Embroidery thread - raw materials, embroidery thread construction, basic knowledge

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updated on 25.02.2020 - 13:30:02

Embroidery can make all the difference – enhancing a product and giving it a personal touch. The threads used are not just a means to an end – depending on their quality, they can be an important design element. Diverse, high-precision embroidery techniques are also becoming increasingly important in technical areas, where they fulfil numerous functions. As extensive the range of applications, as high the demands on the colour and quality of the threads. In this chapter, the most essential components to achieve a successful embroidery are introduced: stitch types, digitizer, embroidery machine, backing and needle.

Question/Definition: What is/are Embroidery Threads?

Structure of embroidery thread

Especially in the field of embroidery threads, the classic construction is the multifilament made of trilobal polyester. The trilobal filament shape increases the light-reflecting material surface and ensures the impressive, important shine of an embroidery. The most important type of construction for embroidery threads, the wrapping thread, is presented below.

Filigree fonts and designs with Serafil fine from AMANN Group

Wrapped yarns

Embroidery with isacord from AMANN Group

This is the classic construction type for metallic embroidery threads and sewing threads. A continuous filament core (polyester, polyamide) is wrapped with a band of metallic foil in order to create the characteristic shine. Single yarns are used for embroideries in order to achieve a filigree look.

Textile raw materials for embroidery

As with sewing threads, numerous raw materials are suitable as a basis for embroidery threads. Besides the technical demands on a yarn, the appearance of a thread is an important aspect.

Embroidery deals with the surface of a fabric and is also called “needle painting”. The colour as well as the texture of the embroidery thread, for example fine/coarse or matt/glossy, allow for an endless variety of possibilities within the same embroidery pattern. Therefore, there are a variety of raw materials which can have an effect on the appearance of the embroidery thread.

High gloss embroidery threads

These are exclusively continuous filament yarns, meaning endless chemical fibres such as viscose, polyester or metallic effect threads. A particular characteristic of the polyester embroidery thread lies in the special profile of each single filament. In order to achieve a higher gloss, the polyester melt is pressed through spinnerets with a clover leaf profile. This shape is called “trilobal”.

The three curves in the filament profile enable a stronger refraction of light and therefore a higher gloss than possible with the standard round filament profile. Well-known AMANN products: Isacord for brilliant and fashionable embroideries, and Isamet for metallic embroideries.


The most important part of perfect embroidery is the embroidery thread suitable for the respective application. In addition to the optics, reliability and productivity are paramount. The Isacord embroidery thread made of trilobal polyester multifilaments in the standard 40 embroidery thread size combines the best processing properties and the highest resilience with an extensive range of colors from unicoloured and multicolored.


Wherever metallic shine is required, metallic weft yarns such as Isamet are used. The color card from Isamet ranges from various gold and silver tones to pastel and multicolor shades.

Matt embroidery threads

In the past, mercerised cotton was the classic matt embroidery thread. Today, polyester or polyester/cotton core spun threads are used. Well-known AMANN products: Saba and Rasant


Matt embroidery with Saba from AMANN Group

For matt embroidery, polyester / polyester core threads (e.g. Saba) and polyester / cotton core threads such as Rasant are suitable.

Technical and functional embroidery threads

Not only fashion embroidery, but also functional embroideries like logos and emblems on work wear, are gaining in importance. In part only special threads are able to fulfil the higher standards in this field. For flame-retardant and heat protective applications meta-aramide threads such as A-tech and N-tech are in use.

N-tech, N-tech CS and A-tech CS

There are also a number of technical threads for special applications. The meta-aramid embroidery threads N-tech, N-tech CS and A-tech CS are worth mentioning for all applications that require flame resistance and non-melting material.

Bobbin Threads

Bobbin threads for embroidery are generally made from polyester. The excellent properties of this raw material result in a thread with the strength that is required at higher yields.

Well-known AMANN products: Isa and Isabob

Isa Texlight

Isa Texlight is the right choice for embroidery with a special lighting effect. The phosphorescent embroidery thread glows in the dark, causing a sensation.

Stitch types

Isa Texlight in daylight or afterglow in the dark by AMANN Group

Embroidery machines generally work with lockstitch (stitch type class 301). In this case, there are three different stitch types:

Running stitches

Running stitches proceed linear, one after the other – just like a conventionally sewn seam. They may become shorter or longer and their thickness can be emphasised by multiple overstitching.

Satin stitches

Satin stitches are closely spaced zig-zag stitches, and both their width and density can be altered o create the desired effect. This makes the satin stitch the most versatile of all embroidery stitches. he use of large underlay stitches can create texture and relief.

Fill stitches

Fill stitches fill surfaces. Depending on the stitch rhythm and frequency, the surface can have an increased or decreased glance and show relief-like structures. Selecting the correct stitch length

can help to reduce the number of stitches required, thus reducing production time.

