Thread is Cheaper Than Frustration and 4 More Thread Tips

"Thread is cheaper than frustration." That was some recent advice I received from Bead Expo Philadelphia instructor Liz Smith. I laughed when I read her email because it reminded me of when I started to learn beadweaving. Coming from the world of expensive beading wire, I was afraid of wasting thread so I used these ridiculously short pieces two and three inches long. I struggled to learn the various stitches until one day I used the exact amount of thread (something like 4 feet!) that a project recommended. I couldn't believe how much easier that made everything! That was a big lesson for me: don't be so afraid of wasting thread that you waste a lot of time!

Here are four more thread tips from Bead Fest Philadelphia instructors. Click on the instructor names for more information about them and their classes.

Preparing Your Thread

Many problems with thread can be avoided with a little preparation.

"Easy, breezy, quick and clean way to prepare your beading thread–simply take your working length and PULL it at full strength for a short moment. This slight stretching removes the thread "memory" to curl and provides a straighter fiber, causing far fewer tangles while you work. For those us who dislike the sensation of beeswax or thread conditioners on our fingers, this simple trick can reduce the potential for tangles significantly!"–Christina Vandervlist

At left: Triangles Bracelet by Debi Keir-Nicholson and Christina Vandervlist is being taught at Bead Expo Philadelphia.


Dottie's tip on knotting is useful for any type of stringing material whether you're knotting pearls on silk thread or stringing chunky plastic beads on ribbon. I use this tip all the time!

"To get that knot right next to the bead when stringing pearls or doing macrame, try this: Tie a loose overhand knot close to the bead. Insert a T pin or the point of an awl through the center of that knot. Grasp the cord and use the awl to push the loose knot down against the bead. Pull the knot tight around the awl point and pull the point out. Then give it one final push, holding it between your fingers, against the bead. Works every time!"–Dottie Hoeschen

Avoiding "Whiskers"

If you've ever had little bits of thread stick out of your beadwork instead of staying neatly tucked inside the beads, you'll want to try Liz's advice. Start by watching where you cut your thread. Liz recommends that you try not to cut the thread at the knot as "that is a weak spot where the thread could pull out."

"When nearing the end of your thread (and leave at least six inches to play with because thread is cheaper than frustration), make a few half-hitch knots between beads. You can also weave an X as you normally would end a thread. Then string three or four beads next to your last knot (following the thread path), dab a little clear nail polish on the thread, and pull the thread slowly through the beads. The idea is that the glue holds the thread inside the beads so that the whiskers don't pop out. After a few moments, zap the remaining thread. Later, if whiskers do emerge, just pat them gently with your zapper to melt them down."–Liz Smith

Double Crystal Cuff by Liz Smith is being taught at Bead Expo Philadelphia. 

Keep Pets Safe

When you've finished beading, make your cleanup quick and safe.

"Make sure to keep needles and all forms of beading thread away from your pets. Even a short length of a few inches of thread can be deadly. I always wrap leftover lengths of thread around two fingers and then cut the coil so the thread becomes harmless. It only takes a moment and can save your pet's life."–Judy Walker

How do you keep thread from tangling or fraying? What kind of thread works best? Share your tips on the website.

Coming This Week: On Wednesday, Jean Campbell will share the special meaning behind gemstones and on Friday, I'll share a free bead embroidery project.

Free Project Library Update: It's spring cleaning time!  We will be moving some of the older free projects (May 2007 and earlier) into the Project Store so that designers will be able to earn royalties on those designs in the future. Please take some time this week to download your favorite older projects from the Free Project Library.

Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.


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Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

4 thoughts on “Thread is Cheaper Than Frustration and 4 More Thread Tips

    heat up an old curling iron. Loop the thread around the bar one time and gently pull through, letting the “thread” fall into large loops at your feet. Let it cool, then loop around your hand and place into a baggy until you are ready to use it. This sets the thread, reduces kinks, and lessons the tendency of tangles. marilyn peters – Vallejo, CA

    Comment by: marilyn p | May 12, 2008

    Once I started using Nymo D thread on the *very large cone*, all my thread problems went away! This Nymo is not as tightly wound as the bobbin Nymo, is a little thicker(even though both say “D”), and has a great coating that virtually eliminates fraying. I LOVE this thread. It’s a little harder to find, but totally worth it!

