METAL THREAD GLOSSARY

Metal Thread Glossary  |  The History of Metal Threads  |  Metal Thread Supplies

List of Metal Threads English and (French) Terms

Click on the blue headings to see a picture of the embroidery thread.

Bullion Threads (French)

Wire Bullions are very fine wire threads wound into a tubular shape, similar to purl threads but tend to be stretchier, the making process of the bullion thread originates in France and was used traditionally for Military uniforms on the epaulets. The bullion threads range in size from No. 1 wire bullion being the smallest to No. 10 being the largest. There are three types of bullion threads, all threads come as a long tube between 10 inches and 40 inches in length depending on the type, this tube is cut up into beads and couched down onto the fabric or over string or felt padding to give the area dimension.

Check Thread is made up of a wire wrapped around a cotton core. The cord has wavy (kinked) serpentine appearance. Check Thread is couched down singularly or two strands at a time in the same colour sewing thread or a contrasting thread. Check Thread is similar to Rococco, but much finer and more flexible and has a closer wave.

Crimped Purl (Faconnee -French)

A textured bullion having characteristic spiral configuration.

Crinkle Cordonnet (French)

A fine wire tightly wrapped around a cotton core made in France. The cord has a wavy (kinked) serpentine appearance. Crinkle Cordonnet is a similar type of metal thread as Rococo, it is easier to turn but the waves in the thread are not as even. Crinkle Cordonnet is couched down single in the same colour sewing thread or a contrasting thread.

Flat Worm (Oval Thread)

A flattened metal strip is wound around a core yarn giving it a spongy feel. The thread is then lightly flattened so that the finished appearance is similar to broad plate but is more flexible and therefore easier to handle whilst stitching. The thread is couched down with the same colour or contrasting thread.

Jaceron is the same thread as Pearl Purl in appearance, but the manufacturing process is slightly different. Jaceron is a wire that is wound into a tight coil that looks like a strand of gold pearls. In manufacturing the wire that is wrapped around the needle to create the coil is slightly larger relative to the needle where as in the manufacturing of Pearl Purl the wire is the same size relative to the needle.

Japanese Thread

A metal foil wrapped around a thread core. Japanese threads are usually couched down two threads at the time (as it fills in the design area faster) and couched down with the same colour sewing thread or a contrasting thread in a bricking fashion. If sewn down with a contrasting thread the Japanese thread can be couched down in a pattern or in a range of shades, this is known as Or nue.

Large Back is made up of wire wrapped around a cotton core. The thread is rounded and smooth in appearance and turns corners easily when using fine tipped tweezers. Large Back is couched down singularly in the same colour sewing thread or a contrasting colour. The thread is similar to passing thread No. 7 but is about 4 times the thickness.

Lizerine

Lizerine is a type of pearl purl, and comes in the same sizes . Lizerine is a flat sturdy coil in comparison to pearl purl and Jaceron which are rounder with more pronounced pearls.

Milliary Wire

A two part thread, consisting of a central core wire, with a coiled wire around it. The Milliary wire is couched down in a thread of the same colour so that the stitches are not visible. Milliary wire is most appropriate as an outlining thread and is very interesting to look at.

Passing

A fine wire tightly wrapped around a cotton core. The thread is straight and smooth in appearance. Passing is couched down singularly or double in the same colour sewing thread or a contrasting colour and is used for the technique of Or nue.

Pearl Purl's is the same thread as Jaceron in appearance, but the manufacturing process is slightly different. Pearl Purl is a wire that is wound into a tight coil that looks like a strand of gold pearls. In manufacturing the wire that is wrapped around the needle to create the coil is the same size relative to the needle where as in the manufacturing of Jaceron the wire is slightly larger relative to the needle.

Pearl Purl needs to be stretched before it is used which enables the couching down thread to slip down between the twist of the wire. Tiny stitches are used to sew down the pearl purl at 3 or 4 coil intervals in a thread of the same colour and at the same angle as the twist of the wire so that the thread slips down between the coils and is invisible. Pearl Purls metal threads are used as outlines for designs or in combination with other couched threads as a filling thread for designs such as leaves. Fine tipped tweezers are a great tool to help bend Pearl Purl.

Plates

There are two types of metal Plates:

    Broad Plate is a broad flat strip of shiny metal approximately 1/8th of an inch (3 mm) wide. The plate is laid by folding the plate back and fourth across a shape, the turn of the plate is on the edge of the shape (the shape should be simple with a smooth edge) the couching down stitches are hidden in the turn of the plate. The plate can also be sewn down by couching a purl bead over the plate or using a coloured couching thread and sewing down the plate in a straight line.

    Whipped Plate is a broad flat shiny metal plate with a wire wrapped around the plate at an angle. The whipped plate is couched down in the same method as the broad plate.

