Tips and tricks for using metallic thread in your embroidery machine
We’ve had some requests in comments for tips on embroidering with metallic thread, and rather than cobble something short together in comments, I decided to make it into a full post that will hopefully be a great resource for embroiderers.
Metallic thread produces gorgeous results, but embroidering with it can be a pain. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the usual problem — repeated thread breakage. While it may be impossible to avoid re-threading the machine entirely, read on for a list of things you can do to minimize the chance of metallic thread breakage and maximize the change of gorgeous results.
Purchase quality thread that doesn’t easily kink. It shouldn’t feel too rough or bumpy as you run it through your fingers.
Look for uniformly wound spools or cones. A lack of uniformity can indicate damage to the thread or that uneven tension was placed on the thread during the winding process.
Before embroidering with metallic thread, put the thread in the freezer for a few hours to reduce breakage.
Lower the thread tension to accommodate the thread and prevent shredding.
A 90/40 metallic needle is preferred for the majority of metallic threads. The larger needle size will help penetrate the fabric, making way for the thread to be laid smoothly on top. The metallic needle also features a special scarf to prevent skipped stitches and a widened groove to avoid thread breakage.
Gold embroidery needles are coated with titanium nitride, which helps prevent needle wear when embroidering designs with high stitch counts. The needle has a slightly rounded point to easily penetrate most fabrics and an enlarged eye that accommodates metallic threads.
Needles wear out easily when embroidering with metallic thread. When starting a new project, be sure to use a new needle, and replace the needle every four hours of embroidery time.
Stabilizers with adhesive backing and spray adhesives should only be used with metallic threads if absolutely necessary. The adhesive may result in deposit build-ups in the eye of the needle, causing friction and needle breakage.
Excessive stabilization of the fabric applies greater friction to the needle, increases thread breaks and can produce stiff embroidery.
Position the thread spool on a vertical spool holder so the thread winds off without twisting, which can cause breakage. If no vertical spool holder is available, place the spool in a coffee mug next the machine. You can also purchase general machine attachments to allow thread to wind off the spool straight-on.
Short, compact stitches can cause thread breakage and tension problems. Consider enlarging the design or embroidering at a slower speed to allow the thread to smoothly stitch on the fabric.
Long stitches can result in increased tension on the thread because of the dramatic movement of the sewing field. Consider reducing the design size or embroidering at a slower machine speed.
Excessive thread layers can increase the density of the fabric and can often cause metallic threads to break. For best results, embroider with metallic threads in areas of a design that do not have excessive layers of thread.
If embroidering letters in metallic thread, make sure they are 1/4” or larger. The compact stitching of small lettering can cause the thread to break.
If making freestanding lace and using metallic thread in the bobbin is too bulky or causing breakage, select a matching 40-wt. embroidery or invisible thread for the bobbin.
Decrease the embroidery machine speed as low as possible to reduce friction and prevent breakage.
Projects embellished with metallic thread require special attention to maintain their beautiful appearance. Be sure your dry-cleaner uses standard petroleum benzene, perchlorethylene or trichloroethylene chemicals to protect the threads.
Hot water and ironing have been proven to significantly deteriorate the luster and composition of metallic threads. If laundering, wash in warm water with a non-abrasive detergent to prevent dimming the thread color.