Having thread tension problems in your beadwork? This guide contains lots of handy tips to help you learn how to avoid loose beading thread.
Thread tension can make a huge impact on how your jewelry looks. No-one wants to spend hours bead-weaving only to have the beads loosely held together and lots of thread showing.
But, how do you avoid this?
Here’s a list of my ten top tips to get the perfect thread tension for any beading project.
How To Get Good Thread Tension
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1. Stretch the Beading Thread
Beading thread is an essential tool when bead stitching and there are different kinds—GSP threads e.g. Fireline and Wildfire and Nylon threads like Nymo.
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Nylon threads relax over time so it’s important to stretch them before you begin to stitch. Here’s how to do it.
There’s no need to stretch GSP threads.
2. Double the Beading Thread
Cut an extra long piece of thread, thread your needle and pull it to the center. This way, you’ll work with a doubled thread and it provides more structure and support to the beadwork.
A word of caution about this method is to make sure the beading pattern doesn’t require multiple thread passes. Using doubled thread fills up the holes of the beads quicker and they may be too small to accommodate so much thread. You can end up breaking beads if you do this.
3. Use Beeswax
Beeswax adds a coating to the thread causing it to stick to itself. As a result, the thread stays in place better.
If you choose to work with doubled thread, conditioning it can cause the two strands to stick to each other and act as a single thread. This helps to prevent tangles and knots.
4. Reinforce Thread Paths
It’s super important to reinforce your beadwork especially when doing stitches like Right-Angle Weave (RAW).
RAW is notorious for showing lots of thread and being a bit more difficult to pull tight so go back around each row or round as you work.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Add New Thread
Are you one of those beaders who hates to end and add thread?
I see you!
To make your beaded jewelry look nice, you need to take the time to reinforce the beadwork which means you may have to use quite a bit of thread.
Don’t use ridiculously long lengths of thread just to avoid adding more. Not only is it challenging and tiring to keep pulling that thread through beads, you’ll end up with lots of knots and tangles.
Instead, work with a manageable length of beading thread, no more than 2 yards at one time, and learn how to end and add thread as you work.
6. Hold the Beads In Place
Pick up your work and get a good grip on your tail thread and the beads as you stitch. I’ve taught so many classes and seen students attempting to bead with their project on the beadmat.
This is a big no-no if you want good thread tension.
Holding the beads and thread as you progress stops the beadwork from loosening up as you add the next set of beads. Only let go of the previous row or round of beads after you’ve added the new ones. Then, grasp the next set and repeat.
There’s no need to put your beadwork in a choke-hold either. This is another thing I’ve witnessed students doing. They maintain a death grip on the beads and then wonder why their fingers are all sore afterwards. A gentle clasp is more than enough to get the job done. And, for longer projects, take breaks and stretch your fingers to avoid pain or cramping.
7. Get Support
No, I don’t mean to call a friend. Although, beading with friends is more fun.
I’m talking about supporting your beadwork.
When attempting hollow stitches like Tubular RAW, it’s easier to work around a central support like a pencil or dowel. You can pull your thread tight and get a good tension going much easier. Don’t pull too tight though or you may find it nearly impossible to slide the beaded jewelry off once you’re done!
Using a support also gives you something to hold on to for those first few rows.
Avoid using a support that’s too long so your thread doesn’t constantly get caught on it.
8. Cull Your Beads
Using broken or misshapen beads is a sure-fire way to get poor thread tension. Even if your tension is great, the misshapen beads will make your beadwork look uneven.
Either pick out the best ones beforehand or as you go.
9. Use the Right Beads and Have Patience
Some beading techniques just work better with certain sizes and types of beads. For example, Peyote Stitch looks great when you use Miyuki Delica beads and Herringbone Stitch works well with smaller beads.
Also, take the time to nudge the beads into place as you work. When making jewelry using Herringbone Stitch, the angle of the beads doesn’t always happen naturally so you might need to help them along. Push the pair of beads into the characteristic “V” shape that is expected.
10. Practice Makes Perfect
Now, this last tip may be something you don’t want to hear but it’s a good one.
You need to practice.
When I first started bead-weaving, my thread tension was horrible! I look back at my old pieces of jewelry and cringe. But, over time, it got better the more I beaded.
You don’t start out walking perfectly and it takes a long time before you’re experienced enough to drive alone. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a while to get good at a new skill like bead stitching. Just use these ten tips and your thread tension will certainly improve.
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