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Sewing fabrics with metal in them?

jatman | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I just recently bought a few fabrics that have a small metal content.  Has anyone sewn with these?  I love the fabrics but am concerned that they will dull my scissors and my sewing needle quickly.  Any advice would be welcome!



  1. Ralphetta | | #1

    Many, many years ago my mother made me a black pique dress with a wisp of silver thread running through it.  She cussed the fabric the whole time because it broke thread/needles.  (Boy, I wish I were skinny enough to get into that dress again!)

    1. jatman | | #3

      Yikes!  So NOT what I wanted to hear!!!!


      1. Ralphetta | | #8

        This was not an evening fabric, just cotton.  I think Mom's problem was that she hadn't expected any trouble and was rushing to meet a deadline.  Since you are planning ahead, I don't think you should dread it that much.  It didn't do any permanent damage, except to my delicate ears...ha ha, and the dress looked great.

  2. User avater
    artfulenterprises | | #2

    Years ago I made a gorgeous evening jacket from a gold metallic organza. Don't recall problems with scissors and needles (although I generally pull maintenance on my scissors regularly and change needles often) but I did find it necessary to make French seams (I suppose a HongKong finish would also work) in order to keep the seams from ravelling like a "mad dog'.

    This type of fabric also doesn't do well with details or lots of stitches (like buttonholes). I used a bound buttonhole but it was the devil. In retrospect, if I were to do it again, I would incorporate a silk dupioni or peau de soie or even velvet in the design to carry any closures.

    Here are a couple fotos.

    1. jatman | | #4

      That is absolutely stunning!  Thank you for sharing the photos. 

      This material is more solid than the organza.  One is a linen/metal blend, another is a cotton/metal blend and another is a poly/metal blend.  Looks like I'll have plenty of opportunity to experiment (and cuss the fabric, too!).

      Just curious - was your creation for a competition?  Was it an original design?  As I said - it's just stunning.


      1. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #6

        Thanks so much for the compliment...yep, it was a competition from when I graduated from design school about 14 years ago. The details of the dress are difficult to see in the photo, but it has a "v" insert running almost to the hem made of 3-d textured organza ribbon flowers with a nude silk underneath. I won a bronze thimble award in the evening wear competition and gold thimble award in the childrens wear. While it has nothing whatever to do with metallic thread, here's a picture of the gold thimble garments...just for fun.

        1. jatman | | #9

          Thank you for sharing!  Very cute and I'm not surprised you placed in each competition.  I'd love to ask you a hundred questions as to where your career path in design has taken you but I don't want to be TOO nosey! 

          Please post more pictures of your designs!



          1. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #10

            Never one to be too shy, I'm happy to tell you that my career path has taken me into designing plus size women's suiting, bridal wear, plus size dressy sportswear, accessories and textiles, and both costume and fine jewelry. I've been teaching patternmaking and fashion draping for the past four years in northern California. Currently I'm developing a line of clothing patterns (greatfitplus) based on a plus size petite model (me!) but will range from sz. 10 to 32. I am projecting release of my first patterns this year and will be advertising in Threads, of course! Thanks for asking! Hope you'll find someone in your life who can appreciate them when they are available! PS...I'll post a variety of past work on my new website soon.Edited 4/30/2007 3:27 pm ET by artfulenterprisesEdited 4/30/2007 3:28 pm ET by artfulenterprises

            Edited 4/30/2007 3:31 pm ET by artfulenterprises

          2. jatman | | #11

            Very cool!  I will look forward to seeing your pattern advertising in upcoming Threads!  (And your website!)  I'm hoping to take some classes in the future - hopefully some draping, pattern making and certainly fitting classes.  There is an annual sewing expo close to where I used to live (I was always too busy with work to go and just recently have found my way back to sewing).  Hopefully when I get back to that area I'll be able to take advantage of at least some one day classes if nothing else.  Ever think of expanding into regular sizes?  Just a thought!!!? 



