A fairly common term for beading or 'stitching' with seed beads is "Bead Weaving"...and this terminology tends to be narrowed down again to 'Loom Weaving' or 'Off Loom Bead Weaving'. Whether any of this terminology is technically accurate, it is commonly used in the beading world...and I do like to think of my beadwork as weaving a fabric of seed beads.
Now the beads themselves might play the starring role in this fabric woven of beads, but it's the thread that ultimately holds everything together...and will hopefully hold it all together for a very long time!
Creating anything with seed beads is a very time consuming process...it can be very relaxing to spend hours upon hours beading...and it gives my mind the chance to wander and think and explore...
And lately I have spent a lot of that time thinking about thread. The only actual components in my work are my beads and my thread...and of course the occasional metal finding.
So considering the amount of time that goes into creating something with seed beads, it is very important to me to always use high quality materials...and that means beads, thread, metal findings and any other tools or components that I use!
I have experimented with and tried out many different beading threads...Nymo on the little bobbins, Superlon, Nymo on the spool/cone, Silamide, Fireline, Power Pro, Sono, KO, One G and Wildfire. Of course over time I have found some that I love and some that I hate...
There are many qualities about beading thread that make each one useful for different applications. I like to know that my thread is strong, that it will hold up for a long time, especially in beaded jewelry that might be worn daily. I like thread that adds a fabric like texture or a soft drape to my beadwork, and in some cases I like a thread that will create a sturdy, structural 'frame' for my beadwork.
And I like working with thread that is friendly to work with! There is nothing worse than thread that frays, shreds, tangles, breaks or otherwise causes serious problems while you in the middle of a beading project...these problems can add hours to your time because you have to rip out your work, add new thread and do it all over again.
Of the threads that I listed above, there are 2 main varieties: Nylon Thread and Gel Spun Polyethylene (GSP) Thread....they are then typed into more specific categories such as Parallel Filament Nylon, Plied Nylon, Plied GSP and Parallel Filament GSP. Now there are many other varieties of beading thread out there, these are just the ones I have tried!
So I have compiled some basic information about these threads...and then I will describe what I like and dislike about all of them.
Nymo is a single ply, parallel filament nylon thread that was originally created as an upholstery thread and I have heard that it was also used in the Shoe Making industry? It comes in a huge variety of colors and is relatively inexpensive. Nymo (like most beading thread) is sized by thickness...F being thickest, then D, B, A, O, OO and OOO being the thinnest. But it also comes in two very different versions:
Nymo Bobbins: this thread is the lower quality of the two. It is very stretchy, has a flat profile, it is not pre waxed or conditioned, it frays, breaks and tangles very easily. Nymo Bobbins have 43-140yds depending on the thread size and cost between $1-$2.
Nymo Spools/Cones: this thread is pre waxed/conditioned, it has a round profile so it is slightly thicker than the same size on the bobbin. It is quite stretchy and I find that it still frays, but not nearly as badly as Nymo on the bobbin. Nymo Spools have 250-350yds and cost between $3-$4 each. Nymo cones come in 3oz and 6oz sizes and cost anywhere from $10 to $30.
Superlon Beading Thread: this is a single ply, parallel filament nylon thread. It has almost no stretch to it, has a flat profile, feels like it is pre conditioned/waxed and it comes in a large variety of colors. I do like it better than Nymo bobbins but it does fray and can be pierced easily. It comes in size D, being thicker and size AA, being thinner. Superlon comes in 78yd bobbins and costs around $2.
Sono: this is a single ply, parallel filament nylon thread created in Japan specifically for beading. It is similar in size to Nymo B, it is pre conditioned with a silky texture, it resists fraying but it is very stretchy. Sono comes in 5 colors on 100meter spools. Prices tend to vary drastically for this thread. It can be found for as low as $4 and as high as $14 per spool.
KO Beading Thread: this is a single ply, parallel filament thread. It was created in Japan specifically for bead weaving. It is pre conditioned/waxed, has a silky texture, it is very strong and hard to pierce. It is fray resistant and it has very little stretch but just enough to maintain good tension and drape. It comes in 18 colors on 50meter mini spools and I find it to be similar in size to Nymo D. It costs between $3-$5 per spool. KO is one of my favorite threads!
One G Thread: this is a single ply, parallel filament thread created in Japan by the Toho Bead Company specifically for bead weaving. It is pre conditioned/waxed and hard to pierce with a needle. While it is silky, I find it has a slightly coarse texture to it as well as having a little stretch to it, both of which are excellent for maintaining tension as well as providing a nice fabric like feel and drape. This is a very strong, fray resistant thread...I even use it with Crystals (carefully) and have had no breakage yet. It is similar in size to Nymo B, it comes in 12 colors on 50yd bobbins and costs between $2.25-$3.50. One G is my all time favorite thread...I stock at least 4 bobbins of my favorite colors at all times!
Silamide: this is a plied nylon thread that originated in the upholstery industry. It has a round profile and very little stretch...some varieties have actually had all stretch removed during manufacturing. It is a strong thread but I find it harder to work with due to the plied nature. It comes in a wide variety of colors and most often it is found on 40yd cards, but it can still be found in the larger spools from 350yds up to 900yds. Prices tend to vary drastically according to the supplier but cards usually range from $1 $2 and spools range from $5-$10.
Fireline: this is a parallel filament GSP fishing line also rebranded by Beadsmith and sold as a beading thread. GSP lines are made using multiple Polyetheline fibers that are spun and then bonded to create a very strong line with a very small diameter compared to the old Monofilament fishing lines.
