Sunday, 4 November 2012

Gutermann metallic threads

Firstly, apologies for not having posted in ages - I've had a few non-embroidery things to do recently, so poor Lindisfarne Beasts has been rather neglected.  All being well I should be able to get back on with it now.

Following my last post, I had a query about the thread I use - why don't I like it?

The thread in question is this stuff:

It's made by Gutermann, as you can see, and comes in a range of metallic colours, though I almost always use either the gold or silver ones.

It's entirely synthetic, being 70% polyamide and 30% polyester. It consists of a bunch of very fine colourless fibres and two very narrow strips of a metallic tape.

Here it is with the end fluffed out so you can see the fibres:

All this makes a nice sparkly thread, but it has one big problem: the metallic tapes have a tendency to break.

This can often happen where the thread passes through the eye of the needle, but it can - and does - happen anywhere along the length of the thread.

Here's a typical example:

You can see how the metallic section has snapped and bunched up, leaving the other fibres in tact.

Once this has happened there is no point trying to carry on - just finish off the thread as best you can and start again with a fresh length.  This happens a lot, and so leads to a great deal of waste.

So why bother?  Because, despite everything, I like it!  Or rather, I like the effect I get with it, rather than the thread itself.  I use chain stitch in this metallic thread in a great deal of my work as an edging, defining areas of colour, either filled in with stitching or around appliquéd pieces.

To be honest, I have no idea what Gutermann expect a stitcher to do with this stuff - it's a pain for hand stitching, but the thought of allowing it anywhere near a sewing machine is terrifying.  Can you imagine what those broken bits of metallic tape could do to its innards?  I can, and it's not pretty.

I also have a fondness for it for reasons beyond how it looks when used.  I first came across it in the haberdashery section of a department store about 20 years ago, when I was first getting seriously interested in embroidery, but was still very much finding my way.  I was looking at it, trying to decide whether it was what I wanted, when another customer pointed out that there was an offer on: buy any three reels and get a free storage box.  This tipped than balance, and I bought it.  But I also got chatting to the lady who'd spoken to me, and she said she was a member of the Embroiderers' Guild.  There was a meeting that Saturday - why not come along?  So I did.  I've been a member ever since, I became Chair of the branch, I have learned so much from the speakers at meetings and from the always enthusiastic and ever-helpful members of both the branches I've been in.  Without the Guild, and that chance meeting (hello Roz, if you're reading!), I doubt very much if I'd still be sewing, let alone having developed my work in the way I have.

And I still have the storage box.


  1. There may be a problem with the comment facility - can anyone unable to add a comment email me, please? The address ir towards the top of the page.

  2. Added on behalf of Shirley Anne Sherris:

    I use a lot of 'unfriendly' metallic threads in my machine and have found that the elongated eye - N top stitch needles work well and give few breakages. Needles for metallic thread don't work with this kind of thread but the N top stitch ones with the elongated eye do.

  3. I really like the metallic threads, too, as they give a lovely effect to stitching. But they are a pain to stitch with. Have you tried Japanese embroidery needles? I have two, but have yet to try them. The eye is fairly round and is supposed to keep the threads from breaking.

  4. I agree with you about the difficulty of these threads. I use very short lengths.

  5. In other words, you just *like* it, with it's pro's and con's, don't you :-).