How I use Embossing Powder with my Tatting!

by Sabina Carden-Madden
©Paradise Treasures, November 2006

I wanted a way to stiffen my tatted jewelry and other tatted items without the use of sugar water, corn starch or commercial glues like Stiffy.

I decided to play with an idea from my experience in making handmade cards and using stamps and embossing powder.

Embossing powder is a finely ground resin, grainy to the feel, that comes in clear and many other colors and hues with or without glitter. It usually comes in two consistencies or grades, regular (ultrafine) and fine (detail). Detail colors come in 6 colors (white, black, clear, silver, gold and copper). The consistency of the powder may vary by manufacturer as well as how evenly it melts when a heat source such as a heat gun is used ot melt the powder onto another substance. Usually it liquefies and turns shiney but in the case of thread it is absorbed unless you are using it on metallic thread. Two very good brands which melt evenly are Think Ink and JudiKins.

My observations in playing with the method are:

The process is messy be forewarned. You need to be sure there is no residual embossing powder on your hands or the plate or it will adhere to your freshly heated work (see examples below) when you go to touch it again.

This prossess is better for metallic threads than plain cotton threads. They are lovely using this method, they retain shine and added stiffness both.

The repeated coating darkens the color of cotton threads (see examples below).

Shine is not attained with cotton threads unless you coat it many, many times. Even then it is not even. The build up must be beyond the saturation point of the thread. I stopped at 5 and it still wasn't actually shiny all over.

If you include beads in your tatting, they must be glass beads or your risk melting them depending on the proximity to the heat source. Apply the embossing powder with one brush and use a clean brush to get rid of excess powder accumulated on the beads before you heat the powder.

This method can be used to progressively shape your tatting for 3D projects such as ornaments or a light stiffening in awkward places in your tatting as well.

The tatting can be baked on a glass or foil covered surface at 230 degrees until the powder is fully melted, check every 3 minutes or so. Talk about tedious. Not my preferred method at all.


Your Tatted item
Embossing Powder in desired color
Heat Gun
Fine Paint Brushes
Glass Plate or Foil Covered Board


Hide all your ends first, unless you wish to coat them as well.

First make sure your tatting is free of fuzz, dust, loose hairs, dirt, or anything that you don't want included when the powder melts over and is absorbed. You will notice even though I used a magnifying glass to get rid of the thread fuzz in the examples, the embossing powder brings them out.

Holding your tatting against a small plate (I use an old saucer myself)or a plate larger than your tatting by the thread ends or added thread length from the edge of the plate; take a very small paint brush and dab into the powder and add the powder to your tatting. This will allow you control where the powder ends up. It will look like you just dropped it into powdered sugar when fully coated. You will need to do both sides separately. You can also simply dip your tatting into the powder and allow it to be coated that way. Shake off any excess.

If you have a small tatting you will need to use a thread threaded to through a picot or negative space in the tatting to allow it hang against the plate. Do not try to hold the tatting and use the heat gun, it will burn you severally if you get it to close to your fingers or skin. The heat gun is usually held about 1 1/2" to 2" from the item that has the powder on it.

Under a good light where you can see the detail. Letting the tatting dangle against the plate. Approach the tatting with the heat gun as to not allow it to blow away. Once you start to see the powder melting you can gauge how long to allow the heat to remain against the tatting. Once you are in proper proximity the melting takes place very quickly.

It takes a bit of practice to find the right angle and not have the tatting flying around. Use the plate to rebound the heat to the tatted item.

The embossing powder should begin to melt in about 3 seconds if the heat is correctly positioned over the tatting.

Lay the tatting aside to allow it to cool properly. Repeat the process if necessary until you have the desired stiffness, color and coating.

Here are some samples of the tatted butterfly that I coated with CLEAR embossing powder. The powder does have a kind of reflective opalescence to it before it is melted, but doesn't retain it after.

Plain Thread Tatted Butterfly in size 20 Hakelgarn. 6 cord cotton. The following 4 images are of the same tatted Butterfly. They are scanned at 300 dpi for extreme closeup for detail and no adjustments to the images so show the actual effect in the texture and color changes in the thread.
With first coat added with brush, notice if the coat was not even, as you can see in the picots on the right of butterfly you one can tell. The stiffness is equal to a light corn starching.
Fully dipped with embossing powder for a second coat. Here's where you will wonder where the sparkles are coming from and you thought you got all that fuzz off. The residue from the powder on my fingers and the plate is visible. Just melt again. It goes away. Stiffness equal to one coat of Stiffy.
Dipped a second time for a third coat. Notice the color of the thread getting progressively darker. Here it feels like you could break the tatting.
Dipped a third time for a fourth coat. The shine is starting to happen but not totally. The thread is getting super saturated and the crevasses in the thread filled. This final coat made it hard and really, really stiff.
The butterfly after washing and drying it and closer to actual size. Note you can wash it off after two coats as long as you are sure it has properly sealed the thread. Do not use a paper towel to dry it off. It will leave paper fuzz on it. I prefer laying out and air drying.

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Created November 30, 2006