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Specialty Threads

Specialty Threads can add many accents and textures to your project. For example, nothing says "snow"' like Kreinik's Pearl Braid. Specialty threads can add fluffy feathers, shining stars, warm lamplight, or frizzy hair to a design. Specialty threads are a sure way of personalizing a design. I often add them even though they aren't called for in the original chart.

When using any specialty thread, stitch with shorter lengths, as these threads are more prone to unraveling and getting fuzzy. A note before we begin, if you find that your blended threads seem to disappear when used together with floss, try using a Laying Tool. A wonderful product for taming rayons and metallics is ThreadHeaven. Simply run your thread across the surface of ThreadHeaven, and stitch away. It will not gum up your needle or your fabric like beeswax.

Blending Filaments

Probably the mostly widely used blending filament is Kreinik's Balger; a very fine thread, it is threaded through a needle along with floss. Blending filaments are available in many different shades, and add a slight sparkle to the floss. As blending filaments are very prone to unraveling, there are two common ways to help prevent this. One way is to first thread your needle using the loop method-fold one end of the filament down about two inches, thread the loop through the needle eye, then pull the tail through the loop to anchor the filament. After you have done that, thread your needle as you normally would with the floss. The other method is to dab a bit of Fray Check on the ends of your blending filament, then thread through the eye with your floss. Let it dry before threading your needle. If you don't want the Fray Check to stay in your design (it does contain chemicals, after all), leave a longer tail that you can trim off. Yet another, less commonly used method is to stitch the area just using your floss, then go back and stitch over it with just the blending filament. This also adds a steadier sparkle to your work, instead of the intermittent one achieved with sewing both floss and blending filament at the same time.

(Some people classify Madeira jewel thread as metallic. Because it is so flat, I treat it more as a blending filament except on higher count designs. Some Sulky and YLI threads also make good blending filaments.


My motto "A stitcher can never have too many sparkly threads."

Although I love metallics, there was a time when I hated them. They frayed, they tangled, they broke. Then I started stitching with shorter lengths and put Fray Check on the ends. I also started using a needle with a slightly larger eye. All three of those solutions have greatly improved my feelings about metallic threads. I try to keep my use of metallic threads to a minimum on patterns unless I am sewing something like a snowy background. If a pattern calls for full cross-stitches of white or winter white cotton floss, I will substitute a heavier braid pearl/white metallic and use half cross-stitches instead.

Note of Caution: Use a lower temperature on your iron when pressing a piece that contains metallic threads. Put a pressing pad on both sides of your piece prior to pressing.

Overdyed Threads

You can achieve many different effects with overdyed threads, which are a hand dyed product. These threads differ from Variegated Threads in that they have a 'background' colour which is then overdyed with two or three varying shades; variegated threads have the shades running in succession. Overdyed threads cannot be washed nor dry-cleaned, an important fact to keep in mind when deciding where to use them. (side note: if you are very very careful, you can rinse the darker shades in cold water.) A variety of effects can be achieved with overdyed threads, just like with Variegated Thread, the effect will be determined by your stitching style. You may also blend one strand of overdyed with one strand of regular cotton floss for Tweeding. Gentle Arts brand Sampler Threads has very gentle hues and adds an 'antique' look to your design. Weeks Dye Works has a fantastic variety of overdyed threads (as well as silks and metallics). Because these skeins are all hand dyed, no two skeins are identical, but you can purchase skeins that at least come from the same dye lot, which will make them similar enough to use in the same project.

Word of Caution: Hot water and steam from an iron may reactivate the dye in hand dyed materials, which will cause bleeding.


Rayon thread is available in a wide selection of colours, adds a shiny look to your stitches and blends well with surrounding cotton floss stitches. As with metallics, you need to stitch with shorter lengths, as rayon shreds very easily. To make stitching even easier, run your floss across a damp sponge just before stitching with it, or use ThreadHeaven. The floss will lay flatter and this also helps prevent shredding. For something different, you can also try stitching with rayon crochet cotton. Rayon is available in a very wide selection of colours. My Maiden-Mother-Crone design is stitched entirely in DMC rayon.

Textured Threads

These threads are often used very sparingly in designs, as they are meant for accents. A wide variety of textured effects can be achieved with these threads, everything from tufts of hair to mossy rocks. Some threads need to be gently 'fluffed' with a Bunka brush after stitching to achieve their full effect. Many of these threads require a needle with a larger eye. Use shorter lengths to prevent tangling with the fluffy threads. Stitching straight up and down also wears easier on the thread, preventing premature shredding. You can also use suede threads to make shoelaces or horse trappings such as bridles, reins and harnesses. Metallic threads could then be used for the rivets, jingle bells and bits. You will need to use a needle threader for most textured threads…if you put fuzzy thread in your mouth; you'll get a fuzzy tongue. =)

Popular Manufacturers of Textured Threads: