Beading Thread 101

Jun 4, 2008

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 This one was originally made for the upholstery industry—it’s a pre-waxed thread that feels slightly different than Nymo because it’s got a twisted two-ply.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!



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Comments

on Jun 4, 2008 1:53 PM

Jean:

You've left out a new thread, Toho One-G, which is a nylon thread similar to Nymo, but which doesn't tangle like Nymo can.  It only comes in one size, but I really like it for my Right Angle Weave projects.

Regards,

Pat Walters

Mary AlineJ wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 1:53 PM

What about some size comparisons ... what would be the equivalent size of Nymo D in say Fireline (4#, 6#, 8#, 10#)?

on Jun 4, 2008 2:05 PM

I really like Sono thread.  It comes in 4 colors but I never use the white.  I make many bracelets using herringbone stitch, both flat and spiral, and spiral rope.  It does not need to be waxed like Nymo did and seems to be stronger.  It only comes in 1 size but that seems to work well for most things.  I also make dozens of Christmas ornaments each year with Swarovski crystals and Sono has worked well for those also.

Artemis4 wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 2:06 PM

Where does SoftFlex fall in your assessment. I haven't been beading long, but that's pretty much all I use, unless I'm doing kumihimo with seed beads. I'd be interested in your opinion!

LeeW@11 wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 2:09 PM

By law,  fishing line has to be biodegradable.  It is not supposed to last more than six months in the sun.  Do you really recommend using it?  My only experience was with something someone gave me and it did fall apart.  I use Nymo or Silkon.

CindyC@53 wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 2:34 PM

re:Beading Thread 101

Jean,  you've also left out another new thread by Beadalon - Dandyline.  It sounds much like your description of Fireline.  Have you tried it and how does it rate against the others?  I found Nymo shreds too much but Dandyline is much better.  But it only comes in white and dark grey from what I can find.

CindyC

DebWAZ wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 2:36 PM

Jean,

Great article - I don't do much seed bead work (just enough to be "dangerous" <grin>) so this article will be a wonderful reference when my friends (aka customers) come in asking, "which thread do I use for ...?"

Don't forget that Nymo comes in size F, which is the thickest diameter and that Fireline also comes in "flame" color which is actually a fluorescent green.

It would have been nice if you'd ended the blog to include that the LBS (Local Bead Store) is a source for assistance and advice. Most LBS would be happy to help explain the differences between the threads and suggest which ones are appropriate for a project.

Deb

HelenL@25 wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 3:55 PM

Jean

What would you suggest someone use when working with cystals.

Thank

Ann Livingstone

PattyB@21 wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 3:57 PM

How do you finish off with fireline or powerpro?   Do you knot it or does it need a crimp?  thanks, patty

KimberlyB@19 wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 3:59 PM

Hi Jean,

Thanks so much for the article.  I've been trying to figure out how to make a necklace using my favorite crystals.  I thought I should use FireLine but wasn't sure that it would work with crystals.  I thought the crystals might cut the thread.  I open my mailbox and open my Beading Daily and there it was!  The answer to my question.  All without even having to ask!

Thanks again

Kim

RoseS@30 wrote
on Jun 4, 2008 4:48 PM

Hi Jean,

One note on the differences between Nymo and Fireline.  A beadweaving/bead embroidery friend of mine makes a lot of bead embroided cuffs, and then uses stiff stuff with felt for the backing.  This means she has to iron it.  the one time she used Fireline for one of these cuffs, it melted.  and she had to remake it with nymo, which has never melted for her.

Rose

on Jun 4, 2008 6:12 PM

Jean - have you tried K.O. thread from Japan. I, along with several of my customers, have used it. The consensus is it if fabulous.

I am interested too in LeeW's question about whether or not the fishing lines are bio-degradeable.

Thanks, Teresa

KarenH@113 wrote
on Jun 5, 2008 5:53 AM

Great article today!  Question - is flexible Nylon-Line good to use for 30 inch or longer necklaces?   I like to make them with out a closure.  I tie a surgeon's knot, add glue then trim ends.  I've had no complaints yet.  Are there pitfalls?   What are your recommendations?

Love your newsletter.

Karen

Stone Dragon wrote
on Jun 5, 2008 9:35 AM

Hey Jean!

For general seedbeading with size 11° beads (peyote, herringbone, etc), I use Nymo treated with Thread Heaven or beeswax.  I also use seedbead stitches with silver beads and crystals - for those, I use Dandyline and Fireline.  Fireline is less visible than the Dandyline but I like the Dandyline better because it doesn't kink up with me.  Dandyline comes in white (and black, I think) but you MAY be able to color it with a marker.  Does anyone know for sure?

Thanks,

Stephanie

DDawn wrote
on Jun 5, 2008 8:31 PM

I am wondering about the SoNo thread, it is advertised as having been developed specifically for seed beading, and as being stronger than other threads, including Fireline? True??

I am also curious about the biodegradable question....

DebraM@44 wrote
on Jun 5, 2008 9:15 PM

I like hand-quilting thread for stringing sead beads. It comes in lots of colors, is strong enough for average-wear pieces and thin enough for two or three passes (when beadweaving). I do put a little clear nailpolish on the knots.

MaryD@131 wrote
on Jun 6, 2008 4:50 AM

I was also curious about KO thread and so-no thread.

