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Metric Conversion Chart, Measuring Thread and Working with Clasps, Finishing Memory Wire , Threading Beads on Leather, Multi Strand Necklaces, Bead Storage , Cleaning Beads, Beading Surface, Birthstone Colors, Cleaning Silver, Opening Jump Rings

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Understanding Thread

Sandra Paluzzi
The Bead Peddler

This article discuss  three different types of bead stringing materials:  elastic, nylon and coated wire.  While I recognize that other types of thread exist, these three are the most often used for bead (not pearl) stringing.

Nylon thread looks like fishing line.  Many people ask if they can just substitute fishing line for nylon beading thread.  The main problem with making this substitution is that fishing line is made to disintegrate over time. Beading nylon thread is durable. 

Elastic thread is also made specifically for beaders.  It retains it's elasticity longer than sewing elastic.  It is also finer than most sewing elastic.  It can also be knotted or crimped.

The most commonly used, and most complicated thread is nylon coated stainless steel wire.  Fine strands of wire are woven together and coated with clear nylon.  Common thread counts are 7, 19 and 49.  The thread count refers to the number of wire strands woven into the thread. The greater the number of strands in the wire, the finer the strands  and the more flexible the wire.  The greater the number of strands, the more kink resistant and the more expensive.   Beadalon, Softflex and Tiger Tail are competing brands of nylon coated wire.

All three of the different threads we just discussed come in various thicknesses.  Stringing material's thickness is typically given in inches, e.g. .015, .018, or .024.  Generally speaking, the thicker the thread, the higher the breaking strength.  However, this rule only holds true within a class of strings.  Elasticity has a lower breaking strength than does nylon coated wire. 

The thread has to be small enough to fit through the beads and strong enough to carry the weight of the piece.   The average lampwork bead has a 1mm hole which can accommodate most threads.  However, 4mm crystals or seed beads have  a small hole diameter and require a thin stringing material.  On the other hand, some beads are heavier than others.  Natural gemstones are heavier than glass so jewelry made with semi precious requires a higher breaking strength.   

Many people underestimate the breaking strength they need for their project.  For example, Beadalon 19 .015 has a breaking strength of 17 pounds.  I don't know anyone who walks around wearing  a 17 pound bracelet.  However, many people tug at their jewelry, thus exerting more pressure on the threading material.  In general, it is wise to choose the strongest stringing material available that will fit through your beads.

Next month's column will focus on crimp beads, tubes and crimping tools. 

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