Monday, January 27, 2014

Working with Metallic Floss & a Fab Giveaway!


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 snags.

It unravels.

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).


I like 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 unravels

Yup, 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-butt

 Yup, it sure is - but only if you let it be.  Let's learn how to tame that metallic thread!


Here we go...


Collect together all the things you'll need to complete your stitching - your pattern, hoop, fabric, thread conditioner, metallic floss, and needle.  You may want to use a slightly larger needle than you normally do when you stitch - or at least one with a larger eye - even if you have to break in to your stash of sewing needles with pointed ends, rather than cross-stitch/tapestry needle with the blunt end that we usually use.  Because metallic floss is a wee bit thicker and not as pliable as cotton floss, it can often be tricky to thread it in your needle - especially when you use the trick I'm about to show you.  If you're having a hard time threading your needle, change it up to one with a slightly bigger eye.

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.

Separate a single strand of floss and run it across your Thread Heaven - I pass it over twice, once in each direction, sandwiching the floss between my finger and the Thread Heaven - and then run the strand through my fingers a few times just to work the Thread Heaven in.  You may find that the floss is already starting to unravel a little at the ends - don't worry, we're going to take care of that.

Fold your floss in half - lining up the two live edges.  When I thread my needle I like to work not from the end with the live edges, but from the loop end - it's a lot easier and you don't have to worry about trying to get all the fraying live edges through your needle eye at the same time - what a headache that would be.  By using the loop end to thread our needle we can stay away from the fray... plus, we want the needle to be at this end of the floss.





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
See where I'm going with this?  With your metallic floss basically knotted on to the eye of your needle it can't go anywhere - that means that you've just cut out the shifting/unraveling problem.  By threading your needle this way everything will stay perfectly in place you start to stitch because it has no where else to go! 

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!

 Happy Stitching!!
<3 J.

105 comments:

  1. I would love to try out the metallic thread - I'm like a magpie, I go bonkers about anything shiny lol

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  2. This is so brilliant. I hate working with metallic thread, so I will definitely be giving it all a try! And your knotted threat might just solve my problem with constantly loosing needles. Thanks for the tutorial!

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  3. I can't wait to try the key out, it's adorable!

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  4. I had a spool of gold thread in my great-aunt's embroidery supplies that worked wonderfully, but it had no brand name on it.

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  5. Thank you so much! I love the key pattern and I can't wait to try out the metallic floss!

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  6. I also hate metallic thread. I'm looking forward to giving these tips a try

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  7. Fab tips for metallic stitching :) I'd love to enter the giveaway please :)

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  8. I love metallic floss! Thanks for the tips and tricks

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  9. Thanks for the GREAT information! I'd never heard of thread heaven.

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  10. Fantastic tips! I always just struggled through it, glad to know I don't have to anymore :)

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  11. Great tips! I had sort of given up on metallic threads but now I can do it!

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  13. So glad I found Wee Little Stiches three years ago!

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  14. This fabulous! I love the look of metallic threads, but HATE using them. I'm definitely trying your suggestions as soon as possible. Brilliant! :)

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  15. I've been frustrated by metallic floss forever!! I've never tried Thread Heaven though and it looks like magic!

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  17. Great tips! I really like the DMC Light Effects metallics, especially compared to the project I'm working on that uses separate strands of filament that you add to the regular floss. Now that is a pain to deal with, but I'm thinking your loop trick might make it easier as well!

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  18. AMAZING, I had so much trouble when i was doing your X-men pattern, but now my problems are gone!! Thank you so much and I love your patterns, keep up the great work

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  19. I love the look of metallic floss, but when I tried it in the past I had all those problems. I can't wait to use your techniques. I think I will use the key pattern to give my sweetie a "key" to my heart for Valentine's day! Thanks for the tips!

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  20. Genius! I've avoided metallic thread forever because of how difficult it is to work with. Now I'll give it another go.

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  21. Is this giveaway open internationally, by chance?

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    1. Yes it is! We're Canadian and hate being left out of other giveaways so please enter ours no matter where in the world you are :)

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    2. Awesomesauce, you just made my day. After spending the morning in the ER with a klutzy 8 year old who had to get stitches, a little good news is awesome.

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  22. I have had a WIP with metallic thread sitting in my embroidery box for almost a full year now because I could not STAND working with the thread (I was using nylon and metallic...WHAT a headache). I can't wait to try out Thread Heaven and your awesome threading technique!!!

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  23. I found metallic thread that I fell in love with and used for a project once, but from that point on vowed to never use it because of the trouble I went through! This post is just what I needed.

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  24. oh thank you so much. again with your brilliance! I needed this when I was working on dumbledore. The threading is a perfect trick for teaching my son - so he doesn't loose his thread. thank you!!

