What thread do you use for spinning beads into yarn?

For the beginning of the thread on spinning bead yarns, see this post. For the entry before this one, see this post.

Beaded Yarn

For spinning beads into yarn, usually I string the beads on thread and use that as a core for one of the singles, spinning the other single plain and then plying the two together. I've used regular sewing thread, quilting thread (which is a little stronger), rayon, silk thread, and polyester thread. I think the 100% cotton thread snaps the easiest, and tend to like the silk the most (though it is harder to find -- my local Sew & Vac shop had it, Joanne's and Wal*Mart didn't). None will felt, but I do tend to rough up the skeins a bit so the wool at least grabs onto the yarn a bit more to help everything stick together. But be careful about "whapping" the yarn on the counter if your beads are breakable (luckily I thought about that and haven't done it!)

The Winter 2003 Spin-Off article talked about tieing the beads in place, so that if your thread did snap, only the bead where it snapped might be lost. Also (my own opinion) if you ply the yarn, then the plying action will help hold the beads in place should the thread or the yarn be cut.

I went overkill on my bead acquisition because I was worried about having enough beads -- I had 1 package plain seed beads, 1 package mixed colors, and one strand of semiprecious stones for some yarn; I ended up with way over half of each left over, 75 yards of hard-won yarn (chalked up to learning!), and beads way too close together on the finished yarn -- the skein shown above weighs a ton! I had beads about every 6-4 inches. Now I place my beads not closer together than every yard or two, for a nice effect.

Not bad maybe for an edging on something, but as an overall effect, I'd probably put a bead every foot or so for a scarf, every yard or so for a sweater. And I'd seriously consider beading just one ply rather than both -- so I know where my beads will end up.

I'm not an expert on bead sizes so I can't say what size I'd recommend, but there appear to be two common sizes, one easy to thread onto a DK yarn and one onto finer yarns. The outside diameter of such beads also varies -- the larger hole is in a larger bead. I like the small beads, unless I'm going for a particular effect with the big ones.

Z-spun singleMy latest favorite thread is now quilter's transparent nylon thread -- it matches everything! Though I have a lovely rayon turquoise thread I'm using to ply with Three Bags Full Turquoise in a bead-spinning experiment that's in the works.

My thanks to Rhonna for this question!


All the bead yarn articles and more can be found in the Art Yarn category.

See my other "bead" yarn on flickr for some non-conventional "beads"


Have any online resources for spinning bead yarns or other art yarns? post them in the comments on the blog or contact me. Thanks!


spinningdownunder said...

I prefer to bead straight onto my handspun core as I go, using a large eyed beading needle rather than a regular needle. It goes quite fast on a supported spindle and I don't have to remove the needle and I can take advantage of all the fabulous acrylic and plastic beads around that weigh almost nothing. I also ply on a spindle, or else use my charkha, so I don't have to worry about anything catching.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

That sounds cool. Spindles are great for avoiding orifice or flyer hook catch-ups :-) And on a tahkli or charka, I can see it going quite quickly. Thanks!

Rhonna said...

Ok, now I'm laughing . . . I remember asking that question and haven't even tried it yet myself! I've spun the beads directly onto the single, but I decided to try a thread core for the next one just to experiment, and was wondering about the invisible quilter's thread, so your timing is absolutely perfect!! :-)