The Secret to Perfect Thread Tension

Jul 20, 2009

Hint! The Secret’s in the Tail

“It has been taped, cut short, knotted, stuffed into a baggie, wrapped on a spool, and just plain ignored.” In the August/September issue of Beadwork, Master Class author Nancy Cain urges us not to forget about our little ol’ tail thread. In fact, Nancy teaches that utilizing our tail thread is the key to keeping thread tension tight. We all know how frustrating it can be to finish a design and see thread showing between beads or, even worse, end up with floppy, loose beadwork.

Structural and Strong

To be honest, when Nancy first tried to convince me her technique amazes even the most die-hard beaders, I was a little skeptical of the value of the tail thread. But after I held Nancy’s extremely strong beaded beads and learned that there are NOT round, solid beads supporting their core, I knew she was on to something good! Yes, the beaded beads shown here are hollow. Even more amazing, Nancy once accidentally stepped on one on these beads and it did not collapse underfoot!

Try It for Yourself

I tested out Nancy’s great tips with tubular peyote stitch. Pull back on the tail thread as you work, creating equal and tight tension between the working and tail threads. If you have difficulty holding the tail at any point, wax it.

Rounds 1 and 2: Leaving a 12" tail, string an even number of beads. Pass through all of the beads again, plus two more. Do not tie a knot or use a “tension” or “stopper” bead.


Round 3:
Continuing to keep tight and equal tension on both the tail and working threads, work peyote stitch around, using 1 bead in each stitch. Step up for the next round by passing through the first bead added in this round.  


Round 4:
Work peyote stitch around, using 1 bead in each stitch as before. Notice that during this round any space that was left between beads in Round 3 is now removed and the work is beginning to form a tube. If needed, manipulate the beadwork into a tube with your thumb and index finger as you pull equally with the needle and tail threads. Step up for the next round by passing through the first bead added in this round. You may find it helpful to wrap the threads around your fingers when pulling.


Rounds 5 and on:
Round 5 “sets” the tension for the rest of the piece. By establishing the tension this way in these first rounds, you are ensured tight beadwork throughout the piece. When the work is complete, secure and trim the threads as usual.

More Great Tips and Tricks

Utilize this great lesson by making Nancy Cain's Pearl Romance necklace that appears on the cover of the August/September issue of Beadwork. Also, check out her Master Class article in this same issue to learn what she means by “letting your beads do the work.” Subscribe now so you don’t miss out on other revolutionary tips from the best beadwork artists in future issues of Beadwork, including a visit from renowned bead artist Cynthia Rutledge in the December 2009/January 2010 issue.  For the hottest new jewelry designs, stay tuned to our October/November issue for 6 necklaces that explore asymmetry.