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  25. Thanks for the tips! I use Thread Heaven even for regular thread because it says it prevents fading from UV damage. I find it easier to thread the needle through the block of conditioner rather than pressing it into the top. I called a few places and couldn't find it, so I ended up having to pay a little more for shipping and get it from Amazon.

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  26. Ooh, I'd love to try this out! Thread conditioner seems like such a good idea generally - and there's nothing like a bit of sparkle, is there? :)

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  27. Thank you for the tips, may brave using metalic floss again as I have been avoiding it.

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  28. I HATE metallic thread so this is awesome. I need to get out my dropped projects (dropped due to metallic thread) and try this out.

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  29. I've never used metallic thread, and the comments from other stitchers weren't helping. I'll have to try it out.

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  30. Thanks for posting this. I've always found metallic floss to be such a pain. I'll have to try your tips!

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  31. This post is so timely for me because I am stitching up a kit that has some terrible metallic floss in it, and I needed some help :)

    --shaunterria--ca11ipe.blogspot.com

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  32. I've never ever tried using metallic floss, and this thread heaven stuff sounds like something I need! Stitching 4 life!

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  33. Thanks for the tutorial and awesome giveaway! Metallic floss has always drove me batty but Ive used that threading method and it really helps, and Ive been meaning to pick up some thread heaven and definitely need to! ~nicole

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  34. This is great! I'm working on a sampler where I'm adding in some metallic thread for some subtle sparkle...the fraying drives me batty!

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  35. Love this! I just finished a project with metallic floss and about lost my mind! :)

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  36. Thanks for the tutorial. I was threading it wrong! I usually do a single strand and do the entire area twice. This should help save some time!

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  37. Love, love, love Thread Heaven! I also love the sparkle that metallic thread gives.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  38. Thank you for these tips! I've never used Thread Heaven, but I'm definitely going to give it a try!

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  39. I need to adopt all of your tips as I do find metallic a pain in the butt.

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  40. Thank you for the tips! I've never had much luck working with metallic floss, but I'm really excited to try this out!

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  41. Thanks for the tips! I've been wanting to try out metallic floss, and this doesn't make it so scary :)

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  42. Thank you for posting these tips! I just bought some metallic thread and I think you just saved me some headache :)

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  43. Great tutorial! I've been cross stitching for over 30 years & still, there are new things to learn :)

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  44. That needle threading tip is GENIUS. Wish I'd known about it before. :)

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  45. This is great! I've always avoided stitching with metallics but I really do love the look of it so thanks for this!

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  46. ::Mind Blown:: m going to love trying this because I always *struggle* with metallic thread.

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  47. I love using metallics. I also pull my hair out regularly over them. I think these tips will certainly help a lot.

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  48. Revolutionary! Thank you for all of these great points! I have been stitching for a long time and metallics, though necessary, has been the bane of my stitching existence! I am so excited to use these tips and tricks! Happy Stitching!

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  49. My mom always uses thread heaven, but I'd totally forgotten it existed until reading this post!

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  50. I'll definitely have to try this, thanks for the tutorial and the pattern.
    Melissa

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  51. It seems simple enough now, thanks! I've never used metallics yet but I am eager to start!

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  52. I've heard of starting your thread that way but I've never tried! I think I'll give it a go next time I'm using matellics.

    -Brenda @xstitchhaven.com

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  53. Going to have to try out that looping trick!

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  54. this is awesome. I'm going to have to try out all the tips!

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  55. Thanks for the tip! I have had lots of trouble with metallics too so I will be trying this out the next time I use some.

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  56. Great tips!!!! THANKYOU!!!!! :)

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  57. Amazing! I will have to try this. Thank you so much!

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  58. thank goodness for this tutorial! i was ready to give up on metallic thread forever.

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  59. Hooray! Can't wait to make this!!! :D

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  60. Awesome, I have a couple projects that use this kind of thread and this will help tons!

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  61. I've only ever used metallic thread once for some embellishment and it was a total disaster... I wish I'd known all of this then, now I just want to go off and stitch something entirely in metallic thread! If only I hadn't broken my thumb last week lol

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  62. Thank you for the tips! My first attempt with metallic floss is coming up, and now I feel much more prepared.

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  63. That is one clever post - thank you so much for the metallic thread tips, never again will I suffer and curse at tangles of silver and gold at the back of my work! :-) Chrissie x

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  64. Thanks so much for the advice on using metallic thread. I know it will be a big help in a couple of projects I have coming up. Even if I don't win the Thread Heaven, I'm going to give it a try!

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  65. Great information! Now I won't be scared to try metallic if a pattern calls for it!