DebWAZ wrote
on Jun 10, 2008 2:53 PM

I was also curious about the biodegradeable factor of Fireline and PowerPro. So, I sent e-mails to the companies that make Fireline and PowerPro AND also to the Federal Wildlife Service about biodegradeable.

Fireline's reply was rather short and to the point - Fireline is NOT biodegadeable. If you buy it at your LBS - repackaged under the BeadSmith name, it is exactly the same product as you can buy in the fishing department at Wally World or any sporting goods store that sells fishing line.

PowerPro said "One of the advantages to using a super braid like PowerPro is the extended life span of the line and the fact that it does not degrade in UV light.  There is no need to worry about the line falling apart."

The Federal Wildlife Service said that regulations regarding fishing line and whether it is required to be biodegradeable is up to the individual states. I did see that some of the federal wildlife refuges where fishing is allowed require biodegradeable fishing line, but those are the exceptions.

So - there you have it - all the information about Fireline, PowerPro and whether it's required to fall apart over time!

Deb - AZ Bead Depot

Apache Junction, AZ

souls2 wrote
on Jul 10, 2008 7:37 PM

Hi Jean,  I have been trying different threads and since I do mostly seed beads I need a thread that is thin enough and strong enough so the pieces don't break on the first thing it gets caught on.  Any suggestions?  The fishing line query, it 's nylon right? but it looks like plastic, so I'm guessing it's not biodegradable.

thanks for the article

Frannie

Lynn, Ma

Susan@475 wrote
on Sep 7, 2008 1:09 AM

I have used spidrerwire fishing line on several of my necklesses and they just seem to keep breaking. Am I doing something wrong. Do I need to coat the line first with something?     Susan

bryanbear wrote
on May 28, 2012 6:21 PM

fireline and powerpro are both repackaged fishinglines you can get much cheaper in sporting goods stores like bass pro also consider purchasing braidline scissors there too which are cheap and will cut both lines very well no fraying. Fireline is thermally bonded togther so the braiding wont seperate on you like powerpro  it also is infused with teflon like your frying pans so very strong! Powerpro coated with spectrafibres and has more thread like base unlike fireline which is more stiff and nylon like. Buy bigger spools for both from sporting goods stores in 300yd for about 29.00. Nymo b= fireline 4lb nymo d=fireline 6lb. Hope this helps....

Bryan Mcguire( A male beader =abominable snowman! hahah!)

Patricia@190 wrote
on Sep 11, 2012 9:05 PM

Hello Fromm New Zealand Jean,

I am wondering if you can help me.  I am new to bead embroidery altough I do a lot of other types of beading.  i have a lovely bead embroidery book and the project I am interested in working on calls for Nymo Size A thread and i have search the Internet for days but cannot seem to find any Size A.  Can you sugggest a replacement for it?  I have seen in the internet sizes 'O" and size "OO" would one of these help?  I much rather if I could fins Nymo in white and also black in Size A but just cannot find it.  Do you ave a good resource for finding and purchasing threads that i could keep as a hand reference since this is all new to me.  Or do you have any other recommendations in othe brands which would be a good replacement for Size A Nymo.  I will look for ward to hearing from you when you have a moment Jean.

All the best!

Sincerely,

Patricia in New Zealand

Patricia@190 wrote
on Sep 11, 2012 9:16 PM

Hello Fromm New Zealand Jean,

I am wondering if you can help me.  I am new to bead embroidery altough I do a lot of other types of beading.  i have a lovely bead embroidery book and the project I am interested in working on calls for Nymo Size A thread and i have search the Internet for days but cannot seem to find any Size A.  Can you sugggest a replacement for it?  I have seen in the internet sizes 'O" and size "OO" would one of these help?  I much rather if I could fins Nymo in white and also black in Size A but just cannot find it.  Do you ave a good resource for finding and purchasing threads that i could keep as a hand reference since this is all new to me.  Or do you have any other recommendations in othe brands which would be a good replacement for Size A Nymo.  I will look for ward to hearing from you when you have a moment Jean.

All the best!

Sincerely,

Patricia in New Zealand

Patricia@190 wrote
on Sep 11, 2012 9:37 PM

Hello From New Zealand Jean,

I am wondering if you can help me.  I am new to bead embroidery altough I do a lot of other types of beading.  i have a lovely bead embroidery book and the project I am interested in working on calls for Nymo Size A thread and i have search the Internet for days but cannot seem to find any Size A.  Can you sugggest a replacement for it?  I have seen in the internet sizes 'O" and size "OO" would one of these help?  I much rather if I could fins Nymo in white and also black in Size A but just cannot find it.  Do you ave a good resource for finding and purchasing threads that i could keep as a hand reference since this is all new to me.  Or do you have any other recommendations in othe brands which would be a good replacement for Size A Nymo.  I will look for ward to hearing from you when you have a moment Jean.

All the best!

Sincerely,

Patricia in New Zealand

bec95beads wrote
on May 9, 2013 3:21 AM

i have tried fireline which is great but I find it way to stiff for my liking , I use to use nymo all the time as it was the first thread I got on to when I started seed beading , but at the beginning of the year I bout some c-lon thread and I love it doesn't stretch like nymo and I don't have to pre stretch or even condition it which I love as I don't like conditioning threads as it would flake off ! and I was cheaper than the nymo