Here’s a detailed look at the two most common types of beading thread used in bead-weaving.
Nylon Beading Threads
This is the type of beading thread I got started with when I was learning how to bead. Nymo is by far the most popular and widely available nylon beading thread available, and from what I’ve seen, you either love it or you hate it for bead weaving. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground on this one!
Nylon beading threads are strong, multi-strand threads that were originally developed for the garment and upholstery industries. You can find nylon beading threads sold under brand names like Nymo, Silamide, K-O, and S-Lon.
What are the advantages of using nylon beading threads? Nylon beading threads for bead weaving are easy to find in most local bead shops and online. They come in a wide range of colors and thicknesses, and are inexpensive; usually in the range of one to four dollars for a large spool. Cutting a nylon beading thread is easy to do using a good pair of embroidery scissors, so no special thread cutters are necessary.
Nylon beading threads create bead weaving that feels like a supple fabric, so they are perfect for off-loom beading stitches like right-angle weave, herringbone stitch, and square stitch. The thinner nylon beading threads work well with beading stitches that require more than one pass through each bead.
What are the disadvantages of using nylon beading threads? Because they are made up of multiple strands, you need to take care to not split your threads when bead weaving with nylon beading thread. A split thread is a weak thread, and that can create a hole in your bead work, or worse yet, cause your piece to fall apart. To prevent splitting threads, always hold your beading thread to the top of your beads while passing your needle through the bottom.
Nylon beading threads (except for Silamide, which is a pre-waxed beading thread) should also be conditioned with thread conditioner before you start to stitch. Using a thread conditioner like microcrystalline beeswax prevents tangles and knots and makes your thread a little more waterproof.
Bonded Beading Threads
Bonded beading threads have taken over the bead thread market in the last few years. These types of threads are also known as gel-spun polyethylene threads and are sold under names like Fireline, Spiderwire, PowerPro, and Wildfire. They were originally developed as fishing line for sportsmen, but some clever beader somewhere discovered that these kinds of threads make a great beading thread, much to the chagrin of avid fishermen like my husband.
What are the advantages of using bonded beading threads? If you’ve ever spent more than fifteen minutes trying to untangle a knot from your nylon beading thread, you’ll understand why I love bonded beading threads so much. Tangles and knots seem to undo themselves with minimal tinkering from me, and without conditioning. Although some bead artists advocate conditioning your bonded beading threads the same way you condition a nylon beading thread, I’ve never had much trouble with an unconditioned bonded beading thread.
It’s much more difficult to split your beading thread when using a bonded beading thread. It can happen, but you really have to work at it. Bonded beading threads create a slightly stiffer piece of bead work than nylon beading threads, so they can work well for sculptural bead weaving projects.
In addition to being sold at bead shops and through online beading supply companies, bonded beading threads can also be found in outdoor supply and sporting goods stores alongside fishing rods and fishing lures.
What are the disadvantages of bonded beading threads? Bonded beading threads cost significantly more than their nylon counterparts, so for some folks, that’s a deal breaker. A good way to shop for your bonded beading threads is to look for weekly coupons and rebates offered in the outdoor supply stores where they are sold.
If you’re buying your bonded beading threads from an outdoor supply or sporting goods store, you can usually only find just a few colors — crystal/white, dark green, and black. When using the black or smoke colored bonded beading thread, it’s generally advisable to wipe each length of thread down with a damp cloth to prevent the color from coming off on your fingers as you stitch.
So Which Beading Thread is Right For Me?
That’s a question about beading thread that I can’t answer. Personally, I use both Nymo and Fireline for most of my bead weaving projects. I don’t think I’d be able to choose a favorite beading thread if I had to, because both of them have their advantages and are particularly useful for the way I do bead weaving and bead embroidery. Use a few different types and brands of beading threads and see which one you like the best. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to beading thread for bead-weaving!
Once you’re ready to test-drive a new beading thread, turn to the pages of Beadwork magazine for scads of fabulous and innovative beading projects! Each issue is packed with the latest and greatest in beading products (like beading threads), step-by-step instructions and techniques, and all the great beading projects that you expect from Beadwork magazine. Subscribe to Beadwork magazine, and you’ll never find yourself wondering what to bead up next!
Now, I want to hear from you! Weigh in on the Great Thread Debate. What beading thread is the one you can’t live without? Leave a comment and let’s talk about our favorite beading threads!
P.S. Want to see some of the great patterns you’ll find in this month’s Beadwork magazine?
Clinging Vine Bracelet
by Christina Prince.
Saturn of the Sea
by Sue Jackson & Wendy Hubick.
Drop Dead Gorgeous Earrings
by Tina Hauer.