Over the years I have picked up many bead weaving tricks the hard way by fighting through frustrating setbacks or reworking projects that never quite came together as I hoped. I have learned that bead weaving takes practice, a lot of patience and some important preparation to achieve success. Today, we are going to talk about conditioning threads and how a little thread preparation can make all the difference in your finished projects.
If you talk to many veteran beaders you will quickly find the practice of conditioning thread is really a personal preference rather than a hard fast rule. Though it is not necessary to precondition your thread, there are some surprising benefits to consider.
Thread conditioning is applying a product to thread to make it less vulnerable to moisture, reduce knotting and fraying and protect against breakage. There are three products you can use to treat your thread; beeswax, synthetic (microcrystalline) wax and Thread Heaven.
Beeswax and synthetic wax are virtually indistinguishable in terms of texture, application and purpose. The sticky texture of the wax binds threads together which helps prevent tangles, knots and fraying from occurring as you weave. Wax also helps maintain control over thread tension. The wax prevents the thread from loosening so structured three dimensional shapes can remain rigid and locked into position over time.
Many beaders like to use synthetic wax instead of beeswax because it is softer, stickier and spreads more easily along the thread. Both waxes are equally effective so the decision is often based on personal preference.
There are a few things to keep in mind when using wax. The wax layer on top of your thread will make the diameter thicker so you will have less space to place with as you pass through beads with tiny holes. Excess wax can accumulate outside of beads or on the needle after many passes. The best way to prevent a pile up of wax is to use your finger nail to scrap a thin layer off the thread before you start to weave. Due to the wax’s stickiness you may also see some dirt stick onto the thread causing discoloration. One trick is to use more thread than you need and if the thread becomes dirty from too much handling you can cut off the affected area and add new thread into the piece.
Thread Heaven conditioner and protectant offers many of the same benefits of wax but functions in a slightly different way. Thread Heaven is a non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and acid free synthetic compound that uses static electricity to repel threads away from each other. It helps prevent tangling and fraying like wax but it has a smoother texture that allows the thread to glide through the beads with less drag
Unlike wax, Thread Heaven is resistant to UV rays, to mold and mildew and will not break down or crumble due to age. Thread Heaven does not melt so it can be exposed to heat, laundered or ironed without changing color or staining surrounding fabric. For many beaders the slicker hand feel of Thread Heaven doesn’t accomplish the same tight tension as wax but its easy application, manageability and clean results are compelling reasons to prefer it.
I personally recommend trying each product to see what will work best for you. All three products are proven to prevent annoying knots and provide great protection to your thread. I think whichever product you choose you will be happy with the benefits they provide.
Happy Tuesday! – Rebecca