The Avid Embroiderer Presents – Tips for Metallic Embroidery and a Christmas Freebie

This time of year, we all do more metallic thread designs. Here are some tips for you to have better success with your project.


  • Check for designs that are specifically designed for metallic thread.

    • Not every design is appropriate and not every design is so marked.

    • Keep in mind that large ‘fields’ are not the best place for metallics but they can be done. Decrease the density in your software for better results.

    • Consider doing just the small spaces such as eyes or details in the design.

    • Designs with satin stitches will have more sheen because it has long stitches. Small stitches won’t show as much sparkle.


  • Check your thread for its composition. Polyester is likely your best bet these days. Make sure it is a quality thread as well. Testing your thread is of utmost importance. Doing a ‘discovery sew’ (aka ‘sewout’) using the design, same fabric, (or as close as possible) and the thread to determine what issues may need adjusting. Breakage is an issue for metallics. Methods of making metallics more stable include:

    • Freezing the thread, is probably the most commonly used/noted tip. Personally, I cannot think of any advantage and how deep would the cold get into the thread?

    • Sending thread through a Styrofoam peanut is also well used and noted. I wonder about getting some static from this method.

    • Place spool in a coffee cup. I believe it is to relax the thread, but unless the cup is 3’ (90cm) away, giving the thread a little time to relax.

    • Gently unspool thread watching how the thread slightly ‘sticks’ to the thread beneath it. That will tell you how much strength it takes to remove it. If it is sticking a lot, you may well decide to unspool a long thread between two points, about 4 to 6 feet apart. Then carefully respool to use on the machine.

      • This last one is what I have used in the past, but my Madeira does not require any special activity.


  • Use a needle that is either specifically for metallics. This is important because this needle has a larger eye giving the metallic thread more movement room. Metallics are especially sensitive to friction and a large hole makes it easier for thread.


  • Stabilizers that have a Viscose or Cotton component in them are best because they have a soft hand. Avoid anything that is firm or has a dense fabric which would cause friction. Occasionally, an iron-on backing will minimize the roughness.


  • Loosen the top tension modestly. You really have to do a ‘discovery sew’ so that you can determine just how much tension can be adjusted. If no trial is used, your project may suffer from all sorts of maladies like looping on top, birds nests on the bottom, breakage and anything that can go wrong likely will.


  • Bobbin threads should be the at least 60# weight to higher. Remember, the higher the number, the lighter the thread. Think of years ago when weight was a basic method of measurement and a ‘nose to fingertip’ length was relatively standard. Therefore, if 40 lengths equaled a pound, and 60 length equaled a pound of the second thread, the second thread was less dense/lighter.


Some projects will call for both sides to be matching to the project. Using a 40# thread (embroidery thread) will increase the friction for metallic threads. Getting a selection of 60# colors is a good investment if you do a lot of two-sided designs.


Lastly, I have actually wound the metallic thread on to a bobbin and sewed out a free standing lace design. I slowed down my machine, watched as it progressed and even stopped it when I felt that it might be good to take a breather (like for me. . . ).


This freebie is for everyone who will have a white Christmas and especially for those of us who won’t have a white Christmas (I don’t have to shovel sunshine).



frosty the Snowman.zip (230.3KB)



I am wishing you and yours a very loving and calm season for now and forever. Life is not a race, relax and enjoy those you love and who loves you.


Please login to comment