I love designing and stitching with metallic floss - it gives a little extra glamour to my projects that just can't be replicated with regular ol' cotton embroidery floss... but I happen to know that there are many designers and stitchers - both beginners and long-time pros - who would rather have a root canal than stitch with metallic floss...
I hear the excuses all the time:
It's a gigantic pain-in-the-butt.
True. True. And definitely true... but it doesn't have to be that way! Trust me - I've got a few tips that will help big time and make you love working with metallic floss as much as it do. Heck, you'll be looking for an excuse to use it!
I prefer using DMC's Light Effects brand of metallic floss - it's easy to come by - usually available right alongside the normal cotton floss - and it's pretty cost effective. At a couple of dollars per generously sized skein, it fits right in with my budget. But the thing I like most of all about Light Effects is that it works just like regular 6-strand embroidery floss. It's divisible in the same way your normal floss is and is roughly the same 'weight', so I can use as many strands as I want/need in a project without having to worry about purchasing different sizes of braid like those offered by many other floss companies. That being said, there a lot of brands out there to choose from and, as always, you should work with the brand you like best. I've tried them all and each has it's pros and cons.
So let's address all the issues we have with metallic floss...
Excuse #1 - metallic floss snags
Yup, it sure does - but there's a reason WHY - if you look carefully at metallic floss you'll see that it's actually composed of a soft inside core around which is wrapped nylon metallic threads. It's the nature of that metallic outside thread that it has some rough edges compared to cotton floss and those edges can snag on fabric. That snaggy metallic nylon is what gives the floss its shimmer and shine, but it's really darn annoying to work with. We can combat a lot of that snaggy-ness (is that a word? well, it is now) by lubricating our floss and choosing the proper size of needle (more on needles later).
Thread Heaven for my lubricator - it really is like magic! If you're a cross-stitcher, hand quilter, or embroiderer and you don't own a little blue box of Thread Heaven I suggest you run out and get yourself some (I found mine at my local quilting shop). It's amazing. I don't use it with my normal cotton floss when I cross-stitch because I don't think it's necessary (although you certainly could and there are plenty of stitchers who do), but I swear by it when using metallic or nylon floss! I don't know what it's made out of... some kind of lovely magic silicon or something, but it works a real treat! It not only helps to keep the metallic floss from snagging so much, but it also keeps it nice and shiny! Best of all it isn't sticky, doesn't smell, and doesn't effect the colour of your floss or fabric. I've had my box of Thread Heaven for 4 years now and there's still lots and lots left to work with so a little does go a long way - and trust me, I stitch a LOT more than the typical crafter.
Excuse #2 - metallic floss unravelsYup, it sure does - for the same reason that is snags - the outside layer of nylon often separates from the softer inside core. It's frustrating and upsetting and makes even the most seasoned stitcher want to pull her hair out and run screaming from the room. So here's where I impart my most secret of stitching tips with you... the true secret to working with metallic floss is all in how you thread the needle...
"But I already know how to thread a needle" you're thinking - you run the floss through the needle, and then leave a little tail hanging down, which you gradually use up as you stitch. That traditional method works just fine for normal thread or floss, but threading your needle that way when working with metallic floss actually contributes to the unraveling problem - the outer layer of sparkly nylon wraps around the core like the stripes on a candy cane and so is actually much longer than the inside core of the metallic thread - When we thread our needle the traditional way (with a long tail) and work the thread through the fabric, the pulling friction makes the floss unravel a little more with every pass, resulting with a frayed and messy length of floss which often makes us want to cry.
Excuse # 3 - it's a gigantic pain-in-the-buttYup, it sure is - but only if you let it be. Let's learn how to tame that metallic thread!
Here we go...
A bigger eye also has another benefit - it widens the hole you're passing the floss through ever so slightly, meaning that the metallic floss has more room to pass through - so it reduces the friction of floss against fabric and therefore reduces the snagging (see, I told you we'd get back to this). I normally use a pretty small needle when I cross-stitch - I like a size 28 - but when I stitch metallic floss I go up to a size 26, or even a size 24 if I'm having a hard time.
Cut yourself a length of metallic floss - I actually like to keep my floss pretty short which helps to reduce the tangling issue. We're going to double up a single strand of floss though, so cut a length which is twice as long as you'd like your working floss to be - for me that's the length of my arm to almost mid-chest - 22 inches (yes I'm short) - giving me 11 inches of working floss, a length I find just perfect.
Okay, this is where things get different than normal - we actually want to knot the loop end of the floss through the needle eye in such a way that it holds the floss completely in place - this is the secret of how we keep it from shifting and unraveling as we work.
I've taken some photos using a larger needle and yarn so you can get a better idea of how this will work - it's a lot easier to see at a larger scale. Click on the photo to make it bigger and walk yourself through the steps...
|the 'knotted' thread and needle eye|
This is actually my preferred method for threading my needle when I stitch - I often thread my normal floss this way too, especially when I'm stitching in a hurry - if you're the sort of stitcher who has a hard time keeping your floss on their needle or keeping your stitches even then you may want to consider always stitching like this. It's also a great method for when you're teaching young kids to stitch as they can't lose their needle.
Then all you need to is trim the live ends of the floss so that they're all even and start your stitching, anchoring those pesky live ends under the first few stitches, just like you do when you're cross stitching with normal cotton floss (remember, we don't knot the end of our thread when we cross-stitch). By doing it this way you have completely eliminated those live ends so nothing can unravel. There's no fraying because there are no live ends!
Here's a little free pattern for you to practice your metallic stitching with. You can stitch it in any colour you please! It's a quick little project you can finish in easily less than half an hour.
I had help with mine. Also, yes I do take all my photos on my livingroom floor!
What you end up with a sweet little project with a pretty sparkle that's completely stress-free!
The great thing about this method is that you can use it for regular embroidery too! Just knot the live ends of the floss together and start stitching.
And the best part? You can win one of two metallic floss gift packs (4 of our favourite colours of metallic floss and your own box of Thread Heaven!!) as a gift from us! Just leave a comment on this blog post and we'll draw two winners on February 7th!
|leave a comment below to enter to win!|