"Just Add Creativity...."™

Stringing and Threading Materials
Copyright Beadaddict, 2004

With so many products on the market, your choices for stringing and threading can be very confusing - we have summarised the advantages and disadvantages of the supplies we have available to help you make appropriate jewellery stringing decisions. © Beadaddict, 2004

Acculon/Tigertail - This is one of the first threads that you might start beadworking with...its cheap and its strong, a product that is excellent for beginners, or for when you don't want to add significant stringing material costs to your jewellery - ours is a braided 7-strand stainless steel wire sheathed in a soft nylon coat. The wire is relatively flexible but if you manage to kink it, it seems that you can never get rid of that kink and it will be evident in your piece of jewellery - if you kink it, start with a new piece. You'll need crimps to work with this wire (see our 'How To' guide in this section) as to try to knot it is just disaster waiting to happen - it simply will not knot - but its good thread to crimp with and it is good for most weights of beads - the nylon coating is useful too when your bead edges are a little rough, as it delays wear on the stainless steel wire within the coating, giving your jewellery a longer life. © Beadaddict, 2004

Beadalon - is quite simply my favourite beading thread for my own style of jewellery making - I have tried other products, and whilst they have their own applications, the 'Professional' variety is the one I always come back to because I can crimp it or/and knot it, and it seems to be forgiving and extremely strong - you'll see in this article that there are many other threads for various applications, but this is my true love in stringing supplies. Our Beadalon comes in two 'grades'; Craft/Flexible and Professional. © Beadaddict, 2004

Flexible/Craft (7 Strand); The Craft 7-strand variety is the entry level Beadalon and this has seven strands of braided stainlesss steel wire with a nylon coating - a nice product which is softer and more flexible than Tigertail/Acculon, and which you can secure with crimps - it is kink resistant but not kink proof, and I know of one jewellery maker who, if she manages to put a kink in hers, heats it with a hairdryer to relax it - I don't know about the advisability of this in terms of what might come back at you off the coating, but its a thought. I have had very little success in knotting this type of Beadalon - it is not soft enough to do this - but it is a higher spec. product than Acculon. © Beadaddict, 2004

Beadalon 19 Strand - exhibts greater flexibility than Beadalon 7 Strand - this medium has 19 Strands within the sheath making it more flexible than 7 strand and is a nice weight/stranding to work for general use and, will bend better than 7 strand but is still not kink-proof - I would not advise knotting this type of Beadalon and it is best used with crimps, it is a relatively low-cost stringing medium with a fairly good drape to it - in this range of Beadalon, we have silver and gold options and if it is important to you to match the wire colour to your project then this is a valuable option; I always use the Gold colour for my gold themed jewellery, and so on . © Beadaddict, 2007

Beadalon Professional (49 Strand) - This is my first and favourite stringing choice - this has 49 strands of braided wire within the nylon coating and it comes in different weights - you use a lightweight (eg. .013") for little beads (or double it for extra strength) and heavier weights (eg. .018") for bigger beads or go for a middle weight and this might just see you through everything - its up to you and your jewellery making style but you should find one which suits you here - Beadalon Professional is very forgiving, and whilst it is not totally kink proof, it is so soft that it is easier to work with than the other 'grades' of similar products - I can knot this, crimp it, plait it, whatever, and it seems to work - its an absolute pleasure and it drapes very nicely - it is possible to break the lower weight stuff if you put a lot of pressure on it but I think you would have to be the Incredible Hulk to break the higher weights - its more likely that your crimp endings would give before the thread would; this is great to use with glass or with semi-precious stones as these might have uneven edges and the stringing will last for longer than - for instance - silk - it also strings pearls beautifully. © Beadaddict, 2004

Chain - we've included this in this list because it is one of your options - personally I love chain as it lends itself well to my own jewellery making style - a length of chain, some wire or headpins and some charms, a clasp and you have a dangle style bracelet. We stock sterling, silver, gold plated and gold-filled, where we can obtain stocks. © Beadaddict, 2007