Fireline does not stretch, it is abrasion resistant, and it has a textured but slippery surface, which can sometimes create tension problems. This can be helped with the use of Microcrystalline wax. Fireline creates stiffer or more structural beadwork than nylon thread which makes it a poor choice for fringe or netting! It is practcally impossible to pierce however, which makes it perfect to use as warps on a loom if you want to pull your warps!
Fireline comes in about 4 colors that are useful in the fishing world and a variety of spool sizes. It is sized by test pound strength and diameter as compared to a monofliament fishing line. The most popular sizes for beaders are the 4#, 6#, and 8#. The sizes will be listed with two numbers, for example: 4# test strength with 1# diamter, meaning that it has the same diameter as a 1# test monofilament fishing line. Prices range from $5-$15 for 50yd spools up to $30 for 300yd spools, but it is always cheaper from a sporting goods store than a bead store.
Power Pro: this is a plied GSP fishing line. Polyethylene fibers are spun to create several threads which are braided or plied and then fused/bonded together. This is similar to Fireline but you will notice the separate plies when you cut the thread...this makes it harder to thread than Fireline but might make it stronger or more abrasion resistant. Colors, sizes and prices are similar to Fireline.
Wildfire and Dandyline: these are Beadalon's versions of Fireline and Power Pro respectively. They are thermally bonded threads made with 'Spectra'(TM), which I assume is similar to, or the same thing as, GSP, which is TradeMarked 'Dyneema'. Dandyline is a Braided and Fused thread and the Wildfire has a smooth, thermally bonded coating. Both threads are waterproof and will not stretch.
I have not tried Dandyline but I have tried the Wildfire and honestly I didn't love it. The coating on this thread was easily pierced by my needle...something that Beadalon says is impossible! The outer coating started to strip away from the inner core which then began to fray, causing some serious problems as it happened in the middle of a project. The inner core of the black thread is white, and there's no hiding that white fraying thread in the middle of black or dark colored beads!
I can see how Wildfire could be useful as a warp thread or even a weft thread for looming...it would definitely create a different feel in the finished beadwork. And looming is much gentler on your thread than off loom stitches!
Alright...that was a lot of information! Now, onto what I like and don't like about these threads.
As I stated above, One G is my most favorite thread followed very closely by KO Thread. One G is a little thinner than KO, and they come in different colors...so they both have their uses in my work.
My most used color is One G's Sand Ash. This darker, neutral shade blends into the background of almost evertyhing....especially all the Bronze colors that I love so much. I also really like the Light Grey by KO...it works great with Metallic Silver beads.
I always have a good stash of both brands in Black, White and Brown as well as a few colors specific to each brand like the Sand Ash and Light Grey. And of course I keep a spool of the primary and secondary colors like Red, Green, Purple, Blue, Gold, Apricot, Orchid etc...
Both threads offer just enough stretch to maintain excellent tension while creating that soft, silky, fabric feel. I have found that all beadwork will 'settle' a little, once it's given the chance to 'relax', but this is completely different from thread that will continue to stretch out over time. One G and KO Threads will not stretch out over time like I have seen with Nymo.
They are also very strong threads and can be used to create structural beadwork as well as soft fringe. I have even used One G with crystals, obviously being careful, but I have yet to experience any thread breakage from the crystals.
Now they are both Nylon threads, which has it's inherent weaknesses...and even though they are both pre conditoned/pre waxed, these coatings will eventually break down as you pull the thread through the beads a million times. I have noticed that if I continue using these threads once I have worn down the coating, they will quickly fray or break. But it takes a lot of abuse to get to that point!
So, I always work with a comfortable length of thread (about 2 yards) and I start a new thread at the very first sign of thread damage. Working with manageable lengths of thread really does help to keep the strength and integrity of the thread intact, which ultimately means longer lasting beadwork.
So I have long since destashed every Nymo bobbin that was still hiding out in my thread box...I couldn't stitch one square inch of Peyote with Nymo before it would fray, tangle, break and basically just drive me crazy! And I tried it with beeswax, microcrystalline wax, thread heaven, stretching it, heat setting the wax...I tried everything and it just isn't worth it to me.
I do have several spools of Nymo D and B that I have kept around. I don't use it very often but it is much better than the Nymo bobbin thread, so I can't really justify throwing it out! I am sure I will use it for something...someday.
I also like Fireline....and I try to get it on sale at Cabela's. I don't use it nearly as often as I used to...I use One G and KO for almost everything these days. But Fireline still has it's uses for me, and I still have a lot of Fireline!
I really like to use Fireline on my loom. The fact that it does not stretch at all makes it perfect for warp threads...and the fact that it is almost impossible to pierce with a needle makes it perfect for pulling your warps. Using Fireline for the warps creates a fluid feel to the loomed fabric...it is soft and silky, but a little more firm and less floppy than using thread for the warps. And pulling those warp threads just makes everything so much more secure without the hassle of stitching the warp threads!
And I still like to use Fireline for certain structural pieces or beadwork that requires really tight tension, especially if I am using a lot of Crystals or other potentially sharp edged beads. As much as I love One G, I still find situations where Fireline is a better choice.
So my thread box is full of One G, KO and Fireline...with a few spools of Nymo and one lonely little bobbin of Superlon. For now, these are my favorite threads...but some of my experiments with thread will be ongoing. I like to see what happens over the course of a year, or ten years.
It will be interesting to see how some of these newer threads hold up over the course of time. They have definitely proven to be much nicer to work with, and they have qualities that far surpass some of the old "tried and true" beading threads...and that alone would seem to suggest that they will hold up over the course of time. But of course only time will tell...