June 25, 2022 8 min read
Whether you’re sewing crystals onto a garment or threading beads together for your own unique jewellery piece, it is easy to not know where to start when looking at the near endless selection of threads that are available to purchase. Every retailer wants you to buy the thread they are selling, so they are bound to declare that what they have is the best for you, however each thread is designed to achieve a unique effect or is for a specific purpose, which may not actually be best for you.
So, what we at Bluestreak Crystals believe is truly needed for our customers to make a fully informed decision is a no nonsense breakdown and comparison of the different types of thread you can find out there, this way you can choose what is genuinely the best choice for your specific needs.
We will start at the beginning with basic threads that are great for anyone who is curiously dipping their toe into their chosen craft for the first time, and we will also include more specialised and industrial grade threads for those who wish to go further. This way no matter your skill level, there will be information that you may find helpful in this article. We will also cover some general concepts that are worth bearing in mind when using thread for sewing and jewellery craft; for example did you know that there is such a thing as ‘conditioned thread’ versus ‘unconditioned thread’? The difference is simply the presence of a wax coating, but it makes a big difference in practice!
When first contemplating your thread choice you need to think about the job it is doing. If it is being used in jewellery making for example, it may need to be strong and decidedly not stretchy if it is going to carry the weight of a large statement pendant or a string of heavy glass beads, otherwise the weight of these items are likely the warp the design overtime. Likewise, if you are weaving many beads together to form a wide cuff or choker, that method usually requires the thread to pass through the hole in each bead more than once. Therefore, you will need a thread that is strong but also thin enough to pass through the available space multiple times, so the diameter of the bead hole is a factor to consider.
When you first embark on your shopping adventure there are going to be a few classic basic threads that are near universal and are great for beginners, a few of these include:
Elastic Cords which typically come in either black or clear, are manufactured from a single long strand of elastic and are great if you want to be able to stretch and bend it into any shape you want. This makes it a very forgiving thread and is good for beginners as it won’t fray, and it is easy for threading through beads because you do not require any needles. It can also simply be tied into a knot at your desired length, for example- a stretchy beaded bracelet without the need for additional crimp beads, crimp tubes, jumps rings and clasps (unless you want to use them of course). The only thing to bear in mind if you are thinking of using elastic cord, is that because it is stretchy there is a chance that it will slacken over time, to fix this issue you can simply untie the knot, trim off any excess and retie it.
Monofilament Threads are defined by the fact that they are made up of a single line of nylon or polyester filament, this is quite a stiff thread and is usually clear, making it great when you don’t wat the thread to be the part you see.
Silk Threads such as Griffin Silk, are extremely common and are very popular in jewellery making because of the extensive range of colors it comes in as silk can be dyed easily. It is also a very thin thread compared to the multiply options that you can find in the haberdashery section. These tend to be unconditioned and single ply threads, which means there is simply one strand of spun fiber and not 2 or more, for example 4 ply knitting yarn is a great way to see how the ply effects the structure, it will resemble a candy cane if there is more than one ply. As silk consists of one strand, this makes the thread great for threading, however- this does also mean it is not as strong as other options and if they are unconditioned, they are liable to fray. Therefore, these are best for delicate, lightweight pieces that involve weaving techniques. If you have your heart set on using silk however you are concerned about fraying you can condition the thread yourself by using a small block of wax and passing the thread over it several times while pressing down with your thumb, this coats it in a protective layer and will result in a ‘conditioned thread’.
Natural Silk Bead Cord is designed specifically for the threading of real (from the shell) pearls and the natural silk prevents abrasion that could damage the pearls and limits the risks of discoloration.
Superlon Cords, also known as S-Lon depending on where you are, are made of nylon and are a thicker option while still being called a thread, their thickness is the result of several strands twisted together which when inspected up close, looks similar in structure to a rope. These threads come in all sorts of colors and are well suited to tightly woven or knitted jewellery designs due to their strength, and the fact that they’re not elastic means that it will hold its shape over time.
Cotton Threads are different from silk threads because they are stronger and are typically waxed and offer a natural alternative to nylon threads. Cotton threads are thicker than other types making them great for knot work and heavier items of jewellery. As cotton thread is made from a natural material it may shrink slightly over time, this means that anywhere in the piece where the thread it attached to a metal jewellery finding, like a clasp for example, you will notice that after a while it will appear slightly looser.
Natural Hemp Cord is a great environmentally friendly, biodegradable thread that is closely knit from natural hemp and behaves similarly to the Chinese knot cord. This style of thread is also dyed with natural colours making it great for earthy organic textures like wood or stone pendants.
Polyester Metallic Threads are great if you want your threads to be a feature in their own right and shine through the gaps in your beads or shimmer within a woven design. They tend to be 2 ply and are well suited to woven beading projects that use knotting, for example macrame charm bracelets. These types of threads can be a great way of adding a shining accent to your design, however this thread does have a tendency to want to cling to itself and it will tangle up easily if you are not paying attention, however once you have the knack, you’ll be looking for excuses to use it. Another example of a metallic thread that you will find is called “Tassel Cord” and is designed specifically for tassels, the likes of which you might find on festival earrings or even curtain ties! This thread is more delicate than other metallic threads and is likely the break if it has to carry any weight, so we recommend buying this only is you intend to make a tassel from it… or maybe add some flare to your fishing fly if that is your craft of choice. There is frequently a lot of cross over between fishing and jewellery making materials so it’s not as strange as it sounds!
Waxed Polyester Jewellery Cord is another option that would work very well for Shamballa or macrame bracelets because it is synthetic, not stretchy and behaves in a similar way to a shoelace. It is both strong and flexible, while still being reasonably easy to thread through the larger sizes of bead holes.
Chinese Knotting Cord is another thicker type of thread and is made from a perfectly round single ply. This makes it very good at threading through large beads and offers great control when tying knots. Chinese knotting chord also comes in a wide range of bold colors which makes it perfect for intricate, woven and knotted designs.
Satin Rattail Cord can be thought of as a silky version of Chinese knotting cord that is also slightly thicker. These are well known in kimono fashions and many of the iconic intricately knotted red designs associated with China are typically made from Satin Rattail, however there are many colours to choose from. This type of cord can be simply knotted in a similar way to the elastic cords mentioned earlier, and the satin finish on these cords make them great for slip knots, making it a great option if you would rather avoid using jewellery findings such as clasps etc.
Fireline Braided Bead Threads started out in the fishing industry as fishing lines, so they are designed with strength in mind over appearance. They typically come in white, black, smoke and clear but special attention has been paid to the poundage in manufacturing. Poundage on a thread refers to how much weight the line can hold before it snaps, you can imagine this makes a lot of difference when you are hoping to catch a large fish that will resist being reeled in once hooked. In jewellery making terms this makes it a very popular thread because you can trust it to withstand the weight of anything that you are likely to place on an average piece of jewellery. Its strength comes from the fact that it is made from braided polyethylene synthetic threads which is stronger than simply a twist of two or more ply of natural fiber.
This is by no means all of the possible threads out there, because naturally across the planet different cultures have developed different variations for local specialties. This is because sewing, beading and jewellery craft are ubiquitous no matter where you are and it is beautiful that is it a passion that we all share. However, this article is certainly a great introduction to the types of threads you can expect to find. When exploring the options for your own project it is best to keep in mind a few key questions:
These will narrow your options down until you find the perfect thread for you. There is so much wonderful potential for what you can do with threads and cords in Jewellery making, but also sewing and other crafts projects that once you begin building your thread supply, you will never want to stop.