Fireline - We stock 6 pound test Fireline and its equivalent is Nymo D - which is the most popular size of such thread in our experience.This thread is a man made spun material and is very very strong indeed - it is excellent for woven projects - either on or off loom, if your project is woven then this is an excellent product to use and I have found this is relatively resistant to wear and tear from something like bugle beads which can be a little sharp inside, which can shorten the life of a piece of jewellery - Fireline is smoky grey in colour which is a good inbetween for either light or dark coloured projects (- and the only colour Fireline produce at present), cut this with a pair of scissors rather than your wire cutters and you would normally thread it through a needle to use the thread itself; knot this thread rather than crimp it. © Beadaddict, 2004

Gimp Wire/French Wire/Bullion - this is sold in silver colour and gold colour - a tightly coiled flexible wire which is cut into small lengths by the jewellery maker, a delicate thread such as silk is threaded with a bead and then the bullion wire using a needle , over which a clasp may be put, the bullion wire with the clasp within its circle is then pulled back through the anchor bead and knotted, creating a durable ring for the clasp to fit in, prolonging the life of the silk stringing - it can also be used with other threads to give a professional finish and is a useful piece of kit to have in your beady arsenal. © Beadaddict, 2004

Man Made Thread - This thread (which we no longer stock due to its not being colourfast) is an inexpensive option in stringing 'tin-cup' style jewellery, i.e., a piece which has a knot, a bead, a knot, a length of the thread and then a repeat of this - its mostly used for its colour - you want something in purple which shows off the thread, this is the stuff to use - its not stretchy and it is designed to knot rather than crimp, though I have made jewellery with it which is both knotted in the main body and crimped at the clasp - I have also made jewellery where I have braided different colours of this thread together to produce a one-off stringing thread for a particular project; the main benefit of this inexpensive thread was the variety of colours - the drawback is that if you used purple, often you would end up with purple skin..... © Beadaddict, 2007

Memory Wire - this stuff is great and it does have a special place in beaded jewellery making - Memory wire is basically a coil of ultra strong tempered stainless steel which makes some of the quickest jewellery you can imagine - there are a couple of ways of finishing this wire off - firstly you could use a half-drilled bead which can then be glued on, or you can make a loop with your round nose pliers, and thread on the beads against that - we used to sell the custom Memory Wire end caps which are designed to be used with the wire, but to be honest we found that whatever glue we used, they eventually flew off and you had a beady catastrophe on your hands (literally, if it was a bracelet) - so nowadays we just use our pliers and a good loop on the end, which you can then embellish with a few dangles, or you could make that loop look good with a bit of bullion wire to cover it up - its up to you. When you cut this wire, you need special 'Memory Wire Cutters' - no, this is not a con, its really true - I have found this out the hard way and wrecked a couple of pairs of very good pliers trying to cut through Memory Wire with them. One further tip with memory wire is to protect your eyes when cutting it, and certainly not to allow children to cut or coil it unsupervised - this product produces fast and reliable results and is a pleasure to use. © Beadaddict, 2004

Monofilament/ Illusion Cord I confess that this is not my favourite stringing material, but like many people, it is the product I started stringing with - it does, however have its uses - this is a single strand nylon thread which is similar to fishing line - its an inexpensive product which is relatively strong and a worthwhile addition to your bead kit - there are pluses and minuses on this product which you should be aware of when considering using it - the pluses are that it is inexpensive - use it in making a mock up or practice piece of jewellery with minimum costs, before you make something up with more costly and permanent stringing materials; Monofilament is also generally clear coloured (though coloured versions are obtainable) - for when you want to make an 'illusion' or 'floating' style piece of jewellery - this looks like you have a bead necklace with no stringing in between or where you want to 'hide' the thread and indeed, to me this is its main application - the other plus of this stuff is that you can use it in making a mock up or practice piece of jewellery without it costing a lot, before you make something up with more costly and permanent stringing materials and you can use the same piece over and over; the downsides of it are that over time, it can shrink and crack (over a long time, that is) - I only have to look at vintage strung jewellery to see evidence of this and this is perhaps as a result of a reaction with oils from the skin and even cosmetics and it would only be fair to point out that other products have not been on the market for this length of time for us to make such judgements on its long-term performance; it is also relatively easy for a rough bead to work its way through it (so if you do intend to use it, think about at least doubling it). It does have its place but be aware of these points when using it - it can be knotted or crimped but I would always recommend backing up your knots or crimps with a dab of glue just to make doubly sure. © Beadaddict, 2004

Beadalon Supplemax - this is Beadalon's version of Monofilament - information as above.

