Ask an Expert: Run Metallic Thread Correctly in Fashion Designs

Q I try to stay on top of trends and offer my customers fashion-forward embroidery that will really impress. But I have to admit, when it comes to running metallic thread, I cringe. Is there anything you can suggest to help me run designs without the stress and struggle?

First of all, you are absolutely correct to consider adding metallic threads in order to keep on top of trends. From online blogs like “The Fashion Spot” referring to “metal mania,” to such trend-setting fashion publications as Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Elle, InStyle and Marie Claire all pointing to metallic as one of 2015’s top 10 fashion trends, you really do need to master the sparkle and shine that metallic embroidery thread can bring to everything from corporate logos to caps.

Designers from Altuzarra to Versace see metallics as “no longer exclusive to the holiday season (or the eighties),” and the metallic look is ubiquitous on runways and red carpets. As Harper’s Bazaar points out, “once relegated to cocktail dresses on New Year’s Eve and cocktail waitresses in Las Vegas, sparkles are starting to see the light of day.” And so, given the need to include the ability to offer, and even suggest, the addition of sparkle to your embroidery customers, where do you begin?

“Mastering just these two threads can set you apart from your competition and make you the go-to embroiderer in your community.”

Start with a good-quality metallic embroidery thread. As important as quality thread is in your daily work, investing in a reliable source for your metallic threads will eliminate lots of stress. Then, start small. Go with a thin metallic, like a 50 weight. Most times, this smooth metallic thread can be substituted right into a stock design or a logo digitized for 40 weight, with no change to the machine, no needle change and no re-timing; simply choose a gold or silver to replace a yellow or gray, and watch your embroidery design grow more sophisticated, with additional fashion appeal.

The next metallic thread you should master is a heavier 30-weight thread that’s twisted, rather than wrapped, in its production. As you can imagine, the twisting makes for more foil surfaces that reflect the light, and the result is an additional sparkle to the shine that a smooth metallic provides. With this heavier metallic, you do need to change your needle to a 90/14 for best results. And because it’s thicker, you may choose to use it for a highlight, using longer stitches, like running stitches, or as an overlay for a special effect. To incorporate it into a design, you may need to reduce the density by about 20%, from 4.0 to 6.0, or, you could increase the size of the design by 10%. A final hint: Lighten your top tension for this twisted thread since it’s more pliable.

You may want to slow down the machine to 600 stitches per minutes for the 30-weight twisted metallic, but no major changes are necessary for the shiny 50 weight. Remember, it’s a good idea to change to a new needle when you begin a design with metallic thread – what are the chances you’ve changed your needles recently? Any embroidery, but especially metallic, will benefit from a fresh new needle and a bobbin case that’s free from lint.

While the selection of metallic embroidery threads can seem overwhelming, once you’ve mastered the smooth, easily running 50-weight and the sparkling 30-weight twisted metallics, the rest can follow at your own pace. Mastering just these two threads can set you apart from your competition and make you the go-to embroiderer in your community. Thread manufacturers are more than willing to offer samples and help you to run their metallic threads, and videos and webinars that highlight these two desirable metallic threads are readily available on YouTube

Shirley Clark, president of Madeira USA, comes from a background in marketing and sales for the cable/telecommunications industry. With experience running businesses, and as the former national sales manager for Madeira USA, she keeps watch over this market leader with an eye toward excellent customer service, top quality products and partnering with customers in order to ensure their success. Contact:

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