          3. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #13

            What are "regular" sizes!??! My sis begged me to go down to size 10 so she could sew my patterns, and since she's the greatest sister in the world, naturally I agreed. But for now, 12 sizes is all I can manage... My take on sizing is that "size" (the number on the tag/envelope) is irrelevant. It's all about the numbers ladies....you need to be a fearless measurer! One day soon I'll publish a DVD series all about celebrating those numbers and making great fitting clothes.

          4. solosmocker | | #15

            Artful, that outfit is a stunner. Looks like a gold thimble to me! The childrens outfits are very clever and clearly the kids love them. I am so glad you are planning this DVD regarding the "numbers". This is so needed. You will be doing many a great service with this. I am looking forward to seeing your petite plus patterns. There is such a need. I am a petite and have petite plus friends. This will be great. Thanks for thinking of what is "needed." I am sure you will be successful. I have not sewn with metallics myself, but I do know sharp needles are recommended. Artful is certainly a wonerful resource to help you out.

          5. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #19

            Hi solosmocker,
            just a thank you for the praise and to let you know I ran across a photo of a beautiful little dress you made and was so impressed with your lovely handiwork. I've always been a big fan of smocking for all kinds of applications...love the textures you can create with those techniques, though being a bit of a creative rebel, I always seem to take the techniques to extremes in less than traditional types of applications. Great work...your grandchild must be so excited to have such a pretty dress!

          6. jatman | | #16

            I've never been able to buy petite clothes despite the fact that height-wise I fall into that category.  They just don't fit me right - too short in the torso.  And I'm not a plus size.  However, I am gaining experience in altering patterns to my size through various sizing mistakes that I've made!



          7. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #17

            Not to worry, Jatman. I too am not a short waisted petite. While I am now, alas, under 5' tall (used to be 5' 1/2") I still cannot wear RTW petite pants because they are too short in the inseam and shirts are just an inch or two too short for my taste (and my figure!). My new pattern line will reflect that and offer fit solutions to customize your garment. What size are you? Perhaps the lower end of my size range can be modified easily to your body.Edited 5/1/2007 9:41 am ET by artfulenterprises

            Edited 5/1/2007 9:42 am ET by artfulenterprises

          8. jatman | | #18

            So I'm not the only one with that issue?  Good to know!  Depending on the maker I will wear a RTW (US) size 6, 8 or 10.  It just depends.  And when jeans got so low-cut I had to go up yet another size.  Really annoying!  I'm very glad to see the waist making a comeback in jeans - not that I want them up to my ribcage, but I didn't like them cut down to the pubic bone either.   I'm 5'4" and according to all of the petite stores and departments I've ever been in - petites should fit those of us who are 5'4" and under.  I just figured they never fit because I was on the upper edge of 'petite.' 

            I'll be looking forward to your website being up and running!


          9. User avater
            Becky-book | | #24

            Measure, measure, measure!!

            My dad always said "Measure twice, cut once!"

            Finally figured out that I am "short" but not "petite" thanks to Fit for Real People and the Threads "Family of Croquis" PDF.  Sure hope your designs work for us shorties with long bodies!


          10. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #26

            Hi Becky-book
            My patterns should work for you since the basic block is based on the most handy model I could find....myself. I also am working diligently to address a major problem with most plus sizes both in patterns and ready to wear...shoulders that are too wide and sleeves that are too tight. I look forward to being able to offer new solutions to other women like myself who have been frustrated for years trying to make great fitting clothes when the retail market barely knows we exist. And, years ago, there was not a magazine like Threads or a chat room where women who love to sew could share their solutions. And websites where you can find most anything you are looking for! Aren't we fortunate?!

          11. Char9 | | #12

            Hi artfulenterprises!  That jacket is drop dead gorgeous!  I wish you well with your new line and, since I'm a plus size, I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

            Maybe you can help me with a question I posted on another thread.  Its under the "Fabric" section and its called "Help!  Has anyone ever....."



