Tips on Beading Thread and Beading Needles

Choosing Needle Size

Use a needle size that is approximately the same as your bead size. If you are using size 11 seed beads, you will probably be fine with a needle anywhere between size 10 and size 13. If you know you will be making a lot of passes through some beads, then go for a smaller size. If you are using your thread doubled (rather than single with the other end floating from the needle's eye), consider using a smaller (larger number) needle as it will be a pain in the behind to change to a smaller needle if you find a skinny place you want to sneak one more pass through.

Needles for Bead Embroidery

It is usually easier to use a shorter, firmer needle for embroidery. Lately I have been using "Sharps" for this purpose and I like them because they are easy to push through the backing. On the other hand, they make bigger holes in the backing and may not go through some beads, especially vintage seed beads, or even some contemporary Czech size 15 beads.

Threading Needles by Pinching the Beading Thread

A trick I learned in my needlepoint days has proved very useful when threading the long skinny eye of beading needles with beading thread. I trim the end of the beading thread, the pull the thread down between my thumb and index finger until the cut end is barely visible. Using the other hand, I maneuver the needle over the thread end and lower it between the pinched thumb and finger until it has captured the end of the thread by about a quarter of an inch. Then I release my thumb and finger and pull the thread through.

Threading Needles with Round (Twisted or Braided) Thread

It can be a challenge to get round thread, like Fireline or Silamide, through a skinny needle's eye, so I use my pliers to flatten the end of the thread, trim the end, and slide the flattened portion into the needle's eye.

Stretch the Thread

I wrap the one end of a new beading thread around my fingers and pull hard on the other end to get the natural stretch out of the thread as much as I can. Once in a while I snap a thread in two, usually when I have been using Nymo D and just switched to Nymo B. This prevents the thread from stretching later, leaving unattractive gaps in the beadwork. As an added benefit, it removes the curliness that was caused by being wound around a spool, so the thread is easier to work with.

I have heard you should not try to stretch Kevlar thread, as you could cut yourself doing so.

Nymo on a Bobbin Versus Nymo on a Spool

Nymo was developed for the shoe industry and the common bobbin-size that is usually sold for beading is, indeed, a pre-wound bobbin. The thread used for the top thread on the leather-sewing machines has a tougher finish and is twisted, not flat like the bobbin thread. This is the Nymo thread you can buy at some suppliers on tapered spools or cardboard cores. This thread holds up better to tough beading challenges.

When I was beading a large, sculptural project in brick stitch with matte beads, both the nymo that comes on the bobbins and C-Lon were shredding and driving me a little crazy. The next time I took on a similar project, I spent the money to buy nymo on spools and had much better results. Granted, this was a tough test, using the somewhat abrasive matte beads and pulling thread through them at odd angles, but it taught me a lesson about the durability of threads.

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