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  66. This is one of the best stitching posts ever! thank you for taking the time to share all the tips!

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  67. Wow, some really great tips here! Thanks SO much!

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  68. I've used thread heaven before but never the metallic thread, so nice of you to let us in on the tricks.

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  69. I use Thread Heaven for the rayon threads, but have never tried it with metallics. Thanks for the tips - will try them soon.

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  70. DMC has been my least favorite metallic floss, but with all your tips, I'll have to try it again. Thanks!

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  71. I just recently used metallic floss for the first time, and I strongly disliked it. I will have to try some of these tricks and see if they make a difference.

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  72. I hate metallics and go out of my way to avoid them. Now changed. I am going to give a project with it a go now that I know to use a bigger-eyed needle and to knot. Those solutions seem *so* obvious!
    Thank you!

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  73. May have to revisit my metallic thread stash now I've seen this post!

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  74. Wonderful tutorial on stitching with metallic threads! Thank you!

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  75. Yay awesome tutorial!! I am now looking forward to my next project with metallic thread!! Thank you so much!

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  76. Thank you for posting these tips. I started a project in December that used a metallic and it was making me crazy. I'm excited to try this when I get back to it.

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  77. I've never worked with metallic thread but would love to give it a try. I've also never heard or seen that way of knotting and threading your floss; I'm definitely going to give it a try.

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  78. I'm just getting back in to cross stitch. Thanks for all the info!

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  79. Great post! I'm going to give this a try - I have a project sitting unfinished (for years) because of the metallic floss!

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  80. Excellent tutorial on the use of Metalic Floss -- I would LOVE to enter your give-away.
    Thanks for all the useful hints & tricks, .../p

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  81. I wish I had seen this tutorial before I did the Firefly pattern. I used metallic floss for the trim on Inara's dress and found the fraying quite frustrating.

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  82. Oh I am just reeling with ideas for this! I would LOVE to get my hands on some!

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  83. Thanks for the great tips! i have been avoiding using this kind of tread like the plague ;-) i will definitely try out your techniques, thanks for the giveaway!

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  84. This is quite timely for me since I was just about to start my first attempt at using some metallic thread. Thanks for the tips!

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  85. Thanks so much for the great tips! I love the effect that metallic floss gives, although working with it in the past has been less than fun! Can't wait to work on another project using metallic floss so I can try out all your great ideas!!!

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  86. Thanks forr the great tips. Thread Heaven is a life saver sometimes!

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  87. I just started working with metallic thread and am so glad to find your tips in this post - it will make things so much easier!

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  88. Thank you so much for this great tutorial! I recently stitched with metallic floss, and it was not pretty!

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  89. I've been nervous about starting my Wee Little Stitches patterns with metallic colors, but now I'm excited to dive in!

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  90. im a new cross-stitcher. so far, ive done the ninth, tenth, and eleventh doctors, scooby doo, and the breakfast club. i just used metallic for the first time last night doing earrings and a zipper on the bfast club pattern. glad to find out im not alone in thinking it was challenging! will definitely try this method next time. thanks for spurring on a new hobby! i love it!!

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  91. This threading method sounds great. But what do I do if I don't want to use an even number of threads? For instance, the pattern I'm working with calls for 2 cotton threads and one metallic. I guess I could always increase the bling???

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    1. If it were me I'd round down to an even number of strands (ie 2 strands when the pattern calls for 3) - metallic floss like Light Effects tends to be a wee bit heavier than normal floss. Alternately, if you wanted extra sparkle could you certainly round up too!! It's worth a test-stitch to see which method you preferred.

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  92. This is a great post full of awesome tips! I love working with metallic thread and just suffer through it because it makes most patterns just that much better, but now I think I'll enjoy it more. The only problem with this method is if I only need 1 strand of metallic floss - then I'll still have to suffer through because there are no good tricks that don't involve doubling it over! Oh well.
    Also, I have an unrelated question - what do you do with little patterns like this once done? I love doing little stitches like this, but then becuase they are so little I don't know what to do with them - they are too small to frame or hang or make into ornaments, but I still want to show them off somehow. Any uses you can suggest would be great to hear. :)

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    1. Sarah,

      When using one strand of metallic floss you could still knot it to your needle eye using an overhand knot - it won't stop the live end of the floss from unraveling, but it would stop the outer core from shifting :)

      I like using little projects like this to embellish cards. You could also make a little brooch, or add a sweet little touch to a t-shirt or baby onesie. A few done up as ornaments for your Christmas tree would be cute too!

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  93. I assume the giveaway is over : ) but thought I'd still comment to say I've never seen this method of threading a needle and am eager to try it, especially considering we'll be teaching 3 dozen 9- to 17-year-olds how to cross-stitch in August...

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