Have you ever used DMC Memory Thread? Have you wondered what it is and how to use it? Or, especially, how to hide the ends of a thread like that on a surface embroidery project?
The other day when we looked at this Fiesta Fob embroidery project, questions poured in, wondering what the thread was, how to use Memory Thread, and especially wondering how I took care of the ends of the thread.
Today, we’ll talk about Memory Thread, what it is (and what it’s not), how to use it, and especially how to take care of those ends.
What is Memory Thread?
DMC Memory Thread is a wrapped wire thread that can be manipulated, bent, coiled and curled, and because of the wire center, it retains its shape.
It’s labeled as Color Infusions Memory Thread. You’ll find it through some local needlework shops, but it’s pretty commonly available by the DMC threads at hobby and craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and JoAnn’s here in the States.
Above, you can see the structure of Memory Thread. At the core is a copper wire, surrounded by three fibers that sort of stick together. Between two of the fibers (hard to see in the photo), I notice that there’s a kind of bonding residue. It’s white and it feels like stabilizer of some sort.
The curly fiber in the background is the viscose (rayon) thread that wraps all around the bundle. The pink thread in the foreground is a piece of Memory Thread intact.
What Memory Thread is Not
Above, you can see a piece of Memory Thread lying next to a #10 crewel needle. You can tell that it’s definitely a thick thread.
Because of its thickness and especially its stiffness, Memory Thread is a surface embellishment, not a stitchable thread. It doesn’t work for normal embroidery stitches, but it does work well couched.
I’ve been asked if Memory Thread is a good substitute for silk gimp. No, it isn’t. Aside from slight visual similarities (they’re both made of threads wrapped around a core), Memory Thread isn’t at all like silk gimp.
Memory thread is stiff; silk gimp is not. Memory thread is thick and heavy; silk gimp is a fine thread. Memory thread is made from viscose wrapped around a copper wire. Gimp is made from silk, wrapped around a silk core, which makes it supple and soft – almost fluid, in a way. Memory Thread is far from “fluid” – it’s like working with heavier, shiny florist wire.
Take your laying tool or stiletto and wrap Memory Thread around it, and you can coil it up, and it will retain its coils. You can manipulate those coils, you can couch the coiled thread onto your fabric. It can be a fun embellishment!
Because you can coil it like this and it retains its shape, I’ve been asked if it would make a good substitute for silk wrapped purl, which is what I used for the leaves on this autumn tree made from silk gimp and silk wrapped purl.
Memory Thread on the left; silk wrapped purl on the right.
Silk wrapped purl, which is a coiled thread made from a very fine wire wrapped with flat silk, is much finer than Memory Thread. When stretched so that the coils are more visible, its coils are even. Memory Thread looks gargantuan in comparison, and would not make a good substitute.
How to Use Memory Thread
Memory Thread is a great thread for surface embellishment on fun embroidery projects.
Because it’s not a stitchable thread, it should be couched on the surface of the fabric. You can use couching thread that matches the color of the Memory Thread so that the stitches are invisible, or you can use contrasting colors, so that the couching stitches are part of the visual effect.
In the made-from-stash Christmas ornament that I started yesterday, I’m using Memory Thread because I have some in my stash.
I began couching the Memory Thread at a spot where the beginnings and ends of the threads would be less noticeable. I’m couching two pieces together at one time, using white #5 perle cotton as my couching thread.
I left about a 1.5″ tail of Memory Thread past the first couching stitch. You can see the cut ends in the photo above.
I did not cut a length of thread off the bobbins – I left the thread wound on the bobbins and just fed it off as I needed more.
I worked all the way around my circle, couching the Memory Thread in waves. Arriving back at that first couching stitch, I cut the threads from the bobbins. All four cut ends are loose on the front of the fabric in the photo above.
I did not ended my couching thread at this point – I just pulled it to the side until I took care of the Memory Thread ends.
When working with a thread like this, do not use your good scissors to cut the thread!! You’ll ruin them! Use sharp, but inexpensive, scissors when cutting wires.
To hide the ends, we’ll plunge them! Plunge them right at that first couching stitch.
Use a very big (as in at least an 18, but a 13 is better) chenille needle. Place the needle in the fabric where you want the threads to go to the back, leaving just the huge eye on top.
Working with one thread end at a time, manipulate the cut end into the eye of the needle.
Pull the thread ends through to the back, one at a time. Pull gently – you don’t want to pull your couched Memory Thread out of whack on the front.
Once the threads are pulled to the back, arrange the layout of the Memory Thread on the front, to make sure everything is where you want it.
Turn the work over, and you’ll find the cut ends! Cute, aren’t they?
Fold the Memory Thread back in the direction it came from on the front. In this case, since I have four threads, I’m going to secure two together at a time.
Use your couching thread (which you didn’t end, remember?) to whip over the Memory Thread, attaching it to the backs of previously worked stitches. You just need a few stitches to hold the Memory Thread down. Once it’s securely down, cut the excess Memory Thread away.
On the front, you can’t see where the threads were plunged. The arrow points to the spot. It helps that it was in a discrete area, under the ruffled stitches of the buttonholed cable chain stitch from yesterday.
The key to invisible beginnings and ends of Memory Thread on a project is determining a discrete place on your design to begin and end the thread. Then you can plunge the threads to the back and you don’t have to worry about covering up the ends on the front.
Some stitchers keep the ends on the front, and just stitch over them securely. That can work, too. It’ll work best, though, if it’s done somewhere discrete as well, so the cut ends don’t show.
And that is Memory Thread!
It’s a really neat embellishment on casual, fun embroidery projects. If you haven’t tried it, now you know how to use it!
Over to You…
Have you used Memory Thread? How do you begin and end yours? Any tips to add? Any questions, comments, ideas, musings? You’re welcome to join in the conversation below!
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