Nymo comes in various sizes, but the one we sell is 'D' as it is a good general-purpose size - this is a lightly pre-waxed nylon thread which is excellent for woven beadwork projects - for instance two-needle weaving, peyote, brick stitch or beadlooming with seed beads/rocailles and the like, and I also find it great for the groundwork for embellishments on velvet collars (rather than using cotton thread which does not have the same strength to size ratio) or for stitching embellishments to ribbon - so you need a needle with this and it is secured by knotting - work in short lengths as the end and the wear place where the eye of the needle fits tends to fray if you work the same piece for too long, but it is reasonably strong for its size and the pre-waxed element of it means that it slithers through fabric or beads quite well - it is primarily made for lightweight beads and you might want to consider doubling it, even then it should not be used for heavier beads as it is just not made for this application. © Beadaddict, 2004

Powerpro - a pre-waxed man-made equivalent to silk but with greater strength, this is a soft thread which needs to be threaded with a needle - if you imagined a hybrid between something like Nymo and silk, then you might come out with Powerpro - good for knotting and very stong indeed, this thread is also fray resistant (which silk is not), and it has less of a reaction to oils in the skin than silk though it is not as thick as silk - another option for beadweaving and such projects - it is stiffer than Nymo, or threading and knotting pearls for a longer lasting stringing job than silk. © Beadaddict, 2004

Rattail A man-made satin feel cord with a lovely feel to it and a most unfortunate name, Rattail is a good inexpensive decorative cord for stringing pendants such as dichroics or donuts, this thread comes in array of pretty colours which can be matched to or contrasted with your item; to finish this off you could simply knot it, and it is good for making decorative knots - alternatively, we sell sterling silver cord ends that can be used with this cord - dip a small section of the end of the cord into PVA glue and let this dry, this will then be stiff enough to glue into your cord end and this can then be squeezed in the middle to give that extra bit of strength. © Beadaddict, 2004

Ribbon/Velvet Grossly undervalued as a stringing product, ribbon and velvets still have yet to experience a major focus by jewellery makers, but I feel that these products add femininity,luxury and value for a relatively low cost - a tip to remember though is that the ribbon should be as soft as possible if it is to lie against the skin though of course such materials come in a variety of weights, sizes and hardnesses, some with wired edges - and I have been known to back ribbons and velvets with soft silk to cover my beadwork and embroidery on the back to give a more professional finish. But how to finish off these stringing materials? A variety of options spring to mind - there are ribbon ends/clamps that can be used but I was frustrated that generally these seem to be silvertone or goldtone rather than sterling or vermeil - so I suggest the following - consider whether you really need to use findings on a lovely piece of ribbon - why not maker a choker that just ties on - you've got two ends, let the wearer tie them in a bow - and this has the advantage of making that choker the perfect size for anyone - of course, you will need to finish off the ends professionally to stop them fraying but if you tuck the raw edge in, bring the ribbon round and stitch that together in a matching thread (you can always hide the stitching with a 'decorative' row of tiny seed beads, then press the seam with your iron, that would look great - you could even add a couple of dangles to the end of that to give the impression that that is the end and to give the ends a little weight. Or, thread your pendant onto the ribbon (or do your beading) and at the ends, string on a large holed and attractive bead and then your clasp fittings - then bring your ribbon back through the bead and knot it a couple of times, really tightly without crushing the rest of the ribbon to death, and glue it to make it very very safe, leaving it until the glue dries - then gently pull the knot into the middle of the bead and your knot is hidden, trimming off any excess ribbon as close to the bead as possible - this of course is only useful for fine and lightweight ribbon, but it demonstrates how there is no wrong or right way to do anything. © Beadaddict, 2004

