Practical Thread Magic

When I come to teach to a group, there's always a frantic rush of questions and concerns. I don't play with the same toys other quilters do. Though I talk about that at length in class, I thought it would be helpful to have that information available in a blog. So here we're going to discuss the nuts and bolts of the kind of thread work I love and teach. We'll discuss products, choices, threads, fabrics, tools, stabilizers and all the things that make my work work for me, and will help your work work for you.

If you have an upcoming class with me, you should know I bring almost all of the things I use for your needs. If you want to try something you've got, absolutely bring it. But if you're having trouble finding it, please don't stress. I'll have it there for you.

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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Ellen would be delighted to have a class with you or your group! You can check out her classes at She also offers independent studio time in her studio in Indiana. Talk to Ellen about classes at 219-921-0885, or contact her scheduler Melida at 405-735-3703 .to set a date
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thread Savy-Metallic Threads

Metallic threads are different from all other kinds. Largely because they are hybrids. Rayons, polys and cottons are all of one piece. It makes them stronger. It makes them more integral. It's rare to even have a rayon (the most fragile of the three) that won't work easily and well through the needle.

Not so with metallics.Most people report they have trouble sewing with metallic thread. It's also always harder free motion. Why?

It's All in How It's Made
Metallic threads are usually a combination of lurex, viscose(rayon), polyester, and whatever else was in the test tube. They're usually wound together in the process. Of course, whatever is wound can be unwound. So it makes sense that under the stress of sewing, these threads are much more likely to break.
There are three basic forms of metallic thread

Flecked Thread
These threads are twisted with the components all together. They have an appearance of flecked sparkles.These tend to be the strongest of the metallic threads. My favorite flecked threads are the Madeira Supertwists.These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.

Wound thread
This thread has a poly or rayon core with lurex or metal wrapped  around it.These threads vary a lot, depending on what the core is, and whether the wrapping is glued on or not. My favorite wound thread are  Superior Metallic, and Yenmet, which have a poly core and are glued supposedly with rice paste. These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.

Flat Threads
These threads look like Christmas tinsel. They're flat and nothing but lurex. They're notoriously breakable.
But they are lovely. I use them in the bobbin only.

The Three Best Tricks
Here are the three best tricks for making metallic thread work better.
The Bobbin vs the Needle
Every thread that goes through your needle goes through it 50 times. That's a lot of wear and tear. If it goes through your bobbin it gets picked up just once. So if your thread is breaking, sew with it in the bobbin with a poly or rayon thread that matches it in color on top. Much less breakage.
The Right Needle
The best needle for all free motion embroidery is usually a #90 topstitching needle. The bigger eye and shart point make a huge difference. See my entry, The Needle Knows.
Sewers Aid
This silicon thread treatment makes threads infinitely stronger. You can use it on threads that need some help. Just drool it along the spool.
And as always
Garbage in, Garbage out
Nothing fixes either cheap or old thread. If it won't sew you can always glob with it. I'll show you that trick another time.
Wrapping it up
Metallic threads are a beautiful addition to your thread pallet. With special care and tricks they add all the glitz a girl can use.


KarenL said...

I have found these posts extremely informative and useful. Thanks so much for posting!

Roberta Ranney said...

Hi Ellen - I'm enjoying your very informational blog posts. I learned about Madeira black-core metallic threads from you in 2006 and have used them very successfully ever since. I appreciate all the information you share so freely.

Alison Schwabe said...

You mentioned needle ( a bit of trial and error may be required) Sewers Aid is often helpful -totally right - but the top tension may need to be loosened, the stitch lengthened (after all, fewer holes means more of the glitter is visible more impressively) and finally, slooooow down a bit. The flat threads are fine on the top if you pay attention to all the above - the way I work I never bother with thread that requires being in the bobbin but that's individual - there's always another that will work up top. As ever, taking time to do some samples pays, always. Thanks for the post.

Gloria said...

Great information! Thank you for taking time to write this blog...I like every bit of it and I'm learning so much. You are a fabulous and generous artist.


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