Thursday, October 31, 2013

Real Embroiderers Use Metallics

Through the ages, embroiderers have always been known for their high intelligence, enthusiasm, resourcefulness, great courage and good looks. It puzzles me, then, why so many current artisans of the embroidery craft exclude metallics from their repertoire and, in fact, avoid using metallic thread to the extent of not even mentioning it to customers. BABIES! CHICKENS! Cluck, cluck!

There are no GOOD reasons not to use metallics, which can breathe life into otherwise ordinary or boring embroideries. I strongly recommend you try 50 weight metallic. This size metallic thread doesn’t require any special digitizing, can be run with your regular 75/11 needle and can be used in practically any stock design, replacing a standard 40 weight thread. Its thin construction enables you to do small lettering.

So, let’s deal with some of the reasons (and myths) embroiderers have used to avoid metallics.

1. It’s expensive. Ok, I’ll give you that; it is more expensive than the top rayon or polyester thread you normally use. On the other hand, you should use it frugally, saving it for highlights, for emphasizing parts of the design and not for large fill areas. And you can charge more for it.

2. It requires special digitizing. No, not “special digitizing,” but the design must be programmed for metallic thread so that the density is lowered, allowing for the metallic threads to lay into the garment properly, without looking uncomfortably cramped into a small space. If the design isn’t digitized with metallic thread in mind, you can experience thread breaks as the stitches are “forced” into the too-small space.

3. You have to change needles. Not necessarily; though for the heavier sizes, such as 20, 30 and 35 weight, you should switch to 100/16 or 90/14. For the lighter 40 weight metallic, you can use an 80/12 or in some cases, don’t even have to change your 75/11. And remember that with the thinnest size metallic, the 50 weight, you change nothing! Except for the brilliant shine reflecting off your embroidery that may require the use of sun glasses, you need to change nothing.  But okay, technically, for the heavier weights and twisted foil metallics, you may be changing needles.

4. You will have to reduce your machine speed. Yeah, you should slow it down somewhat. Metallic threads are not as “supple” as rayon and polyester and at high speeds, changing directions might result in a thread break. Speeds between 600 and 700 stitches per minute should work ok.

5. Tensions have to be readjusted. So, metallic thread, being less supple than other top threads, tensions generally needs to be relaxed, looser than normal. You should try a sample run before starting production and, after getting the tensions properly adjusted, the metallic will run as well as rayon and polyester.

6. Special backings? No, not really, but you should avoid very stiff backing and material as they may be too abrasive and shred the thread.

7. Misdirections:
a. Don’t spray the thread with silicon or anything else.
b. Don’t put it on a stand across the room or in a different room.
c. Don’t heat it or freeze it.
d. Don’t lay the thread sideways or upside down.
These methodologies are used as a substitute for using good quality thread.

8. Directions:
            a. Use the best quality thread. See earlier blogs on how to make that decision,
                but it starts with getting samples.
            b. Use cones where possible instead of spools; the smaller the put-up,
                the more “memory” the thread has when coming off.
            c. Use the right sized needle.
            d. Ensure the design is meant for metallic thread or reduce the density to fit;
                make a sample run.
            e. Loosen the upper tensions.
            f. Slow down.

So, why bother making the changes to your embroidery life by introducing metallics? Because the results, esthetically and profitably, make a little bit of bother more than worthwhile. Even a small amount of metallic silver or gold, in place of gray or yellow, richly enhances a corporate logo or any embroidery.
So, don’t be chicken! Use metallics! Start with the 50 weight; it’s the easiest, requiring no changes to your machine. Then move into the heavier weights, after you’ve gained some confidence. Finally, segue into the rich variety of specialty threads available in the marketplace to enhance your product offering.