A New Metallic Thread for Embroiderers & Long-Arm Quilters
If you've ever sewn with metallic thread, you know they can be frustrating. They kink, the break, they ravel, they shred, and they're scratchy. As a result, metallic has become known as the "thread we love to hate." We love the beauty and elegance, but we hate their idiosyncrasies.
Wouldn't you love to love metallic thread again? You can! There's a new kid on the block! One that's soft, smooth, non-scratchy, sews like Rayon, and comes in 52 yummy colors! How does it get any better?
A Little History About Metal and Metallic Threads
Historically, metallic threads were constructed by wrapping a metal strip around a fiber core (cotton or silk), often in such a way as to reveal the color of the fiber core to enhance visual quality of the decoration. Gold and silver have been used since ancient times on textiles for royalty and leaders.
True metal threads, which means the greatest percentage of the thread must be either metal or a metal compound, are costly and they can tarnish.
"Metallic" threads, on the other hand, are threads that appear to be made of metal but in reality are composed of a synthetic material such as polyester. These metallics are typically constructed by wrapping a metalized film around a core, which might be nylon, rayon, or polyester. The result is a softer, more pliable thread that is non-tarnishing.
Types of Metallic Threads
Today's metallic threads can be categorized into a flat, film type and round. If you've never seen the flat films, think of really narrow Christmas tinsel. Films are special case and require more attention; in this post, I'll be discussing the more typical thread variety.
Why Are Most Metallics so Troublesome?
Even with modern advancements in technology, there is a wide range in metallic threads. Some are smoother than others and some are softer, more pliable, and less stiff than others. How the thread is wound—on a narrow, skinny spool, tube, or core versus a larger diameter cone—can significantly affect how well the thread sews. Some metallic threads labeled as 40wt are actually thicker than 40wt polyester or Rayon.
Another significant factor is how the thread is wound. Without considering cross wound versus parallel, look at the diameter of the spool on which your metallic is wound. Is it skinny? Is it wide? Is it a cone? The narrower the spool, the tighter the wind, and the more the thread will loop or kink as it feeds off the spool. Those kinks cause a lot of thread breaks. As a loop hits a thread guide, it can catch resulting in enough tension on the thread to cause these more fragile threads to break or shred at the needle.
All of these factors contribute to sew-ability. A thread that is relatively stiff, thicker than standard embroidery thread, and wound on a narrow spool will require extra considerations when selecting a suitable design, fabric, and stabilizer.
If the design has really short stitches or tightly packed stitches, those areas are not good candidates for using metallic threads. Stiff, tightly woven fabrics are more likely to strip more fragile, lower quality threads. Same with stabilizer.
How to Test Your Thread
Allow about 15" of thread to flow off the spool and notice if the thread is curling or looping off in spirals. Are they tightly looped or loosely looped? Run the thread through your fingers. How smooth or coarse is the thread? Does it feel thicker than standard embroidery thread? Now make a small loop in the thread and check the flexibility of the thread. The softer and smoother the thread and the more relaxed it flows off the spool, the better it will sew.
Finally - A Metallic Thread We Can Love!
Over the last few years, I've often mentioned Echidna SoftLight Metallic thread, which has been previously only been readily available in Australia. I brought back of box of 26 colors in 2009 and this thread quickly became my favorite metallic.
What makes this metallic so much better than anything else?
- Construction: SoftLight Metallic thread has been developed using a Japanese metallic film. When you feel SoftLight Metallic, you'll immediately know why it has "soft" in the name. This thread feels and sews like Rayon—it's soft, smooth, and a true 40 weight thread, which means your standard embroidery needle for your current project works well. There is no need to change to a metallic needle or a larger needle in the middle of a project.I've successfully sewn this thread on designs that were never intended for metallic. By successful, I mean minimum to no thread breaks. (My multi-needle machine is particularly good at breaking any kind of thread!) I have successfully sewn free-standing lace designs that typically would be total nightmare for other metallic threads. I've also sewn this thread on garments where I would never sew a standard metallic because those other threads are simply too abrasive. Who wants a sweater that doubles as an exfoliant? SoftLight is soft against your skin.
- Colors: In 2011, Echidna doubled the number of colors! Now we have 52 luscious, gorgeous shades that includes solids, variegates, and iridescent. You can download a printable color chart. "SoftLight" also refers to the colors themselves—they are softer, elegant shades as opposed to some of the more harsh, garish metallics of competitors.
- Delivery: SoftLight Metallic is wound on cones to avoid any kinking and looping that occurs when thread is wound on a narrow core. Smoother delivery translates to fewer thread breaks, increased productivity, and a higher quality finished product. Each cone contains 1500 meters (1640.42 yards). Long-arm quilters will especially appreciate this size!
SoftLight Metallic Now Available in the U.S.!
Lindee G Embroidery now carries the full line of SoftLight Metallic thread right here in the U.S.
Orders can be delivered to your doorstep within just a few days with NO SHIPPING CHARGES on orders of 5 or more spools.
Orders can only be shipped within the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Browse the entire line of Softlight Metallic Thread, 52 lucsious shades; 48 40-weight and four 60-weight for fine detail stitching
- How to Get Better Results with Metallic Thread
- 10 Tips for Getting Great Results with Metallic Thread
About the Author
Lindee Goodall is a veteran master digitizer who's won awards for her beautiful designs, been a guest on numerous PBS sewing shows, written articles for a variety of home and industry related magazines, and is a Craftsy instructor.
Lindee G Embroidery is her second company, following Cactus Punch, which was founded in 1994.