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History of Real Metal & Metallic Thread Embroidery

History of Real Metal & Metallic Thread Embroidery

Metallic and metal thread work offer infinite creative options for today’s embroiderer. To understand the role of metallic and metal threads in stitchery, it is fascinating to know a little history about their use. Metal thread in textile decoration owes its importance to the symbolic significance attached to gold, which represented the magical power of the sun. Throughout history, we find that areas of artistic expression in society—e.g. jewelry, textiles, fashion, even architecture—incorporated the beauty and symbolism of gold.

Over the centuries, gold embellishment of fabric became revered for its beauty and visual impact. Visit your local museum or textile history center to view some of the surviving tapestries, garments, and furnishings and notice the use of multiple thread types in embroidery. Needleworkers from Ancient Egypt, China and Europe used multiple fibers in their embroideries because the contrasts of the lustres enriched the design. Silk, wool, cotton, and metal threads were combined to create different textures and dimensional effects, making the final project more visually appealing.

Gold, by definition, is a metallic element, highly malleable and free from rust. In embroidery, while the words "metal" and "metallic" are often used interchangeably, the two terms do not have the same meaning. To be a true metal, the greatest percentage of the thread must be either a metal or a metal compound. The term "metallic" is correctly applied to those threads that appear to be made of metal, but which are actually composed of a synthetic material such as polyester. Since real metal threads have become rare and expensive, metallic threads are an economical and viable substitute.

Modern technology and knowledge of fiber construction has enabled Kreinik to create metallic threads that are soft, easy to use and non-tarnishing. Whether you currently use cotton or silk threads in cross stitch, or wool or silk thread in needlepoint, for example, by simply adding the appropriate metal or metallic thread, you can transform a flat, two-dimensional, single-thread-type design into a more visually attractive, three-dimensional, multiple-thread-type picture. Try it; you’ll discover how fun and visually exciting needlework can be.

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