How To Stitch With Metallic Threads


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I just returned from the Nashville Needlework Market, which is a trade show for needlework businesses. It was primarily a cross stitch event, with many independent cross stitch shops and cross stitch designers attending the show. This year I was delighted to find several new shops opening soon, and meet many new designers. One of the most frequently asked questions from this Next Generation was, “How do I use metallic threads?”

Metallic threads add light and color to needlework designs. Use them like a spice in cooking—to add interest, a little zip, to keep your design from being bland.
Metallic threads add light and color to needlework designs. Use them like a spice in cooking—to add interest, a little zip, to keep your design from being bland. Spools shown are Kreinik Blending Filament and Very Fine #4 Braid, which come in all kinds of colors, from bright to pastel, jewels, earth tones, and “quiet” colors.

Many have heard good things about Kreinik metallic threads so they came to us for advice. It’s exciting to see stitchers expanding their horizons and experimenting with different threads, different fabrics, and such. Life itself is mixed media, in all its glory. The world around us isn’t flat, boring or plain, so why should our stitchy means of self-expression be one-dimensional? Even printers are going 3D. Any time you add a French Knot to your cross stitch, work in a glow-in-the-dark thread, or stitch on wood, you are standing out, in all of your stitchy glory.

Walk toward the light (metallic pun intended). Metallic threads add color, texture, and light reflection when used next to cotton, silk or wool floss. They can emphasize a certain area of your design, like using a bold font next to a plain one.

Stitch the light fantastic. How? By using metallic threads. They catch the light and make designs "dance."
Stitch the light fantastic. How? By using metallic threads. They catch the light and make designs “dance.” Shown here: Kreinik Blending Filament and Braid in a Kooler Design Studio project.

I want to share my top three suggestions for using these beautiful threads. We must start with this mantra, however: Metallic threads aren’t difficult, they are just different. Say that out loud, then try this:

1. Pick the right thread.

As a Kreinik thread ambassador, my mouth should be washed with soap for saying this, but: Don’t start with the most common metallic thread, Blending Filament. Akin to Christmas tree tinsel, Blending Filament was created by the Kreinik family for a wonderful purpose (add subtle metallic shimmer) to be used via a short-cut (combine it with the cotton floss you’re already using). For beginners though, it can be tricky to combine two different kinds of fibers in one needle. Save Blending Filament for your future projects, when you are more comfortable. You can find all kinds of tips for using this thread here.

Instead, start with a metallic Braid, which is just a fancy word for, basically, a metallic string. Kreinik Fine #8 Braid is the equivalent size of two strands of cotton floss, so it’s perfect for stitching on 14-count Aida (or over two threads on 28-count fabrics). Kreinik also makes Very Fine #4 Braid, which is half the size of #8 Braid, and thus good for stitching on 16-count Aida (or over two threads on 32-count fabrics). Other sizes of Braids are available (see here). With Braids, you just cut about a 15- to 18-inch length, put it in your needle, and go. Don’t use more than one strand in your needle; if you want thicker or thinner coverage, just go to a different sized Braid. These threads are meant to be simple.

Cross stitches of Kreinik Braids and Blending Filament to show the various degrees of metallic effects you can create.
Here you can see the degrees of metallic, based on the different thread weights. From left to right: Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid, Fine #8 Braid (which is thicker), Blending Filament combined with floss, just floss.

2. Feel the thread.

As Meghan Trainor might say if she stitched, it’s all about that base. Metallics are man-made fibers, which means they can be made of all kinds of things. Some metallics have polyester in them, some nylon, some even have real metal. Reflective threads are usually made of tiny glass beads. Some metallics can be wiry, some stiff, some soft, some fuzzy, some smooth, all depending on what they are made of and what effect they create. Some threads are cheap, and they will feel and act that way. So feel the thread first—staying away from stiffer or cheaper fibers if you are a beginner—just to get a sense of how the thread will behave. You will know to stitch more slowly with a wiry thread, for instance. In the Kreinik metallic thread line, the softest are the basic colors (ie, ones that don’t have HL, V, L, or C after the color number). Side note: if you’d like color recommendations from the Kreinik line, feel free to contact me. Side note #2, Worth Noting: I haven’t used this product, but many stitchers recommend a conditioning product called Thread Heaven on metallic threads.

Metallic Braids add light and color to designs, and are meant to be used next to, or in place of, embroidery floss.
Metallic Braids add light and color to designs, and are meant to be used next to, or in place of, embroidery floss. Here I am stitching on 18-count perforated paper, so I am using Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid, which provides perfect stitch coverage.

3. Calm down.

Let it go, let it be, shake it off, be happy, take your time, do it right. I can’t sing it any more clearly: Realize a metallic is going to be different from cotton floss, and you may need to stitch more deliberately. Don’t try to use a meter of thread (stick with 15 to 18-inch lengths), and don’t try to speed stitch. Meditate, stay in the moment of the thread, watching the color and effect brighten your project and make the final result visually stunning. That’s what it’s all about.

Metallic Braids give bolder coverage than metallic filament, which is a thinner and more subtle shimmer.
Metallic Braids give bolder coverage than metallic filament, which is a thinner and more subtle shimmer. This sample shows Kreinik Fine #8 Braid in cross stitch on 14-count Aida.

The bonus tip today is to “Pick the right needle.” You would be amazed at how many thread problems are caused by the needle. A too-small needle will cause a thread to fray and shred, for instance. A too-small eye will cause you to curse when you are trying to thread it, and a rusty needle is just bad. Some people find coated needles work well with metallic thread, and many swear by the Kreinik Needle which was developed for better stitching with metallic threads. I find many problems resolve if you use a good, clean needle.

Hopefully these simple tips help you in your wonderful, colorful thread journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, tips, or tricks, too. Leave a comment or reach me via Twitter, the Kreinik Facebook page, or Flickr. Happy—or happier—stitching!


KreinikGirl
Dena Lenham, aka KreinikGirl, is Creative Director at Kreinik Manufacturing Company, a family-owned, USA-based business that manufactures high-quality yarns and threads made of metallics, silks and real metals from their West Virginia factory. Dena’s monthly column, Kreinik Calling, sheds light on the fascinating fibres that we all use and love.
KreinikGirl

@kreinikgirl

Official thread news, tips, ideas and answers from Dena Lenham, Creative Director at thread company Kreinik Mfg. Co., Inc.
Sweet idea: recycle past Christmas cards or postcards to make ornaments. Use Kreinik Tapestry #12 braid to crochet… https://t.co/2dMGjoqqUv - 2 days ago
KreinikGirl
KreinikGirl

3 thoughts on “How To Stitch With Metallic Threads

  • Darlene Krystal

    9 March 2015 at 4:29 pm

    That was a great tip helper on the metallic…….the comment on speed stitching caused a great conversation…..My husband has just mentioned that even in the guitar world people try to speed play….I’ve noticed this with knitters and quilters as well…..When it comes to “enjoying what you do” speed doesn’t play any part in it….It is a lot of fun to guide a stitch, to feel the pull of the thread, to hear the whistle of the fabric and thread meeting…….and to see the silver glint of the needle….so many things are missed when one tries to hurry to get a project done……thank you for the great write up…….

  • “As Meghan Trainor might say if she stitched, it’s all about that base.” Love it! 😀

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