Italian Metallic Tubular Mesh Ribbon - stretch this into your own shape to embellish, stitch, wire into, thread, and either tie or use ribbon clamps for the end - lots of possibilities here including putting your beads in the middle and tying or threading a bead in-between each one; this is a look that can be used for both jewellery and belts; this ribbon/cord is very soft and easy to use - just remember that by stretching it, you will use more of your metre than as if it were left 'flat'; this is dependent on what sort of look you want - the ribbon, once used can be pulled back into a flat shape and reused - gives lots of possibilities for chokers and bracelets, and once a piece of jewellery is made, the item can be shaped to the wearer (shorter or longer) or the shape simply changed - it does not hold its shape and will need gentle reshaping each time a piece is worn - very pretty and decorative, we really like this ribbon and it is often pretty using a number of colours together. It is made from extremely thin strands of metal woven into a braided tube. Ribbon measures 6mm wide in it's natural state (as supplied), extends upto 25mm wide. May also be used for window displays. Continuous lengths are sold off the reel. © Beadaddict, 2007

Rubber Cord - this cord is lovely and soft with an up to the minute feel - it has a very different appearance to the leather we sell - we have cord ends (and cord end kits) which will fit this rubber - a dot of (super) glue in the end, push the rubber in, crush the middle of the cord end and the glue inside will harden to make a secure end - be very careful when crushing the cord end not to cut the rubber as it is so soft. This material has so many possibilities other than just using it as a pendant stringing choker style; it also has a masculine appearance if you are thinking of making jewellery for men. © Beadaddict, 2008

Rubber Tube - this is a nice addition to the range - either put your Memory Wire inside this tubing or use some sort of (base or precious) metal wire - the heavier the guage of wire used the firmer the form of the tube, and you could then do inventive things like 'write' with the tube and wire or make intersesting shapes to work with - cut the tube and intersperse with wire - lots of possibilities with this medium. © Beadaddict, 2007

Silk Thread - when one thinks of luxurious strings of pearls, silk thread is never far behind - a beautiful natural material that comes in a variety of colours and weights which is usually knotted in between each pearl; this is a classic threading component which will never go out of style, despite the perceived advantages of man-made items, nothing can equal the sheen of silk - saying something is strung on silk immediately gives a high-end status to special jewellery. When threading pearls or gemstones, make sure to protect the clasp area from the additional wear and tear of the fittings by using bullion/gimp/French wire. Over time, oils from the skin and cosmetics can weaken silk stringing and so such threading on special pieces of jewellery should be checked and restrung as necessary, but probably every few years; treated badly and used inappropriately - for instance with beads that are too heavy for the silk, it can stretch and distort and therefore it is the responsibility of the jewellery maker to ensure that silk is appropriate for the task; used correctly, there is nothing to equal this thread, and I have made jewellery that uses silk as a component to be shown off, as in the classic 'tin-cup' style of jewellery. © Beadaddict, 2004

Stretch Magic - when you think of stretchy jewellery, this is probaby the stuff you think of - this can be crimped or knotted, and it is ideal for inexpensive or children's jewellery - ours is 'clear' coloured .5mm and it is good for multi or single stranded projects without clasps - children can make their own jewellery with it - it is strong, though if stretched too far the stretch will go out of it, so it is important to understand what the stretch tolerances are before making your piece of jewellery by cutting off a piece and playing with it - its nice and soft to work with and the clear variety is a best of both worlds as it is suitable for dark or light beads; experiment with different weights of beads, but it is reasonably strong so even chunky bracelets should be OK with this stringing material, though sharp edges on beads will eventually work through the thread. © Beadaddict, 2004

Gossamer Floss - a white stretchy stringing material which comes in one diameter of .5mm, though it can be used in multiples of this in stringing - the makers state that it will stretch to 700% of its original size without losing its memory - meaning that you could stretch it a long way and is should (in theory) ping back into shape, which is helpful when you want to get that stretchy bracelet over your hand - to be honest, I haven't tried this with a finished piece, as I don't have the time to restring something that I have wrecked by trying out a theory - but it is very strong, flexible and soft and it is basically an ultra stretchy thread which is great for multi-stranded slip-on style bracelets - thread it using a needle, and knot it rather than crimp it as crimps will fray it - its a nice material to use for its softness and its pretty sheen and to me, seems to be the grown up version of Stretch Magic. © Beadaddict, 2004