Purl Threads

Purl threads are similar to Bullion threads and come in the same sizes but they tend to be firmer and more authentic and are made in the UK. Purl threads are applied to the fabric in the same method as the Bullion threads and come in the following appearances:

Rococco

A fine wire tightly wrapped around a cotton core. The cord has wavy (kinked) serpentine appearance. Rococco is a similar type of metal as Crinkle Cordonnet, it is not as easy to turn as the Crinkle Cordonnet but the waves in the thread are far more even. Rococco is couched down singularly in the same colour sewing thread or a contrasting thread. Rococco comes in sizes fine, medium and large and is made in the UK.

Spangles (Paillette - French)

Superior quality metal sequins. The spangles ranges in size from #18 being the finest to #4 being the largest in gold or silver. The spangles are couched down with one stitch that crosses the join of the spangle or with a purl bead couched in the center of the spangle.

Standard Lurex Thread No. 371 is made up of gold synthetic thread wrapped around a cotton core. The thread is straight and smooth in appearance and turns corners easily when using fine tipped tweezers. The thread is couched down singularly in the same colour sewing thread or a contrasting colour and can be used for the plaited braid stitch. This thread does not tarnish but has the appearance of a real metal thread.

Twists (Torsade - French)

There are various types of twists.

    Standard Twists: Three strands of metal twisted together to make a cord. Twist size ranges from No. 1 Twist being the finest to No. 6 Twist being the largest. The twists are couched down in a thread of the same colour as the cord, by sewing the stitch at the same angle as the twist of the cord so that the stitches are hidden in the twist of cord and are invisible.

    DMC Metallic Embroidery Thread Light Gold No. 282: DMC Metallic embroidery thread is a twisted cord. The thread is synthetic so will not tarnish and makes a good alternative to the Elizabethan Twist. The DMC metallic thread is good for filling in shapes in the couching method with the same colour or contrasting colour. It can also be used in blackwork and other embroidery techniques as a highlight. The three strands of the twist can be separated and sewn down singularly.

    Elizabethan Twists: The finest of all the twisted cords. The cord is too fine to be sewn down in the same method as the standard twists as the stitches would show. The twist is couched down in the same method as Japanese and Passing threads with the couching down stitches being a feature.

    Gimp Cord: is made up of three separate gold strands made up of a fine gold wire wrapped around a thread core. The three gold strands are twisted together to may the Gimp Cord. The strands can be separated. The Gimp Cord has a mat appearance.

    Grecian Twists: Four strands of metal twisted together to make a cord. The Grecian twists tends to be stiffer than the standard twists an and are sewn down in the same method. Sizes come in fine, medium and heavy and makes a great outlining thread.

    Russia Braids (Soutache - French): A metal braid either twisted in one colour or a mix of metallic and colour - makes a great outlining thread and is down by either couching over the braid or sewing down the center.All through recorded history fabrics have been enhanced with metal threads on garments of the kings and emperors, as an aid for worship, to convey status and to portray wealth.


The History of Metal Threads

The early thread was a silver wire covered with a gold coating, which could be drawn out to any thickness and still retain its gold coating. The thread could then be hammered flat and wound around a silk core for couching (Japanese threads, Passing threads and Rococco). The thread could be spun and drawn through a series of holes in diminishing sizes until the thread was fine enough to spiral into bullions and purls (Bright Check, Smooth or Rough Purls and Bullions). The different textured threads were appealing not only for their colour but for the interesting effect the light played on the threads when the threads were sewn over padding.

The Middle ages brought the greatest use of metal threads in the use on Church embroidery vestments in what was known as Opus Anglicanum or English Work. The whole backgrounds of these vestments were worked in underside couching using silver gilt threads.

A new technique called Or Nue came into production in Europe in the fifteenth century and was used on many vestments. The gold thread was couched in two strands across the design drawn on the background fabric with the design lines picked out with the couching thread.

In the Elizabethan period gold threads were used on domestic embroideries, particularly on items of blackwork and silkwork.

During the eighteenth century the metal threads were used extensively on the very flamboyant costumes in the English and continental courts.

Or nue and church embroidery made a revival in the twentieth century using the metal threads in new and imaginative ways. with designers such as Beryl Dean, Jane Lemon and Barbara Dawson and the Royal School of Needlework.

The gold threads today come in a variety of standards:

Gold 2% WM is the highest standard gold thread that can be purchased for Goldwork. 2% gold is also known as Admiralty or Government standard and are 2% gold on white metal. Gold 2% is a brighter and truer in colour to real gold than Gilt threads.

Gilt is about ½ % of Gold on silver plated copper. Gilt threads are similar in appearance to the Gold 2% but Gilt tends to be more yellow in colour and stretchier than the Gold 2%.

Most of the metal threads come in Gold, Silver and Copper. Some of the threads are made in blue, red and green colours such as the Twists, Passing threads and the Russia braids.

Threads these days are made in France, UK, USA and India, standard can vary from company to company.

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