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Beading Tips and Advice

Tips and Advice for Beading Thread

Faking Coloured Thread

If you have already looked at the thread section you will know I rarely use coloured thread, preferring to stick to white.

Occasionally, especially on 3D work, you may see a piece of white thread standing out against a contrasting colour. What I do here is use a felt tip pen in a similar colour to the beads and press it against the thread in the places where it is showing through.

The ink will soak into the thread and give the appearance of you having used a coloured thread in those places, without the potential of distorting any other colours in your piece.

Felt tip pens also come in many more colours than you will find in beading thread so you can match up your colours quite well. Am I the only person who when choosing felt pen colours looks for a DB723 red or a DB656 green colour? It might be just me 😊

Thread Keeps Knotting

This is always a frustrating one, but one that can be easily solved. There are several reasons for this and all are fixable:

  • You are working with a thread that is too long for you to handle, snip off some of the thread and you will find knotting is reduced. It’s usually better to work with a shorter thread and tie it off than struggle with thread that is unwieldy.
  • Your thread is twisted. As you are working, especially on round pieces, you can find over time the thread will twist, making knots every time you slacken the thread. Hold the beadwork up and let your needle spin freely to untwist the thread. Again shortening the thread can help here too.
  • Your thread is in poor condition. Once the wax coating on your thread gets destroyed, fibres from the thread will stick out and catch on other thread. As you are pulling the thread through a bead this will cause knots to form. Tie off thread and add on a new thread, problem solved!

Thread Keeps Breaking

Well pat yourself on the back for having super human strength! I have to say this is not an issue I have ever had, but there are several things that might be occurring that are causing you problems.

  • Your thread is not strong enough for the project, and by that I mean you are using the wrong thread. Most threads work for the purpose they are intended, but if you are using a thread that is unsuitable then you will run into problems. For instance, using a thread like Nymo on a necklace using heavy beads will not work as well as something like fireline and could eventually break.
  • You have a bad batch of thread. It can happen where they may be a fault within the thread or it may be old thread that has not been stored well and has deteriorated. A couple of times I have had the thread snap when using a brand new spool of thread. In the manufacturing process when they join a new piece of thread onto the spool for whatever reason it may not adhere correctly. So even a little bit of tension snaps the thread, but the rest of the spool is ok. This is just one of those things, sigh, add a new piece of thread and carry on.
  • Your thread is in poor condition. By this I don't mean a bad batch as above, but its condition has deteriorated as you have worked with it. Once you notice damage to your thread replace it. See our tips for techniques to reduce this happening Tip: Looking After Your Thread
  • Your beads are abrasive. A lot of the time people forget that beads are made of glass and edges of glass can be sharp. You may not feel it but your thread will, certain beads can be sharper than others, think matte, satin finishes etc. Also check that when you are pulling the thread through is your thread running against the bead at a right angle to the thread, if it is you are making the problem worse. Hold your beadwork in such a way that is it not at right angles to your thread.

Cutting Thread

On Nymo and KO always use embroidery scissors with a thin sharp blade which allows you to get close to the beadwork.

With Fireline you will need stronger scissors, never use your embroidery scissors as it will blunt them. I tend to use my thread zapper, I like how close I can get to the beadwork and how neat the finish is. I find with stronger scissors comes thicker blades and its very difficult to hide the ends or tidy them up later.

Twisted Thread

Are you picking up your beadwork and find with every bead you are adding you are getting into a knotted mess. This is infuriating but the cause is very simple to rectify.

When you are beading, especially in the round, you will find that you are actually slightly twisting your thread as you are working. So hold up your beadwork and let your needle and thread spin freely untwisting your thread, you will find your thread will stop knotting so much.

If you are finding this is not the case and you are still getting in a tangle then check your thread, is it getting worn? If it is then its time to replace it will a new thread. If its not then it may be your thread is too long for you to handle, shorten your thread - the less thread there is the less thread to tangle!

Invisible Thread

If you have already looked at our threads section you will see I am not a huge a fan of invisible thread, and I only use it very sparingly in designs when there is an absolute need for it, such as lanterns or tea lights.

However don’t be scared off, although it is more difficult to use than a thread such as Nymo or Fireline, I have gone through the painful learning process so you don’t have to!

Firstly use a shorter length of thread than you usually would. Don’t be tempted to load on lots of thread on your needle, it won’t work and you will get into a big frustrating tangle.

Do not stretch the thread or pull the thread tight as you are adding beads on. This will cause the thread to become curly, meaning knots are only a few beads away… and then you are left try getting knots out of invisible thread (fyi it’s not fun!)

For invisible thread we recommend Beadalon’s Supplemax 0.15mm, however other invisible threads will work, but be careful of the diameter, the larger you go the more space there will between each bead meaning some 3 dimensional beading will not work.

Invisible thread is quite slippery, when tying off/on do a bit more weaving and turns that you would on normal thread, as it tends to pull out much easier.

This is not necessary with Supplemax, but if you are finding the end of the thread difficult to pass through the eye of the needle, use a pair of pliers to squash the end of the thread to flatten it (trim this flattened end of before you start working though).

Tying Thread Off/On

When tying off thread, there are several things you should do to ensure a nice neat finish. Check out our article in our beading section for the best practices we recommend, Beading: Tying Thread Off / On

Looking After Your Thread

Firstly, I always recommend storing your thread out of direct sunlight and away from humid and moist atmospheres. For instance store in a plastic or glass jar in a drawer or cupboard. There is little point going to the effort of beading if the material you are using will let you down.

My next point is technique, and I have to say some of you have very funny techniques which are causing you problems.

  • Firstly, check how you are holding your beadwork and how you are pulling your thread through it. Your thread should be pulled through the beadwork in line with the holes of the beads, it should not be pulled at an angle to the beadwork rubbing on the sides of the beads.
  • Next check when you are picking up a bead in the previous row, is there resistance to the needle. If so you might be catching the previous thread. Each time you do this you are separating the fibres on the previous thread and forcing your working thread through them, rubbing off a little bit of wax each time. It won't take long before all the wax has been removed and the thread starts to unravel. Try to get in the habit of passing your needle through a previous bead towards the top of the hole, if you feel resistance try again.
  • Finally, undoing beadwork. If you have made a mistake (we all do), you might be tempted to rip out several beads at a time - if you do your thread will not like you for it, it prefers one bead carefully at a time. Who has time for that! I prefer to snip out the offending section and add on a new thread, its quicker and you are always working with undamaged thread.