(Simulated) Suede and Leather Cording- a good option for stringing pendants, often with the miniumum effort, the suede in particular could just be tied in a knot and worn with a focal piece - these stringing materials are for this reason able to be worked quickly and inexpensively in terms of time with a piece of jewellery and are currently one of the major jewellery stringing trends. As with anything, there's leather and suede, and then there's good quality leather and suede and the difference in quality is like the difference between a dog and a cat; the good quality stuff really adds something to a piece of jewellery and can turn something simple into something extravagant. Finishing off these products is along the same principle as the Rubber Cord above; we changed from animal derived suede to simulated some time ago as it is much softer, available in many more consistent dye colours (and animal friendly) than leather (we mean - it doesn't smell like the inside of a car...thank goodness!). © Beadaddict, 2004

Wire:- another of my favourite jewellery making options, wire jewellery making and the use of wire in jewellery is different from stringing - personally I love wire because it is a component rather than an option, and it is something that I enjoy working with - you can do lots of things with wire, limited only by one's imagination and my favourite is sterling - it can be manipulated in so many ways - coiling, hammering, texturing and so on, that the possibilities are infinite; the finest sized wire can be used for bead crochet. © Beadaddict, 2007

Base Metal Wire
We offer base metal wire in goldtone and silvertone and it is offered in a variety of sizes to perform different functions within jewellery making - the thinnest wire is good for bead crochet or for wiring delicate structures, and the heavier the wire, the sturdier the structure of the piece one is working - for instance, when making Tiaras, I will use something like a 20 or 24 gauge wire for the structure, and someting like a 28 or 30 gauge for wired details - the base metal wire is usually a copper core overlaid with a thin coating of gold or silver. © Beadaddict, 2004

Semi-Precious Metal Wire - Copper - soft to work with, this metal wire will oxidise over time and will change colour from orangey-copper to a dark patina...inexpensive and great to use for practice before going on to Precious Metal wires. © Beadaddict, 2007

Semi-Precious Metal Wire - Gold Filled - is a tarnish resistant layer of gold over a base metal core (either brass or copper) that is in common use by jewellery designers in the United States as a valuable, affordable option without the price of gold - a pressure bonded, thicker layer of gold than plated - ours is 1/20th 14 karat gold over base, and has more of the quality of the real thing to it - this is something we have used in our own jewellery for some time with pleasing and successful results; this lasts far far longer than base metal wire, though you need to remind your customers that it is NOT gold and they should still not swim, bathe, and spray perfume or cosmetics over the wire as this will not enhance its life. © Beadaddict, 2007

Precious Metal Wire I love sterling wire - it comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and weights like the base metal wire above, but it is .925 parts silver, which means it is Sterling. Sterling wire comes in three hardnesses - 'Dead Soft', 'Half-Hard' and 'Hard' - basically wire starts off soft and hardens with working - I have tried working with the hard and half-hard wire and I believe it is easier to start off with something that is soft and work it into something harder than to start with something hard and end up with sore fingers and hands - working hardens silver, and so does hammering, and over time, wearing hardens sterling as well. The versatility of this medium makes it special, it is soft and forgiving and it increases the value of a piece of jewellery from being made from a precious metal from something that is a low value throwaway item to something that will hopefully be passed from one generation to the next and loved beyond the life of the jewellery maker itself - endless possibilities with this stringing material. © Beadaddict, 2004

and finally... Thread Heaven Why would we need this? This is one of those products that you could get away without, but would probably be better with. Why? Its great as a gentle lubricant for managing to string recalcitrant beads which are a little too tight onto a stringing material (doesn't always work, but its worth a try), and its something to run Nymo or any sewing thread through when stitching or weaving beads and it helps to prevent tangling and fraying - its not a necessity but it is something that you will miss not having from time to time. © Beadaddict, 2004

Written by Stephanie Lewis-Cooper for www.beadaddict.co.uk and www.beadaddict.co.uk; all text is Copyright © of Beadaddict and SLC Designs, 2004-7; no reproduction or copying without express written permission of the author.