread, therefore only the top tension should be manipulated to allow smooth flowing of the metallic thread through the tension disks.
Don’t start stitching with the metallic thread just yet though. Adjusting the top thread tension is just one step towards embroidering with metallic threads. Before we go any further, we need to also look at the metallic thread itself. It is irrelevant which brand of metallic thread you are using. All metallic threads tend to twist and curl when coming off the spool. This is the MAJOR reason for all issues when using metallic threads. As the thread twists, it tends to kink and that kink goes into the tension disks and causes the thread to continuously rub against the disks and break! What we have to do is to prevent that kink from occurring and the easiest solution that in my last ten years of machine embroidery is that a metallic thread spool should always be placed vertically. Even if the spool is a small one, it should always be placed vertically. This allows the thread to come off evenly from the spool in its path to the tension disks. I personally invested in a spool stand and always use it regardless of the size of the metallic thread spool.
We are almost there…one more step left. In the meantime, go ahead and thread your metallic thread and load up a design to stitch out. Forget about using any special needles, I never have! No offence meant to all the needle gurus out there, but I am not going to change my needle every time I want to use a bit of metallic thread in my embroidery! So, now that you have loaded up the design on the machine and have lowered the top thread tension, let’s do a test sew out. Instantly you will notice that compared to other machine embroidery threads, the metallic thread tends to come off the spool more rapidly. This results in kinks and twists and needs to be remedied. The path of the thread from the spool stand and the thread guide needs to have something which will allow the metallic thread to “straighten up” before it hits the tension disks! There are options available here and the one that I like the best is the cheapest and the easiest. I usually pass the metallic thread, using a hand needle, through a packing peanut, before taking the metallic threads through the thread guide. In other words, I place my metallic thread on a spool stand and then thread it through a packing peanut before threading through the machine. The packing peanut can be a small one actually. Its main purpose is to straighten the thread before feeding it to the thread guide.
Tada! The secret is out and you can now stitch out those gorgeous machine embroidery designs using metallic threads! This method is great for all metallic threads except for the glittery ribbon type ones. Those type of threads stretch and do require careful attention as compared to regular metallic threads. The best method for stitching with them is to thread it and a 60 weights bobbin thread at the same time. This allows the ribbon type metallic thread to have a companion lead it. Just for knowledge sake, I would like to share that thread weights make a difference in your embroidery. Lower weights mean a heavier thread whereas a higher weight means a finer thread.
A word of caution to everyone! Once you start using metallic threads, you will be hooked for life. After all, look at me; I can’t stitch out a single item without using some metallic threads.