            Edited 4/30/2007 3:50 pm ET by Char9

          12. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #14

            Hi Char,Thanks again and I'll check out the Help thread.

    2. MaryinColorado | | #20

      Absolutely gorgeous!  Will that pattern be available in your line?  I am so looking forward to your "enterprise"!   Thrilled that it will start at size 10! 

       I usually do wear casual clothes and am a long waisted petite with a short rise, very hard to fit.  4'11 1/2", small bone structure, with 40" bust and hips, I drownd in the plus sizes in retail, the shoulders and arms are huge.  I am generally a size 12 with 29-30" inseam so petites are often too short even with flat shoes.

      I had given up on making my own clothing which I always loved to do.  Can't wait to try your patterns!!!  My mouth is watering already!  Thank You for doing such a great service to so many of us!  Mary

      1. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #21

        Hi MaryinColoradoInitially, no, that pattern won't be in the line...but give me a little time! As I mentioned before, sizing is all about the numbers...your own...and I believe I've developed sizing that is realistic for todays women regardless of the current ready to wear marketplace. Bust sizes start at 38 and go up to 64, Hip sizes 41 to 67.

        1. MaryinColorado | | #22

          With these patterns, I may even be able to convince my daughter to start sewing for herself.  My son, daughter in law, two grandsons and a grand daughter all love to sew.  The numbers are sounding great, can't wait!  Mary

  3. Char9 | | #5

    I've sewn with a few different metallic fabrics and found that they do dull my machine needles fairly fast.  I can tell when the needle is dull because it pushes the metallic thread into the bobbin area and makes a nasty pull.  If I change needles often that doesn't happen.  Since needles are so inexpensive I really don't mind changing them often. 

    Maybe other experienced metallic sewers can offer their best advice on needles.  Denim sharps work best for me. 

    Since the metallic fabric is rough on needles its just gotta be rough on scissors too.  Try to use your rotary cutter whenever possible.  Its easier to change your rotary cutter blade and cheaper than finding a good scissor sharpener.


    1. jatman | | #7

      Ohhh...good thought!  Hadn't even considered using my rotary cutter.  I'll do that.  I'll also get extra needles just to make sure I don't run out in the middle of a project.  I have a few needles of each sort - maybe I should do some testing to see what works best.  Thank you for the advice!


  4. User avater
    Becky-book | | #23

    one more consideration... finishing seam allow.  I tried on a RTW shirt with gold thread, very lovely but the inside seams prickled like crazy because of the metal threads sticking through!!  Please make sure you do something to add to the comfort of wearing your creation!


    1. jatman | | #25

      Thank you, Becky-book!  Very important!


  5. Teaf5 | | #27

    ####lot of fabrics that appear to have metal content actually have a metal-appearing plastic fiber that, instead of ruining needles and scissors, melts if you touch it with a too-hot iron! (Been there, done that!)

    Before you tackle the main project, use a good-sized sample and try cutting it with your kitchen shears, your worst needles, and your usual iron temperature to see what it does and how it reacts.

    While you are at it, drape the sample around your arm and "wear" it for awhile to find out if your skin will react to the metal or metallic fiber. (Been there, done that, too!) If so, you may want to line and/or interline the garment or use it only for areas that won't directly touch your skin.

    1. jatman | | #28

      Ewww...all things I would never have thought of.  Thank you very much!  This is the first time using this sort of fabric.  I bought a few of different ones hoping to make a jacket, pants and hopefully a dress out of them.  I was told they had actual metal in them and the way that they wrinkle up and hold the wrinkle (in a good way, I think!) I have to believe that they actually are made with metal but I will do the iron test to make sure!  Again - thank you very much!


      1. Teaf5 | | #29

        One of the great things about this forum is that we can learn from others' mistakes...If I had had this forum years ago, I wouldn't have nearly as many bad experiences to share because I could have asked someone beforehand and avoided the disasters!Let us know how your outfit turns out.

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