Hi everyone! Sew I saw it again this week. Someone who is so frustrated with the behavior of their metallic thread in their machine they vowed never to use it again. But I think it should not have to be like that and I have some suggestions that have been successful for me with my machines. Admittedly the machine you have may have a different outcome, and I even have some minor frustrations with metallics from time to time, but these are some things to know and try before giving up on metallics. Afterall, they are sooo pretty when they come out right.
- Make sure your machine’s thread paths, both top and bobbin, are fully cleaned and oil the machine.
- The needle can make a big difference. Since metallics are usually 40 weight threads, but are flat metal strips wrapped around a core of either polyester, rayon, or nylon, they need a needle with a larger eye than regular 40 weight thread. I use either Superior 90/14 top stitch titanium needles or Schmetz 90/14 metallic or topstitch needles, which all have a larger eye.
- Feel around the machine foot you are using just to make sure there is not burr or other rough place.
- I prefer either Superior Metallic Thread, which has a polyester core that doesn’t break as often, but sometimes shreds, or Wonderfil Metallic thread, which has a rayon core that sometimes breaks but doesn’t shred as much. I have found they both work pretty well, and much better than any of the others I have tried, including YLI, which has a strong reputation but all my machines, especially my 880 plus, tend to reject it. Nevertheless, with care, I have successfully gotten through many embroidery designs with metallic threads and no breakage or shredding.
- Lower the top tension. Do some testing to see if it is right.
- Use a lightweight polyester thread in the bobbin that is close in color to the metallic you are using in the top. This reduces thread buildup and will help clear up a lot of headaches for you. I even heard of someone having their plastic bobbin break when filling it with metallic thread (which actually is what prompted me to write this blog). That is probably because it was filling at too rapid a speed, or it was overfilled, or it was a poor quality metallic, but it works better to use a 60 weight Superior Bottom Line or 80 weight Wonderfil DecoBob threads. Both are excellent for most of your embroidery and even regular sewing for all types of thread in the top. You’ll be glad you got this if you do. I like prefilled bobbins because they are so evenly wound and that is particularly helpful when sewing with a difficult thread. Most machines will take a prewound of the right size…look in your manual. But alas, my Bernina 880 plus is such a diva that she requires her own fancy bobbin with silver stripes that has no prewounds available. I love her anyway. Her name is Odette (after the daughter of the founder of Bernina. She ran Bernina for many years and added many wonderful advances to the machines).
- Sew slowly! If your machine has a speed control, slow it way down for stitching and in-the-hoop embroidering with metallic threads. It takes longer, but is so rewarding.
- Lubricate the threads. My Bernina 880 plus and Q20 longarm both have a thread lubricant path and a pink liquid that came with them specifically for this reason, but my little Bernina 350 does not.
So I will use the lubricant path and pink liquid as described in my manuals for the two larger machines and use something like Dritz Sewers Aid for the smaller one.
- When using the thread lubricant path, loosen the tension slightly, because I have found it adds a little tension on its own.
- When using the lubricant for a machine that doesn’t have a prescribed path, run a line of the lubricant down the side of the thread spool on three or four sides and hand rub the spool until it is fairly well distributed. Then thread the machine.
- Metallic thread is very “lively” and has a strong “memory” that makes it keep a curl when it comes off the spool. So if you use a thread stand with a tall thread guide you can set it behind your machine and bring the thread up and over into your thread path. This allows the thread to relax a little before it enters the thread path. You can also take advantage of cones of thread using these too. I do this when using it with my little B350 that I take with me to places like a class at a quilt show, but my two big machines both have tall thread guides built in. So consider what your machine does and adjust accordingly. Wonderfil has a gadget called a “Thread Tamer” that will do a lot of this for you. I haven’t got that yet, though I think I probably will. It looks very helpful and interesting.
- Lengthen the stitch length a little. If you are using an in-the-hoop design, your machine may have an adjustment you can make to do this for such designs or lower the density. It not only will make the thread behave better, but will show up more metallic as it stretches further between stitches. A lower density is very helpful in dealing with metallic threads too and, if carefully set, can look better than full density. But not all machines will do this. Make some simple in-the-hoop test and see what it looks like.
- OK, this last idea is something I haven’t tried yet but intend to. Wonderfil just came out with a thread managing invention called The Ultimate Thread Dispenser that fits on most machines. I think it looks very much like it will make a difference for metallics and the other painful, but totally beautiful thread worth the struggle, and that’s rayon embroidery threads. It’s not very expensive, so you may want to order one. Here’s a link to their video talking about it, if you are interested.
Sew most of us love the look of beautiful metallic embroidery, but many of us have been totally frustrated with thread breaks, thread tangles, and so forth. It’s worth trying things to see if you can make your machine decide to cooperate with you and use the metallic. Perhaps if you talk to your machine nicely it will also help. LOL
Sew happy everyone! Keep trying new or even difficult things and have fun in your studio.