Tips & Tricks: Sewing with Metallic Thread

Nearly all metallic threads have a polyester core that’s wrapped with a thin layer of metallic material: it shreds and breaks easily. We have worked with metallic thread for many years with results ranging from pulling our hair out, screaming and begging, to WOW, this actually works! Here are some of the best tips and techniques we’ve learned... so far.

Metallic Thread
Metallic Thread

At the factory the thread is wound onto the spools while they are in an upright position, so they seem to sew best if they are spooled off the same way. Use a thread stand or cone holder to pull the thread up through a hook and over into your sewing machine. Thread nets are helpful, especially with larger spools because they keep the thread from spooling off too fast.

Occasionally the thread is stretched and packs onto the spool while it is being wound so no matter how it is sewn, it will break or shred. Sometimes pulling off a few yards helps; however, chances are it is going to be unusable so either throw it away or exchange it for another spool.

Tension and Stitch Length

The best tension for satin stitching with metallic thread is about a 2 or 3 on most machines. These are the settings used to sew appliques or buttonholes. Lengthen the stitch from a 2 to a 2.5 or 3. By loosening the tension and lengthening the stitch, there is less chance of the thread making a "bird’s nest" (packing in one place) and breaking. Practice on a scrap of fabric before sewing to insure best results.

Schmetz Needles

Metafil, Metallica and Metallic needles are designed for metallic and other hard-to-sew threads. The eyes have been smoothed to eliminate burrs that cause shredding or breakage. This process also makes them more expensive. The eyes of machine embroidery needles have been smoothed more than regular sewing machine needles but not the same degree as the metallic needles. Use a 90 embroidery needle rather than a 75 for best results.

Satin stitching through quilted fabric is difficult but not impossible. Use a denim needle size 90 or 100 and sew slowly to keep shredding and breakage to a minimum. You can purchase Metafil, Metallica and Metallic needles at your local sewing center or through sewing notions catalogs, like Nancy’s Notions or Schmetz. On a strictly personal note, I only use Schmetz needles. There are at least 40 different packages in the sewing room at any given time.