    Comment by: Marissa M | May 12, 2008

    Another pet-related tip…When I am working, I always make sure that I have a handy place for hiding my work when I have to get up for a few minutes…Otherwise, the thread taunts my cats while I am gone, and I inevitably walk back into the room to find a cat gnawing away at my Fireline. I have a nice wood lapdesk with a cushioned base that I use when working in the bedroom or living room – that way, when I get up, I can just slide my project inside until I get back. It makes me happy, it’s better for my cats, and they like it because Mom doesn’t get angry with them :o) Katie – Spring, TX

    Comment by: Katie N | May 12, 2008

    I have been using SONO exclusively. I like the feel and no(fewer,anyway!) tangles. I ran out of black and used my nymo and the feeling just isnt the same. In fact undoing my first mistake,I had split the thread and had to restart. I have only done beadweaving,havent learned to work with wire or stringing-soon as I do all the patterns I have lined up!! Thanks so much for your site-I have never met another beader personally but am glad you all are out there!!

    Comment by: celia d | May 12, 2008

    I am new to beads! Right angle beading. Is there such a Left angle beading? I am south-paw person! Happy Mother’s Day!

    Comment by: IRENE G | May 12, 2008

    KO thread is great and so is Sono. Nymo doesn’t compare

    Comment by: Judy H | May 12, 2008

    Since all I do is work with thread for my seed and small beading projects I like the cones more then the small spools. I try for months and months to break my threaded beading projects so I can learn about my own work, pulling on them, getting them wet, sleeping and doing farm chores with them.. Thread is tougher then the impression I was given from other beaders.

    Comment by: patricia c | May 12, 2008

    My mother taught this to me with regular sewing thread, but it works with any – silk, cotton, blend. You hold the ends of the thread (no more than 16~18″ at a time if you are using a longer piece) and pull it TAUT. Using one of your thumbs, flick hard on the thread as if you’re playing on the string! It is amazing how any curls or kinks come right out of it.

    Comment by: Miho A | May 12, 2008

    I started using Fireline 6lb test about 5 years ago before it became known to beaders. If you have not tried this, please give it a whirl. There is no fraying, ever and it does not need conditioning. The manufacturer tells us that the Fireline has no memory. That means that it will conform to whatever configuration your beading takes. It is durable and strong and I would never switch to any other thread for my beadweaving. I teach classes weekly, and when some of my students try the Fireline for the first time, they are instantly hooked! if you work with size 15/0 or delicas, 4 lb test is great. The 6lb test in either smoke or crystal is perfect for size 11/0 seed beads. With 8/0 or 6/0 beads, definitely use the 8 or 10lb test. I have never seen a student who tried the Fireline ever switch back to anything else. Try it, you’ll like it!

    Comment by: Cathi T | May 12, 2008

    Thank you for writing about this topic! I know that I should leave myself enough room to end the thread comfortably, yet I keep thinking – don’t waste the thread! I will think about this day’s topic whenever I am being too “budgeted” with my thread ends! Amy K

    Comment by: Amy K | May 13, 2008

    Ditto on the Fireline. It is the BEST! Love it, and wouldn’t use anything else.

    Comment by: Rita M | May 13, 2008

    I am currently using Nymo on a amulet bag. I was constantly having problems with fraying. (I am using the flame from a lighter to remove the obvious fraying, carefully and briefly). When I read the solution to stretch the thread. I worked great! Thank you ever so much.

    Comment by: S W | May 14, 2008

  2. What kind of thread and needles are right for size 15 beads? What happens if you are using different bead sizes in a project, do you have to switch threads abd needles? I would appreciate some tips.
    Riki M

  3. Right now I am teaching myself right angle weave. I am experimenting with various threads, and wow, a huge difference depending on the thread used. I have this thread called One G, and so far it is the best for this particular project project. I realize it is well worth my while to do a bunch of samples with different threads.

  4. My cat swallowed a length of stray fire line and had to have abdominal surgery. They had to open her intestinal tract in 5 places! It was horrifying! Keep your thread always hidden away when you are not there. Now I cut all of my scraps into small pieces before throwing in the waste basket.