What metallic thread options are available to embroiderers?

Not only is there a choice of colors, including multi and ombre to choose from, but metallic embroidery threads are available in a variety of weights for different purposes. Veering from a standard 40- or 50-weight metallic thread may require a little extra care, a needle change, or slowing down your machine just a bit, but the results are well worth it.

Metallic threads come in two basic looks: shiny and sparkly. Shiny metallic thread features a smooth wind that combines metalized polyester with polyester fibers. A sparkly thread has a polyester core wrapped with a metalized foil. They are available in plenty of colors that correspond with ores, precious metals, and stones (gold, silver, copper, malachite, jade and lapis, for example). They also vary in weight, for ease of embroidery, from 20 to 30, 40 and 50. Metallic threads are available in thicker weights, such as 12 and 15, but these are for decorative seams or cording.

The thickest 20-weight metallic embroidery thread combines rayon with a metalized foil and can appear elegant, edgy, or vintage depending on where you use it. Its rayon content makes it particularly soft and gentle to the skin. Due to its thickness, it lends itself particularly well to outlining and accent stitches. Its heft requires the use of a 100/16 needle for best results. It is particularly appealing when used in home décor or haute couture.

Durable and resistant to commercial laundering, 30-weight metallic thread is an excellent choice for items that will need to hold up to prolonged sunlight and harsh wear and tear. It is a combination of polyester and metalized polyester, so it displays many of the same dependable properties found in polyester embroidery thread. Its thickness requires an 80/12 or 90/14 needle for best results. It’s ideal for uniforms, will put up with abrasion, and adds a unique look to logos and fashion. This metallic works on denim, leather, canvas, and even some sporting goods equipment.

Versatile, all-purpose shiny metallic threads are available in 40 and 50 weights. A high tenacity core of polyester lends strength and durability to the embroidered product. A silver coating gives this thread its classical richness and positively affects pricing when customers see the added value this thread brings to a finished product. The thinnest 50-weight metallic thread can be used for small lettering or the stitches in fine detail, making just about any design possible with metallic threads. Both 40- and 50-weight metallic threads will run well with no needle change, so a standard 65/9 or 75/11 will work well.

Beyond shine, sparkle happens with a metallic thread that features a three-time twist process around a Nylon core. It reflects light, gives designs a textured effect, and adds a new dimension to designs. This twisted 30-weight thread behaves like a thicker thread, requiring a 90/14 needle for best results. It is ideal for decorative applications or to enhance a stock design in stitches that are not short. Slowing the machine down when first starting with this metallic is wise. You’ll still get your sparkle on, but let the thread find and get used to its path more slowly at first.


Alice Wolf

Manager of publications and education for Madeira USA. Alice has marketing expertise developed through accomplishments in publishing, public relations, and sales within art, home decor, film, and television production. Email her at [email protected]

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