Making Beaded Jewellery – Part III

Making Beaded Jewelry – Part III

by BINA SHAJI KURUP

An important item in every beader’s list is the stringing material to be used for putting together the beads. Natural and manmade alternatives are available in every material – silk, cotton or leather. Most of the manmade cords are stronger but lack the flexibility (important if knotting is a part of the design) of the natural product. If is best to first decide on the design and the type of beads and to be utilized while creating the jewellery and select threads based on these factors.

Threading Options 1

Selection of Threads

An important item in every beader’s list is the stringing material to be used for putting together the beads. Natural and manmade alternatives are available in every material – silk, cotton or leather. Most of the manmade cords are stronger but lack the flexibility (important if knotting is a part of the design) of the natural product. If is best to first decide on the design and the type of beads and to be utilized while creating the jewellery and select threads based on these factors.
Several factors influence the selection of the threading material

Weight of the Beads

While selecting the cords for stringing the bead, the weight of the bead plays an important part. A lightweight bead can be strung on almost any lightweight material – silk, synthetic nymo, silamide etc. but for a heavier bead it is preferred to use a thicker cord like leather, cotton or other synthetic options.

Size

Cords are measured by various methods; some cords like leather are measured in diameters others are measured by the weight of the thread. Before you make the purchase ensure the thickness of the cord and the size of the bead holes are complementary to each other. Buying a cord that is too thin will make the beads hang and ruin the look; on the other hand if is too thick, stringing the beads will be tough. Manufacturers normally suggest the sizes as per the bead so it is recommended a beader thoroughly read all the information provided and then buy the product – especially for online purchases.

Color

Synthetic or natural, the colors of cords available are numerous. Depending on the design, it is advisable to choose a color that coordinates the jewelry piece rather than a contrast color that will divert attention from the beauty of the beads.

Waxed Threads

Most natural products tend to unravel and to the best way to deal with this problem, is to wax the thread either with bee wax or to dip the ends in fabric glue to avoid frayed edges. Waxed thread is smooth and slips through easily. Wax also makes the thread stronger avoiding breakage in the cording material and pre-waxed cords in every material are sold online and in stores.

Resistance to Abrasion

Superior quality beads are finished beautifully without any sharp edges. However, some gemstones, metal beads and some other bead varieties have abrasive surfaces which cut into the threading material over time, increasing the incidence of breakage of the jewellery piece. With the assortment of stringing options available today, picking up non-abrasive material as your threading option is easy!

Types of Natural Threading Options

The varieties and options available in wires and threads are very vast. Major manufacturers often list the advantages of their product along with the prices, colors and lengths available. From cotton, leather to Nylon and Elastic, the list of threading options available is almost unlimited.

While crafting beaded jewellery, the thread used should be durable to ensure your jewellery can be used for a long time. It is preferable that threads do not unravel at the ends making it difficult to string the beads, some beaders recommend using waxed threads or thread conditioners, which make the threads stronger and prevent it from getting into terrible knots.

Beads can be strung together by waxed cotton threads but not the ordinary sewing thread. It is easier to make different types of knots and pass this thread through the bead holes, but while buying cotton threads make sure they are colorfast to protect your jewellery piece and clothes.

To overcome the main disadvantage of cotton threads – easy breakage, intrepid waxed cotton suppliers have introduced two or three fibres of artificial monofilaments/polymers at the centre to give the cotton cords strength, making cotton cords a great option for creating single stone / pendants or large chunky jewellery.

Silk threads have been used since long to thread smaller, lightweight beads and pearls. Easily available in a huge range of colors and effects, beaded jewellery on silk threads should be handled with care since the silk thread can stretch, disintegrate if wet and break if the bead edges are not smooth. Easily knotted, this smooth thread makes designs come alive especially if your jewellery has visible cord effects like knots between the beads. Silk threads come in a range of colors and sizes (referring to the number of strands used to create the silk thread) for convenience.

Both cotton and silk threads will require needles to make beading easy. If threading the needle is difficult, a needle with a larger eye-hole is a good investment. Flexible needles can also be bought for convenience.

Satin is a thicker form of silk and satin cord is also referred to as Rattail or Mousetail. Silky smooth with a glossy, classy glow, satin cords are a delight. The ends tend to unravel when the cord is cut, so wax or fabric glue is recommended while using Rattail. Great for beads with large, non-abrasive openings, especially those requiring knots between beads. The Rattail is a thick, decorative cord available in every color imaginable.

Native Americans utilized the animal sinew/ leather cords and sometimes even Hemp to string together their beaded jewellery. Although now it is rare to find beaders using natural animal products, artificial animal products that look and feel like the original are now widely available. Artificial sinew is stronger than the natural sinew and the natural colors looks great when working with see through glass beads or smaller beads. Leather complements native or ethnic jewellery and is normally available as Leather lace or cord. Care should be taken that the bead holes are smooth else it may cut the leather. Ideal for beads with larger holes, leather is thicker than silk or cotton and its thickness define its size. Artificial leather is stronger, has no fraying edges, is more durable, feels and looks like natural leather.

The simple Hemp used creatively lends itself to beautiful beaded jewellery but again care has to be taken to protect the cord from excess heat and water. Suede is yet another option and Faux suede, the manmade alternative is more resilient and is a common substitute for real suede cord.

Manufacturers are now offering Kevlar thread. This is bulletproof material and its usage in making beaded jewellery is unique and it is completely heat and water resistant with a very low elasticity. Kevlar should not be used with stone, gemstone or any other sharp edged beads since the material gets cut easily, although application of force to break it is a waste of time!

Some of the natural options for threading have been given above. In Part II, some information on the popular synthetic options is given. Continued….

Making Beaded Jewellery Part 1, Part 2, More Threading option
Jewellery manufacturing

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