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Comments

Maxwell4 wrote
on Jul 20, 2009 6:22 AM
I, too, utilize my tail thread. I normally wind it through my left hand fingers and hold it firmly.
DorothyH@10 wrote
on Jul 20, 2009 7:59 AM
Your instructions are much more explicit than Nancy Cain's Beadwork Masterclass. Question: Why use even-count circular peyote, when odd-count does not require the step-up?
JennieH@10 wrote
on Jul 20, 2009 8:03 AM
Having been a crocheter for about 50 years before I started beading, I've found the tail to be invaluable at keeping the proper tension. At first I was skimpy with the tail because I didn't want to waste thread, but I had to redefine "waste" somewhere along the way in favor of quality bead work. Thanks for an excellent article.
JoanP@14 wrote
on Jul 20, 2009 8:10 AM
Thank you! That was an "Ah- Ha" moment for me. Running the thread through again at the start really made beginning tubular peyote so much easier, not to mention a nicer, more substantial end result. Having been a member of the gauge swatch police in the knitting store I worked at makes me very conscious of importance of good tension.
Nancy Cain wrote
on Jul 20, 2009 9:06 PM
Dear Melinda, Thank you for posting the full set of row instructions for the Tension Tip. I understand the need to edit the text in the magazine for space consideration. I think this is a clear demonstration on how it works! The photos are great. To answer Dorothy's question on even and odd count... when you want a perfectly round, symmetrical shape such as a ball, you need to have even count. This ball shape is mathematically set to be even count but will reduce to an odd three count row for the smallest hole. Thank you so much! Happy Beading! Nancy Cain
Khurshid wrote
on Jul 21, 2009 12:46 AM
Hi, I write from India. I use Nymo D mainly for my work and I find that when I use the tail end for tension it invariably breaks at some point and I have to begin all over again. Why is this happening? Am I using the wrong thread for weaving? I generally work with RAW and Square Stitch. Khurshid
Carolpurk wrote
on Jul 21, 2009 7:30 AM
Thank you for the perfect tension article in your July 20th newsletter - pics of rounds 1 - 5 and the info with each was wonderful - hope to see more of these articles in your future Newsletters - It made Nancy Cains "Pearl Romance necklace" so much easier! Carol P
Nancy Cain wrote
on Jul 21, 2009 9:06 AM
Dear Khurshid, I would like to comment on your thread dilemma. When you are working the tail thread as back tension, it gets quite a workout! The tail rubs against the edge of the closest bead (if you are working with matte beads it will be worse) and causing it to fray and break. Also, if you are holding onto it past the 'tension set point'... in other words past the point where the tail effects the tension, then the tail may be twisting as well as rubbing causing extra stress on it. Generally, when I pull on threads, tail or needle, I try to pull straight out of the bead hole versus against the edge of the hole and I only use the tail in the beginning of the work. It is hard to hold onto a small section of work and fingers get tired, but it spares the tail from too much work. Nymo is a good thread, but does tend to fray. I am currently using the newer One G thread and like the extra coating on it. It is smooth, strong and tends to fray less. If you are having trouble with keeping tension, you can try a bit of wax. I prefer the microcrystalline or synthetic beeswax. Use a tiny bit and only wax about 4 inches of the thread just ahead of the work. There is no need to wax the entire thread. For tight work, I would not use Thread Heaven... it will make the thread slippery. Good luck and happy beading! Nancy www.nancycainbeadart.com
3shelties wrote
on Jul 22, 2009 2:47 PM
Hello Everyone, I just started using One G myself after taking a class with Met Innman. I have to say it is great thread. It is coated and the smaller thread size works well when you have to go through small beads more than once. I recommend it. In addition thread does not cost much so it is worth a try right?
mpike wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 5:51 AM
Oh how lovely it is to receive such great tips and interesting responses and questions! All for free. I'm alwys inspired to bead better and BE better when I've been in touch with my virtual beading family. The info on wax as opposed to using Thread Heaven is SO useful. I've had a couple of pieces go slack in spite of doing my best to keep the work taut. I shall now try again!
mpike wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 5:51 AM
Oh how lovely it is to receive such great tips and interesting responses and questions! All for free. I'm alwys inspired to bead better and BE better when I've been in touch with my virtual beading family. The info on wax as opposed to using Thread Heaven is SO useful. I've had a couple of pieces go slack in spite of doing my best to keep the work taut. I shall now try again!
NancyB@5598 wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 9:34 AM
How nice it would be if the directions could be given also in an easily printable form. Those of us getting older tend to forget things and it is nice to go back to a printed source.
Lou Ma wrote
on Aug 6, 2009 10:04 AM
Oh what a beautiful day when I see my Beading Daily newsletter. I never fail to learn something useful. thanks to the editors and the readers comments. NancyB: I save all of my newsletters in a folder on my desk top. Just copy and paste and you'll alsays be able to refer back to the technique.
Cpi wrote
on Aug 14, 2009 12:04 AM
I have found so many good tips in this article I almost feel like a beginner again! I have tried to find microcrystalline or synthetic beeswax but have had no luck. Does it have brand name(s)? Where are you fellow beaders finding it? Oh, and I, too, look forward to Beading Daily newsletters very much! Thank you. Cherie
Nancy Cain wrote
on Aug 15, 2009 10:40 AM
Dear Cherie, I am glad that you found the article informative! My local bead store carries the microcrystalline wax. Jackie's Bead Boutique in Colorado Springs, CO. Their phone number is 1-719-599-3800. Good luck with it! Nancy Cain
on Jun 12, 2014 4:01 PM

I understand the need to keep the written instructions for constant referal.  I highlight the desired information by left clicking, holding down mouse button and sliding over the material desired.  Sometimes I have to do it from top to bottom and sometimes the reverse.  Then I right click on "COPY".  You may have to do that from within the highlighted area.

Then I go to place where I WRITE my outgoing emails and address it to myself.  Then go to the message area, left click to get that location fixed, and then RIGHT click on Paste.  

Your instructions, or whatever, should appear in the OUTGOING email and THEN click SEND.

That email, with instructions should appear in your IN BOX.  Then I open the email and send it to my beading INSTRUCTIONS storage place to review whenever I want to.

Ruth B.

on Jun 12, 2014 4:01 PM

I understand the need to keep the written instructions for constant referal.  I highlight the desired information by left clicking, holding down mouse button and sliding over the material desired.  Sometimes I have to do it from top to bottom and sometimes the reverse.  Then I right click on "COPY".  You may have to do that from within the highlighted area.

Then I go to place where I WRITE my outgoing emails and address it to myself.  Then go to the message area, left click to get that location fixed, and then RIGHT click on Paste.  

Your instructions, or whatever, should appear in the OUTGOING email and THEN click SEND.

That email, with instructions should appear in your IN BOX.  Then I open the email and send it to my beading INSTRUCTIONS storage place to review whenever I want to.

Ruth B.