5 Tips to Master Stitching with Metallic Thread
I’ll be the first to admit that the sparkly metallic embroidery thread tends to get a bad rap. You’ve probably heard stitchers complain about how hard it is to use, how it knots and frays too easily, and how it is so temperamental that it can break if you even look at it wrong. When I was at the beginning of my embroidery journey, I avoided metallic thread like the plague, thinking that it was way too complex and I would just mess it up, but let me say this… the sparkle is 1000% worth any of the potential headache. So, hopefully with these tips you can put aside your hate for metallic thread and give it a chance.
1. chose the right metallic thread for your project
There are a few different types of metallic embroidery thread on the market, but I’m going to focus on the main two styles made by DMC that are readily available in most craft stores. I’ll jump straight to the punch line – my go to is the diamant thread and you will see why very soon!
- DMC light effects: This is the most common type of metallic thread (sold at Spotlight). It is presented in 8m lengths in a skein just like the standard stranded cotton, and is made up of 6 strands that can be divided. The bonus is that it comes in a wide range of colours, however, it is really rough and stiff to work with.
- DMC diamant thread: This thread comes as a 35m length on a spool and is a single strand. There aren’t as many colours available, but it comes in the essentials – gold, silver, white, rose gold, copper and other colours like black and emerald green. This thread is a lot softer and so much easier to stitch with. You can shop my favourite DMC diamant Embroidery Thread HERE.
2. cut shorter lengths of thread
Don’t be tempted to cut long lengths of thread just to save yourself from having to re-thread your needle a hundred times – a needle threader will save you there. Cutting your thread to approx 30cm max will minimise twisting, knotting and fraying, which can be more common with metallic threads. The more the thread goes through the fabric, the more wear and tear on the thread and you might notice that at the end of your stitching the thread will loose it’s shine. Seeing as we are all about creating that sparkle, this is the last thing we want to happen.
3. keep untwisting your thread
You will notice that metallic thread loves to get all twisted up (more so than normal thread) and this creates, you guessed it… KNOTS!!! Hard enough to get rid of with normal thread, with metallic thread, it is pretty much impossible. So, the best thing to do is to prevent them in the first place, is by stitching slowly and regularly stopping to untwist your thread. Just gently let your needle hang and the thread tends to untwist itself. This is a great tip for stitching in general… not just for metallic thread!
4. grab some thread gloss or conditioner
Thread gloss is a mix of wax and oils that coats your thread to prevent tangles, fraying, and minimises brittleness. It’s like a deep conditioner for your thread. This can be useful, particularly if you are working with the rough light effects thread. It is not a necessity… but it is very helpful tool particularly if you are having trouble or plan to use metallic thread a lot in your work. Just be careful that you don’t overload the thread – it should be enough to smooth the thread, but not make it super waxy.
I love the thread gloss by Ponderosa Creative (here is her Etsy) and she creates some amazing scent blends to make stitching even better!
5. mix n match
If you want to dip your toe into the world of metallic thread, an easy way is by mixing and matching standard cotton thread and light effects thread, to create a more subtle shimmer. And just to make it super easy – the colour code on the DMC light effects thread matches the cotton thread which helps you match the threads.
bonus tip: practice, practice, practice!!
This is always one of my top tips for any new embroidery skills or techniques… practice!!! Don’t put extra pressure on yourself to get it completely perfect the first time you stitch with metallic thread. Go slowly, and allow yourself space to make mistakes. Remember, if you stuff it up you can always cut it out and stitch it again. I started by adding little elements of sparkle and then as I got more confident, progressed to stitching whole sections with metallic thread. Master some basic embroidery stitches (like straight stitch, split stitch etc) before you experiment with different stitches.
Below are some of my embroidery designs featuring both types of metallic thread. One design (starry night) is stitched entirely in diamant thread, and that end result is *chefs kiss*.
I hope these tips help you face any of your metallic thread fears and learn to love that sparkle as much as I do. Seriously it just makes your design go next level!!