Tips and Tricks for Metallic Thread
In an ideal world, Wilcom would produce a list of tips to create perfect metallic thread embroidery. The reality is that it’s not that straightforward. There are many variables to consider.
Let’s go through each and provide an understanding so you can make informed decisions regarding metallic thread embroidery.
Wilcom suggests using the needle size recommended by the thread manufacturer. This is always the best instruction to follow.
Remember to ensure the correct fabric needles are being used, preferably new needles right from the packet, as this helps avoid thread frays and breakages.
Often embroiders tend to loosen the tension because they believe that metallic thread breaks when the tension is high, however, I have found the opposite to be true!! Now, this could be because I have experience in digitizing designs specifically for metallic thread. I’ve found that metallic embroidery thread generally needs a slightly higher tension than Rayon and Polyester threads.
It’s important to understand that no one recommendation is a stand-alone tip, they all work together. In this case, the top tension works in conjunction with the bobbin tension used on my Barudan embroidery machine. Barbara Stuemer
I suggest leaving the bobbin tension unchanged, unlike many thread companies’ recommendations. However, I run the bobbin tension as low as possible. If the tension is too low, the thread pulls out of the needle, and the machine stops right after starting. When the thread pulls off the needle, it’s assumed that the top tension is too tight, but this is not the case. Barbara Stuemer
There are many different metallic threads on the market today: core-wrapped, where the core is wrapped with metallic foil, and twisted threads, where fibers and foils are twisted together, such as Supertwist from Madeira. Wilcom’s in-house digitizer Mai Hyunh has found that the smoother the thread is to touch the better it will perform.
The different metallic threads also have different thread thicknesses. The 30-weight embroidery threads need less tension, while the 12-weight needs tighter tension. Barbara Stuemer
Use reputable brands when selecting metallic threads, as they tend to run better than budget-friendly options. It’s best to purchase as required, as older metallic threads can cause more breakages due to environmental factors. Kerry Meyers
The stitch density in the digitized design needs to be adjusted according to the thread thickness as is the case with all embroidery threads. I recommend avoiding very small stitches. A rule of thumb for standard embroidery thread is no less than 1 mm stitch length. Twisted metallic thread designs should have a minimum of 3mm stitch length, while smoother metallics could handle a minimum of 2mm lengths, but again it all depends on other factors too.
If possible, digitize a new metallic thread design. Avoid very small stitches as recommended previously, and no less than 3mm stitch length if embroidered with twisted metallic threads. Generally, keep the stitch density of the design lower, and where possible try to avoid very sharp corners in the design.
In summary, digitize using larger stitch lengths, lower density, and rounded shapes for metallic thread designs. Barbara Stuemer
Many would recommend slowing the embroidery machine down to 600-700 rpm. If you have correctly adjusted the tension and the design, you will not need to reduce the speed. However, the type and weight of the metallic thread will also dictate if you should slow the machine down. Barbara Stuemer
Another tip worth trying is to use a mesh net sleeve over the metallic thread cone. This means the thread unwinds evenly, avoiding tangles and kinks. Cones are also said to be better than spools, as the thread is less likely to kink. Mai Hyunh
The aim of all these suggestions is to reduce friction everywhere possible, from design to production.
Keep Metallic threads away from extreme heat, light, and cold. This is true for all threads but especially metallics. Kerry Meyers
The best tip is always to test your designs, as all recommendations depend on many factors and their relationship to each other.
Recommendations by Wilcom’s embroidery experts
Barbara Stuemer, Mai Hyunh, Kerry Meyers