Making the Most with Metallic Threads

We Carry
by Sara Snuggerud in Archives

As the holidays approach, the glitz and glam of metallic thread can add just the right sparkle to any project. We see metallic threads used with decorative stitches, machine quilting, thread play, and even put in sergers for a decorative edging. If you have never tried using metallic thread through the needle or if you have had unsuccessful attempts, here are some things to know to put that sparkle into your sewing.Many low quality metallic threads have given the metallic thread industry a bad name. Some metallic threads are great and others will push our sewing sanity to our wits end. We have all been there: sewing along with metallic thread and then snap, it breaks or it begins to fray. We have heard of solutions to make unruly metallic thread work from soaking it in silicone to storing it in a freezer. Or you can throw out those trouble-some spools and buy newer generation metallic threads that run smooth without the headaches!

Two brands that have given the most successful results are Yenmet and Superior Thread. Both companies offer metallic threads in great colors and with multiple uses. So what makes these threads better than others? These metallic threads contain three important elements that go into making a high performance metal thread.

1. Nylon Core – A nylon core is an indication of strength and quality to help prevent tangling.
2. Paper-Pasted – The best metallic threads will have a coat of rice paper pasted over the nylon core. This makes the nylon core adhere to the metal, resulting in a stronger thread. Paper-pasting makes the thread cohesive and flexible.
3. Protective Coating – If the thread has a protective coating over the outer metallic layer, the thread will run through the machine better and with less friction. An outer coating also protects against fraying and shredding.

Another way to have a successful sewing experience with metallic thread is to use a new Schmetz Metallic or Topstitch size 90/14 or larger needle. These needles have an extra tall eye to help cut down on the amount of friction that will occur as the thread travels through the needle 50+ times before it becomes a stitch in the fabric. Sewing at a slower speed will allow time for the needle to cool from the extra friction. Some sewers treat metallic spools with a silicone product such as small amount of Sewer’s Aid. This may also help keep the needle cool.

Check all thread guides on the sewing machine for any rough areas that the metallic thread may catch on. Burrs on guides will highly diminish the success of sewing with this semi-abrasive thread.

When possible, place metallic spools on a horizontal spool holder. Allowing the thread to flow off the end of the spool without having to pull against the weight of the spool will reduce extra tension. Another option would be to use a separate thread stand positioned behind the sewing machine as a spool holder.

Reduce the top tension to a lower number to allow the thread optimum flow through the machine.

Select a polyester filament bobbin thread such as Superior‘s Bottom Line to use in conjunction with metallic thread. Cotton thread in the bobbin tends to grab the metallic thread causing excess breakage.If you are using recommended metallic thread, needles and tension, and are still not satisfied with your results, know also that every machine will handle metallic thread a little differently. Take time to experiment further with different thread, tensions, needles and machine settings to achieve the perfect result. Keep in mind that settings will differ from machine to machine and from brand to brand.

Follow the same above recommendations for using metallic thread in sergers. While it can be used in the needle, it becomes more attractive as a decorative edge by using it in either the upper looper with a rolled hem setting, or both upper and lower loopers with a balanced tension setting. Change the stitch length to get the desired filled look on the edge.

Other ways to use metallic threads without them going through the needle are to use them in the bobbin and sew the fabric up side down, or to couch them on. Couching is especially good for the heavy metallic or any heavy thread that won’t go through a needle. Sew them onto the fabric using a zig-zag type stitch with invisible or other decorative thread. There are a number of feet that aid in this process.

No matter what you are sewing, serging, quilting or embroidering, adding a hint of metallic thread, emphasizing it as a main focal point, or heavily embellishing will make the project eye-catching, extra special, and sparkling!

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