Working With Metallic Embroidery Threads

Stitching with Metallic Threads

The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

Most people who embroider either have horror stories about metallic embroidery floss or they have heard the stories and avoid ever trying it. While it can prove difficult, it's possible to make working with metallic floss a pleasant experience! The trick is choosing the best supplies for your stitching style and the project you're working on, as well as following a few simple tips.

Metallic Thread Types

There are several types of metallic embroidery thread. We'll look at the three most common to learn more about how to work with them. When working with any of these, it's a good idea to use fabric with a more open weave and to choose a large enough needle so that the thread passes through with less stress on the floss.

Using Regular Stranded Metallic Floss

Stranded metallic floss looks a lot like regular cotton floss when you first look at it. It can be separated into separate strands and comes in skeins.

DMC's Light Effects floss is an example of this type. Each strand is made up of two smaller pieces twisted together, and those two pieces are also twisted. This can result in a lot of fraying and tangling as you work. There are three things to remember when working with this floss:

  • Use shorter pieces. Your working thread should only be about 12 inches long.
  • Coat with Thread Heaven. Conditioning the floss will help tame the tangle.
  • Thread the needle properly. This floss works better when you use this method:

Cut a 24-inch piece of floss and separate half as many strands as you want to use. Fold them in half and thread the folded end through the needle. Bring the two ends through the folded loop to make a cow hitch knot around the eye of the needle. You'll prevent fraying because the ends of the thread are no longer passing through the fabric.

Standard Metallic Embroidery Floss
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

Using Woven Metallic Floss

Unlike stranded embroidery floss (metallic or otherwise), woven or braided metallic thread cannot be separated. Like Perle cotton, this floss comes in different sizes so you can achieve the stitch thickness you desire.

Kreinik's Metallic Braid is an example of this, which comes in many sizes and colors. Working with this type of floss is easier than the standard kind that comes in strands. Use it as you would with regular floss, but keep these things in mind:

  • Use shorter strands. While it may be tempting to cut off a long piece, never use more than 18 inches.
  • Don't try to split the thread. This goes for trying to divide it to make it thinner as well as using stitches such as split stitch.
  • Pay attention to thread thickness. Because you can't separate this, it's especially important to use the right size needle with the large sizes of woven floss.

As always, if you find that it's still causing some trouble, thread conditioner should help.

Woven Metallic Embroidery Floss
The spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

Using Metallic Blending Filament

Metallic blending filament is typically worked alongside other embroidery threads, though some can be used on their own. They add a much more subtle sparkle to your work.

Accentuate and Bijoux are examples of this material. To blend this with regular floss, cut a piece of blending filament that is the same length as the floss you are using. Then, follow these tips:

  • Blend more or less. If you want to see a little more sparkle, you can add more than one strand of blending filament with your floss.
  • Twist it. To help hold the strands together and get even sparkle coverage, try twisting the pieces together. Be sure to twist in the same direction as floss twists. (Using Thread Heaven in this process is good too!)
  • Pay attention to placement. If the metallic isn't showing as you stitch, you can adjust how it lays on the fabric and floss. 

For example, often filament wants to stay close to the fabric and the floss covers it. Instead of pulling the stitches taut right away, try leaving them loose and pulling the floss taut first, so that the filament wraps over the floss. You may not want to do this every stitch, but watch for when you need it for even sparkle.

Metallic Blending Filament
The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

Follow these guides, try some new tools and materials, and learn to love metallic embroidery!