Beading Thread 101
Who says size doesn’t matter? For beading thread it does!
Many seed-beaders don’t realize that beading threads have different widths, strengths, and qualities and blindly buy their thread based on price, color, or availability. But the type of thread you buy is just as important as the beads themselves. Thread truly is the backbone of an off-loom or loomed piece of beadwork, so should be considered carefully.
If you’re not sure about what type you should use, the best place to start is the materials list in your project’s instructions. The suggested beading thread is usually your best bet. As you learn more about beading thread, though, you’ll likely discover your individual preference. For instance, I used to only use Nymo or C-Lon. I liked the color selection and the silky feel. But I’ve recently been using crystals and stones so much in my work, so Fireline seems to be a better choice for its durability.
If you’re wondering about which thread is right for you, the best thing is to try all them! Thread is relatively inexpensive. But if that isn’t feasible, bum new threads off your beading buddies or go halfsies with a friend who wants to try new threads, too.
To get you started, here’s a list of some of the most popular threads for beadweaving with their particular attributes:
Nymo is a strong thread originally created for the shoemaking industry. Beaders love it for seed bead work because it’s strong, but it’s also enough like silk that the resulting beadwork is soft and supple, too. It’s made up of many twisted fibers of nylon. It’s most often available at bead shops by the bobbin in 00, 0, B, and D widths (thinnest to thickest—use 00 for projects with small beads and lots of thread passes, D for wider-holed beads and few passes). It comes in a rainbow of colors, so it’s easy to match the thread to your beads. This thread tends to fray, so use lots of beeswax or thread conditioner to keep the fibers stuck together. It also stretches while you use it, so it’s best to pre-stretch it before you start stitching.
C-Lon is a very strong polymer thread. It has all the same qualities of Nymo, but is slightly stronger and comes in a larger number of colors.
Silamide is another nylon thread. This one was originally made for the upholstery industry—it’s a pre-waxed thread that feels slightly different than Nymo because it’s got a twisted two-ply. You’ll most often find it at bead shops on cards, but you can also buy it in spools. There are many different colors to choose from, but not as many as Nymo and C-Lon. Even though this thread is pre-waxed, another light coat of beeswax will ensure the plies stick together.
PowerPro was first made for the fishing industry, so it comes in “tests”, which relates to how big of a fish you plan on catching! It’s a crazy strong braided thread that is silky like Nymo, C-Lon, and Silamide, but it doesn’t stretch. This stuff could just about pull a bus (don’t try that at home), so it’s great to use with abrasive beads like bugles and crystals because it doesn’t abrade like the other more traditional beading threads. It comes on spools, but only in white and moss. If you must have color, press the end of a length of white under a Sharpie in a color to match your beads and pull the thread through for instant colored thread. Since it’s so strong, it can be difficult to cut—the best way is with a children’s Fiskars scissors. This one is also tricky to thread, so if you’re impatient like me, you may want to try a Big-Eye needle for projects with PowerPro. Most beaders use a 10-pound test, which would work well for weaving a nice bracelet or–catching a delicious bass.
FireLine is another thread born out of the fishing industry. It comes in smoke gray and “crystal”, which is really a see-through white. It has most of the same attributes as PowerPro, but is slightly stiffer. When you cut FireLine it makes a clean end, so it’s a bit easier to thread.
Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!