How To Use Metallic Thread For Cross Stitch

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At least once a week a stitcher asks me how to use metallic thread for cross stitching. You can find cheap metallics in craft chain stores and better quality metallics in indie needlework shops and online sources, however I am going to tell you right now to avoid the cheap stuff; you will hate it. Keep your hobby of stitching relaxing and fun by using better quality materials.

Caveat: I am going to write about Kreinik Threads here, because I’ve used them for 17 years in all kinds of techniques, seen them made, met the family behind them, and talked to thousands of designers and stitchers who have created with them. As a stitcher for many years, I have also used other brands. My experience is that Kreinik metallics are the best; the quality is good and the color selection is outstanding.

Sample of Kreinik metallic Braid in cross stitch
A metallic Braid offers more shimmer than cotton floss or even a metallic Blending Filament. This produces a design with varied textures, areas of light reflection, and bolder colors, which makes a project more visually exciting.

So, back to the most frequently asked questions, which you may be seeking answers to as well:

Which metallic thread can you use for cross stitching? 

There are two main metallic threads that are great for cross stitching – blended filament and Braid.

When Kreinik started 40 or so years ago, real metal threads that add visual interest and sparkle to needlework — long used in embroidery; we’re talking centuries — were hard to find and expensive to make. Jerry and Estelle Kreinik began manufacturing synthetic metallic threads to fill the need for inexpensive and easy-to-use alternatives. Stitchers could use these soft polyester or nylon threads easily and affordably. They brought shine, interest, realistic shimmer, washability, and a unique texture to projects. It was as if cross stitch and needlepoint woke up and advanced technologically, plus these threads were now available to everyone everywhere.

Cross stitchers loved these metallic threads. They elevated otherwise boring, all-cotton designs to something more visually interesting. By using different threads, projects could be more eye-catching. Blending Filament was the go-to thread for adding a subtle metallic effect to designs. However, this thin-as-tinsel thread that you combined with floss in the same needle was kind of tricky. You had to be patient to use it (still do), and debate whether or not to remove that core fiber (for the record, it adds stability and reduces static). So while it gives unique, beautiful effects, the Kreinik family knew you needed something else.

Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid is the most popular metallic for cross stitch
Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid has eclipsed Blending Filament as the most popular metallic thread for cross stitching. It is soft, easy to use, and comes in about 200 colors from solid to variegated plus jewel-tone, earthy, glow-in-the-dark, and holographic shades.

Kreinik Braid was born. This is a strongly woven (well, braided) thread created by high-speed machinery.  What’s the difference in Braid size? Long story short, the first was Fine #8 Braid, designed to give perfect coverage on 14-count Aida, which was the most popular cross-stitch fabric back then. As fabric counts changed in popularity, Kreinik developed Very Fine #4 Braid, which is exactly half the size of #8 Braid. This very fine thread is so soft, easy to use, versatile, and comes in so many gorgeous colors, it is now the most popular metallic for cross stitch. (It’s getting pretty popular for shading and blending in needlepoint, too, but that’s another blog…)

How do you use metallic thread in cross stitch?

To make your cross stitching more enjoyable, here are four things I want you to know about metallic Braid thread:

Do not separate it.

Unlike embroidery floss where you separate the strands, Very Fine Braid is meant to be used as it comes, straight off the reel. No effort needed. Just start stitching. Isn’t that easy?

Use it on 16-count, 18-count, or over two on 32-count or 36-count fabrics.

If you are stitching on a different count of fabric, you will need a different Braid size. Fortunately, the same colors come in the various Kreinik Braid sizes. Visit this page for specifics on which Braid to use where. Side note: Very Fine #4 Braid’s coverage on 14-count is kind of thin, but some people like that, so feel free to experiment.

Use a single strand.

No need to stitch with two strands of Braid (like you stitch with two strands of floss). If you need more coverage, just go up a Braid size (Fine #8 Braid is next in weight). It seems like a lot of trouble to lay two strands neatly as you stitch, so just use one strand of Braid and make it easy on yourself.

How to open a Kreinik spool
The endcap of a Kreinik spool lifts ever-so-slightly to allow a thread end to be released or secured.

Don’t get in a tangle!

Since the Braid is wound on a spool, it may come off a bit…curly. Combine this with a natural inclination to twist our needle as we stitch, and things can get knotty. If it bothers you or twists too much as you stitch, simply use a slightly damp cosmetic sponge to straighten out your length. You can also just let your needle dangle every few stitches to let the Braid relax, and that will cut down on knots and tangles. (And slow down, why are you stitching so quickly? Relax…)

Excessive curling can be avoided.
Braid is wound around a spool, which can lead to curling. When you add in the natural twist of our needle as we stitch, knots can result. Simply let your needle hang every few stitches to allow the thread to relax, or use a slightly damp cosmetic sponge to straighten the thread.

I hope this tells you a little more about one of the most popular threads for cross stitching. Have no fear if you’ve never used metallics before; this thread is truly easy to use. Don’t start with Blending Filament if you are just beginning to stitch with other-than-cotton floss because it is like stitching with Christmas tinsel. It’s lovely, and produces the most beautiful airy, subtle shimmer, but it takes some practice to use it effortlessly. Start with the Very Fine #4 Braid, and contact me if you have any questions or problems, I answer questions on Kreinik’s Facebook page, or you can find me on Instagram.

Recycle your Kreinik spools by using them to store ribbons, rick-rack, and more
When you’ve used up all your thread, recycle the spools by using them to organize your stash. They can be used to store silk ribbons, Christmas ribbons, rick-rack or small amounts of yarn.

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