In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question I was asked on Facebook…
“Do I need to coat or condition my embroidery thread?”
The short answer to this question is no, it isn’t a necessary product for embroidery. There are some benefits to using these products which I will try to cover in this post. You can also find videos on YouTube that show you how to use these products. I particularly enjoyed this video by Thimble and Plume.
There are a few different products on the market that you can use to coat your embroidery thread. This was something that I hadn’t used myself until last year when I went on a contemporary couture embroidery course with Hand & Lock. Our kit contained a small block of beeswax to coat the thread we used to work with the different goldwork techniques.
You can buy blocks of beeswax or find it in the haberdashery shop in a special holder that you can pull threads through.
Since going vegan in 2019, I haven’t used any products containing beeswax so I looked for an alternative product to use. I came across Thread Magic which is a silicone based thread conditioner. There are other brands that do the same thing, just see what you can find online in your price range.
How to use…
Simply pull your thread gently across the surface of the wax or silicone conditioner. It can take a bit of practice to get the right amount of pressure. You can try it with different scraps of thread to see how they behave.
The picture on the left shows DMC cotton purl without Thread Magic, the picture on the right has been conditioned. As you can see, the different is minimal but it did reduce the fluffiness of the thread.
I use my silicone thread conditioner when I’m doing the following…
Working with beads and goldwork purl, it helps the thread pass easily through that glass, plastic or metal beads.
To change the look of your thread, it makes the thread I use, particularly DMC cotton perle or six stranded embroidery thread look smoother. It can reduce the fluffiness of thread but use it sparingly.
When working with metallic threads, these threads are notoriously hard to embroider with. I use a small amount to help keep the thread smooth as it passes through my fabric. I helps to prevent the fraying process. PLEASE NOTE this doesn’t work on real metal threads as it will tarnish the thread. You can check the packaging to see what your thread is made of.
If you are repairing a vintage piece of embroidery or creating a museum exhibit, silicone thread conditioner might affect the work. As silicone is a relatively new product, the long term conservation effects are unknown.
Beeswax has been around for centuries but was commonly used to wax threads for buttons and other items of clothing. This means that it would be washed and worn which would wear away and not be part of an artwork that never gets washed.