The digitizer

To visualise an embroidery, the digitizer needs to set the desired object into a digital format. It arranges the embroidery pattern from the above described three stitch types and sets it up. It is important to know the embroidery materials and customer wishes to use in order to set the correct parameters. The skills of the digitizer are crucial to the quality of the embroidery. For example, stitches that appear to be different shades can be created by varying the stitch length or direction.

The embroidery machine

The data created by the digitizer is converted from the embroidery machine in conjunction with the yarn, embroidery base and backing to the final embroidery. One distinguishes between:

  • Number of heads: per head, one embroidery pattern can be completed at the same time. Common machine sizes vary from 1 to 72 heads.
  • Number of needles per head: the needle number gives the maximum number of colours that can be threaded in a single pattern without having an intermediate changeover. Needle numbers between 1 and 18 are common, although the focus is on approx. 12 needles.
  • The work area and frame size dictates the maximum size of the embroidery.

The stitch speed (currently, around 200 –1,800 stitches per minute is feasible) and additional equipment like tools for sequins, drills or cord embroidery are further important features of the embroidery machine. Embroidery machines generally require a finely adjustable and accurate thread tension setting. The thread tension should always be set as low as possible. It is usually correct, if on the backside of the running stitch, 1/3 of the surface is formed by the bobbin thread.If a high-quality embroidery thread is used, such as Isacord with its low and very consistent coefficients of sliding friction across all colours, it should not be necessary to readjust the thread tension between colour changes.

The needle

The DB x K5 needle system is established worldwide for machine embroidery. Machines by the brand Fortron® constitute an exception. With the DB x K5 system, the needle eye is 1–2 needle

sizes larger than usual. Thus, a size 70 needle has the needle eye of a size 80 or size 90 needle, which brings along several advantages:

  • better protection of the material
  • a smaller needle diameter can be selected
  • better protection of the embroidery thread, due to more space in the needle eye
  • simplified threading of the needle

The backing

A backing material is used in order to achieve a distortion-free, sharp-contoured embroidery. It is used on the bottom side of the outer fabric and gives the embroidery base the necessary dimensional stability in conjunction with the underlay stitches. Depending on the type or the properties, it may be removed after the embroidery process by tearing, cutting or dissolving. For materials with nap, the backing can be supported with a soluble foil on the upper side of the embroidered material. The stitches are prevented from sinking into the nap by a water- or heat-soluble backing or a respective foil.

Use of the different backings
Material Backing
Fine knitwear, very fine woven fabrics Cut away backing, in order to avoid material

damages while tearing away the backing

Woven fabric, stable knitwear Tear away backing
Transparent materials, embroideries

which are visible as well from the reverse side

Water - or heat soluble backing

for the purpose of complete removal

Terry cloth, velvet, velours, fleece Tear or cut away backing+

water-soluble film on the top


Serafil fine

Delicate embroidery with Serafil fine from AMANN Group.

For all detailed and filigree applications, the polyester multifilament Serafil fine in fine thicknesses is the best choice. For the finest size 420 (= 300/2), which corresponds to an embroidery thread size 100, a 55 mm needle can be used.


Coarse embroidery with Serafil from AMANN Group.

Serafil also offers many possibilities for coarser applications, for example Serafil creates shiny embroidery results in coarse sizes for crank and hook embroidery.


Embroidery is also used in garment dyeing. The raw material of the embroidery thread must also be dyeable here. MercifilGD is the first choice here.


Silver-tech in use by the AMANN Group

Another application has clearly come into focus in recent years: conductivity. Silver-tech, an embroiderable special thread with conductive properties, is suitable for this. See also: Smart Yarn

Manufacturer of embroidery threads


The AMANN Group is a globally active manufacturer of industrial, sewing and embroidery threads and smart yarns. The company's headquarters are located in Bönnigheim in Baden-Württemberg. From universal sewing thread to high-tech special thread, AMANN offers a wide range for a variety of applications. Among other things, AMANN specializes in embroidery threads. The yarns used are not just a means to an end - depending on their nature, they are an essential design element. Versatile, high-precision embroidery processes are also becoming increasingly important in the technical field, where they perform a variety of functions. As large as the field of application is, so are the demands on the color and quality of the threads. With the range of AMANN embroidery threads, there are no limits to creativity and productivity.


The Madeira yarn factory is one of the leading yarn manufacturers, stabilizers and accessories. Based on a hundred-year company history, produces and sells renowned products that have been optimized for production on multi-needle embroidery machines.


At GUNOLD GmbH you can get high quality embroidery supplies from a single source: embroidery threads, embroidery fleece, spray glue or special thermo films. The experienced creative team from GUNOLD continuously tests and develops the range. GUNOLD GmbH is located in the immediate vicinity of Frankfurt / Main.


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