Cross Stitch Tips: When and How to Use Filaments

Tips for using filaments in your cross stitch project

A while back, a great stitcher around the internet offered up some great tips about using filaments in their projects. Her name is Kathy and she shares her ideas with you. She writes:

Just call me the "Empress of Trash Flash"! I add jewelry or sparkle to everything possible, whenever possible. I've used iridescent and metallic filaments in my stitching, since before Kreinik was called Kreinik. Adding them to traditional samplers is especially fun, because it totally freaks out the sampler "purists".

Over the years, I've found different techniques that work for me, and picked up others from Teresa Wentzler and at a seminar taught by Doug Kreinik from Kreinik, Inc.

Let's check out the tips that Kathy has for us. Just using a few of these ideas will improve project immensely. 

Kathy's Tips:

  • Use a larger needle size than usual when working with metallics and blends. It will widen the hole a bit more as you pull your threads through. This puts much less wear on the fibers.
  • When at all possible, use Accentuate, Bijoux, Treasure Braid, or Madeira brand blenders & metallics. If you cannot get those brands, then Kreinik is a good second choice.
  • Avoid DMC metallics on a spool, OR in the skein. They're not that much cheaper than the better brands, and their quality stinks. Trust me! Better threads are faster and easier to use.
  • When using blending filaments in even quantities (2,4,etc): Skip the "loop start", and loop the plies through your needle eye instead. To do this: Fold your threads in half; Put the fold end through the needle about 1". Then take the loose ends and pull them through the center of the loop, until they are snugly (but not too tightly) knotted around the eye of the needle. They will shift a bit as stitching, but not much, because they can't pull out of the needle eye.
  • If using a mix of regular thread and blending filament: Stitch the bottom half of the stitch in regular floss, then only use the blending filament on the top of the cross stitch. You'll get all of the sparkle, and none of the mixing hassle. If you double your thread (2 plies) and knot it in the needle like in #4, then you'll get good coverage too. Thank Teresa Wentzler for this tip.
  • Another mixed thread & blending filament trick: Use only one ply of the blend loose in your needle, and stitch the top of each cross stitch twice. This is especially nice for scattered stitches, or areas where only some of the stitches have that color of sparkle.
  • The washcloth or sponge trick: Keep one of these VERY slightly dampened at your stitching station. Prior to stitching with rayons, blenders or metallics (or even during), run your needle and thread through the very slightly dampened cloth/sponge. It smooths the fibers and removes the static electricity, without leaving any kind of film that could possibly cause problems in later years. This tip comes directly from Kreinik Corp., so I know it's safe to do with their fibers. It also works beautifully on many 12-ply silks like Caron's Waterlilies and Crescent's Belle Soie, which are all wavy when you separate them. PLEASE NOTE - Before using this technique on hand-dyed threads, check them first for color fastness, but the low dampness should be OK for hand-dyed fabrics.
  • Thread Heaven: This is not a product that I recommend, because it leaves a permanent film on the fibers. Even if that film remains inert (as they say it will), its long-term effects are unknown. Other than convenience, it provides no benefit that cannot be provided by safer means. IF you MUST use this product - BUY two containers. Keep 1 only for metallics and blending filaments. Use the other for silks or rayons. That prevents sparkle bits from ending up in places where you don't want them to be.
  • Take care of your hands: Use home-made or store-bought "sugar scrubs" frequently, or get regular manicures to keep your fingers smooth and free of hangnails or rough patches on skin or fingernails. I buy jars of sugar scrub from Wal-mart cheaply, and moisturize well afterwards and at times other than stitching.
  • Use tools to manage your threads: This can be a special tool, or something as simple as a large tapestry needle, your spare fingers, or a laying tool to help guide your threads and keep them all smooth. I use either my finger/fingernail, or extend my finger's reach by using a "Trolley Needle" laying tool that I've had for years.


There ya go! Now you can be an expert and take your cross stitch project to the next level.