Metal Foiling and Machine Embroidery

Add metal foil to the embroidery mix for extra bling! In this three-part blog series, we’re talking about foil made specifically for fabric—a lightweight clear substrate with a very thin metal coating on one side. With the proper adhesive underneath, the metallic layer is transferred to the fabric for a sheen that won’t quit. Foil adds ambiance to most any embroidery design as a background, motif portion or outline.

foil fill 1009x1024 Metal Foiling and Machine Embroidery

Foiling and Embroidery Ideas

There are several ways to combine foiling and machine embroidery. Consider these ideas:

  • foil holly 279x300 Metal Foiling and Machine EmbroideryUse foiled shapes as a background for embroidery stitching. You can stitch over it if it was applied with a light coat of adhesive or fusible web. Glue lines from a bottle tend to be thicker and may cause stitching problems. Hoop the fabric outside the foiling, or use a non-hooping method for embroidery to avoid damage to the metallic coating.
  • Add a foil shape to an embroidered scene.
  • Echo stitched embroidery shapes with similarly shaped foil motifs.
  • Foil saw 300x181 Metal Foiling and Machine EmbroideryUse foil to outline or highlight an embroidered shape. A fine-tip applicator allows for narrow lines.
  • Leave portions of an embroidery motif unstitched and substitute foil to fill the area. Print a full-sized design template and use it as a pattern for cut fusible web “parts” or use it to cut a stencil of the parts dedicated to foiling.
  • Foil lace 300x280 Metal Foiling and Machine EmbroideryEmbroider a freestanding lace motif, rinse away the stabilizer and allow it to dry. Carefully apply adhesive to outline portions of the motif for foiling.
  • Highlight embroidered motifs with foil—it will stick to the stitches.
  • Mimic Shisha with foil—embroider designs specifically digitized for Shisha and fill in with foil instead of the expected mirror.
  • Frame an embroidered motif with a foil shape cut from fusible web.
  • Add faint accents, backgrounds and light embellishment to stitches by sprinkling on adhesive granules.

For more information on the adhesive types used to create these techniques, see our March 14th installment!

Getting Started

Gather supplies and understand the basics before beginning to experiment with techniques.

Foil selection

It’s important to use foil made specifically for use with fabric. Foil is available by the sheet or by the yard, in single colors or assortments, depending on the source.

Foils come in basic metal colors like gold, silver and copper, but also in other solids like red, green, purple and blue; some solids also have textures. For more interesting effects, look for hologram, rainbow and patterned foils. These specialties are usually available in smaller sheets, cost a bit more than standard metallics and are slightly thicker due to the patterning.

Take care with foil sheets, as they’re easily scratched and the foil can be damaged by anything sharp, from fingernails to paperclips. Store them flat or rolled in a plastic bag when not in use.


An iron is helpful for the foil transfer process and is essential for most adhesive applications. Because only dry heat (no steam) is used in the foil transfer, an inexpensive flat soleplate iron will suffice. Small craft irons can also be used, depending on the size of the area to be foiled. An iron with a non-stick soleplate is recommended, as sometimes adhesive residue or foil flecks can stick to the bottom of the iron.


Both fabric yardage and ready-made garments are appropriate for foiling.

  • Fabric bases for foiling should be relatively smooth for clear design work. Anything that is textured or napped can also be foiled, but the image will not be as clear as on a flat-surface fabric. Rough or blurred imagery is part of the look on fabrics like velvet, textured leather, etc.
  • Prewash launderable fabrics to remove any finishes that can interfere with foiling success.
  • Foil is best applied in garment areas with no friction, as it can wear off. Avoid placing it on shoulder areas where purse straps will rub, or on underarm areas of a T-shirt that will be abraded during normal wear.

Ready to start foiling? Check out part 2 of our series on March 14 for information about the different adhesive options and how to use them!

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