There was a time in the history of humankind when only the super-rich could afford fashionable clothes. And fashion then was all about being ornate and ostentatious. So metallic fabrics were much in demand. With its shiny gilded appeal, metal was incorporated into fabric in one way or the other to bring that garishness that appealed to those who wanted all the trappings and trimmings that wealth afforded.
Today, fashion has changed to accommodate elegance over gaudiness, but our love for metallics in our clothes has not changed. You cannot deny the eye-catching effect of metallic fabrics.
At one point in time, when the fabric was disintegrated or destroyed, the metals from it were salvaged and reused because real metals were used.
But the days when precious metals like gold and silver were used in making and embellishing fabrics were almost over.
Today, what is used as the metallic thread is mostly plastic thread coated with metal shades or metal core covered with plastic; if there is metal, it is usually inexpensive and lightweight aluminum or copper.
In this article I will cover:
Types of metallic fabrics
There are many ways metals are incorporated in fabric –
- Fabrics that are completely woven with metallic thread,
- Fabrics with some metallic thread incorporated as patterns/designs,
- Fabric with external embroidery done with metallic thread. For eg; Zardosi work ; Gold work
Whichever your demand, there is a metallic fabric for you.
This is a collection of fabrics woven with metallic threads – it is usually a fine fabric. It is a favorite fabric for making evening wear as well as costumes. Tissue lamé is a very lightweight, almost sheer fabric. You will need to treat the material as a lightweight fabric, with utmost care. You can use 11-14 no needles for sewing with this material.
This is a beautiful patterned fabric with metallic threads interlaced with other threads to form specific patterns on the fabric.
Related post: Brocade fabric
In India, a metallic thread called zari thread is used in weaving beautiful brocade fabric or border fabric which is used as a trim.
Zari thread comes in many different metallic colors – gold, silver, bronze. The zari thread is also divided based on the shine it has. A very shiny zari thread is called Chikna thread and a dull one is called Kora thread.
Other metallic fabrics are Metallic mesh/ metallic sheers, Metallic knits. Lurex is a branded metallic yarn that produces a metallic fabric made of this yarn – the metallic color is laminated onto a plastic core.
How to sew with metallic fabrics
Most metallic fabrics are loosely woven or knitted. They may need some reinforcement at the seams to prevent loose, unstable seams. You can either use underlining or stabilize the seam or use a strong seam like a french seam or bound seam.
As the metallic fabric is usually unstable, it may need interfacing and stabilizers for embroidery. In sewing, iron-on interfacing is not preferred as heat can damage the metallic fabric. You can use other fabrics or sew-in interfacing.
For embroidery, you will have to use a lightweight fusible web.
Metallic fabrics can dull your sharp cutting tools – so be careful about using your best scissors with the fabric.
You may need to add a lining/underlinig to some metallic fabric as the back of a lot of them may not be as smooth as other fabrics.
When cutting metallic fabric, be aware that it has a nap – i.e., the shine of it will be different if you cut it in different directions.
Unless you want a garment that shines differently in different parts, you have to cut the pattern pieces in the same direction.
There are special metallic needles available to sew these fabrics but if it is not available to you, you can use regular sharp needles.
Discard the sewing needles after sewing with metallic fabrics – as the yarn scratches against the needle point, it will dull fast.
Most metallic fabrics require special care about washing and ironing. For one, they do not tolerate high heat.
And you are suggested not to touch the surface of the metallic fabric directly with a hot iron – use a pressing cloth.