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6 Tips for Using Metallic Hand Embroidery Thread

An embroidery hoop containing blue fabric stitched with a blue, teal, and gold peacock design.

Gold embroidery thread tangling? Silver strands fraying? Yep, I've been there.

I love and loathe metallic thread in equal measure. It's beautifully shiny, but WOW it can be tough to work with.

These are my top tips to help you master those metallics - so if you're struggling to tame your shiny threads, read on!


Types of Metallic Thread

The most common metallic embroidery thread is DMC's Light Effects.Like other varieties of floss, Light Effects thread is made up of six individual strands. You can separate these strands from each other, or use them altogether.
There are many other brands of metallic thread, including Anchor and Kreinik. But, as DMC is the mosteasily available (and in my opinion, the best!), I use this in my kits.

How Can I Use Metallic Embroidery Thread?

You can use metallic threA close up of a unicorn design embroidered in white thread on a bright pink backgroundad in almost any embroidery project! It's excellent for adding sparkle and shimmer to designs.

I've used it in my Peacock, Jellyfish, and Unicorn designs - and of course, a festive Christmas Wreath!

My advice is to use metallic thread sparingly in a design. It takes longer to stitch with, and takes practice - so save it for highlights, rather than areas of block colour!

What is Metallic Embroidery Thread Made Of?

DMC's Light Effects metallic thread is 100% polyester. This is the only synthetic thread I use in my embroidery - stranded cotton is my go-to!

 So, let's get into it...

Tips for Embroidering with Metallic Thread:

  1. Use short lengths of thread. If you normally stitch with 50cm of floss, reduce this. This does mean tying off and re-threading your needle more often - but it's worth it! The longer your thread is, the more times it will pass through the fabric, and the more friction there is with the eye of your needle. This leads to fraying and tangling, which we want to avoid!

  2. Work with fewer strands. I recommend using 2 strands of metallic thread at a time - although it depends on the project. The fewer strands, the less chance there is of tangling!

  3. Try a  thread wax or thread conditioner. The most effectivean open tin of beeswax sits on top of a bright orange coaster thread wax is 100% pure beeswax, and it's simple to use. Once you've separated the strands, take one end of your thread, and use your thumb to gently hold it against the wax. Then pull the thread, so that the whole length of it has passed between your thumb and the wax. This gives the thread a light coating of conditioner, making it easier to pass through the fabric and less likely to knot up. Be careful not to use too much wax: this can dull the shine of your gorgeous threads!

  4. Snip the ends often. As you stitch, you'll notice the loose end of the thread (near the needle) fraying. When you see this, trim the ends to keep them neat and orderly.

  5. Combine metallic thread with cotton thread. If you want to create a glimmer rather than high shine, this is an ingenious solution. Take one or two strands of your metallic thread, and a strand or two of cotton embroidery thread. Try to use similar colours. Combine them together, and stitch with this blend of threads instead!

  6. Change your needle. More on that below...

What Embroidery Needle Do You Use for Metallic Thread?

If you're still struggling with your metallics, try a larger needle.
This has two benefits: first, the larger eye makes it easier to thread the needle. Metallic threads love to splay out - especially when you're trying to get them through a needle - and a larger eye can help. Second, a larger needle creates a larger hole in the fabric as you're stitching. This means less friction on the thread, and less fraying.
I like to use a size 7 needle for hand embroidery - both for stranded cotton and metallics. But, if I'm having aparticularly bad day with my shiny thread, I'll switch to a larger needle size!
Tell me about your projects with metallic thread! How do you find working with it? Are there any tips you'd add to the list?

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