One of the most often asked questions I receive from beginning beaders is what type of cord or string they should use to string their beads onto. Of course, it would be nice to be able to tell them to use string "X." But, of course, there are many different types of stringing media on the market. So, in order to decide which string to use, you need to consider what you're stringing. And, in my opinion, there is no single type of string or cord that can do it all.
Here is a list of some (and by no means all) of the stringing media now available and what type of beads work best with it.
A well-known classic for bead stringing, silk thread is most often used for pearls. Some beaders also like to use it with stone beads. Personally, I rarely use silk because I find that it frays easily. However, I know a few people who do pearl bead stringing for a little extra cash, and they use silk exclusively for their pearls. Obviously, silk is a higher quality thread than nylon. So, when you're charging people to hand-knot their pearl strands, it only makes sense to use a good quality thread. You can purchase silk on large spools or on cards with attached twisted needles. It also comes in a variety of colors (white, black, gray, pink, etc.) and sizes (#1-#8).
When knotting long, stone bead necklaces, nylon works very well. Nylon can also be purchased on long rolls or on cards with attached needles.
Since nylon is a synthetic fiber, it doesn't stretch or fray. I like the way nylon makes stone bead necklaces drape, even if you're not knotting between the beads. Nylon also comes in different colors and sizes. Most often, I use size #4. It seems to work well with 6mm and 4mm beads, which I use a lot.
For small beads, I use size #2.
I've seen this in craft stores labeled as "Jewelry Thread." But, yes, it's that same stuff they use on a fishing pole. When I first started string beads, I used 20 lbs. test filament for everything. Today, I'm a lot more experienced and, therefore, a lot more particular. However, I still think this is okay to use for those cheapo $3 bracelets that are sold as impulse items. Most people who buy a $3 bracelet are going to wear it for a few months and then get tired of it. However, I would never string beads that could cut or stretch the monofilament such as hematite or crystals. Even a $3 bracelet should not break too easily. Though I've never had anything break using filament, and I've got some old stuff I made 10 years ago using it that I still wear sometimes, the cord will eventually become oddly shaped if stored twisted up. So, use your own judgment. If you're making a bunch of stuff to stick in your bargain bin you might want to use it. However, if you're making necklace, you're going to sell in a gallery, I would consider another type of cord.
This is a staple item in most seed beaders' bead boxes. It comes in a good range of colors and various sizes.
You can buy it on large rolls or tiny bobbin sized rolls. Most often, beaders use the smaller rolls for portability and so they can have more colors. It must be waxed using either bees wax or a product call Thread Heaven. Though I seed bead, I'm not into nymo after being introduced to silamide. Nymo is used mostly for seed beads, but can also be used with pearls or heishi.
This thread is also used with seed beads. However, it is pre-waxed with strands twisted together, so it's convenient and strong. Originally, many seed beaders weren't very impressed because the color selection was very limited. However, it now is available in all kinds of colors like pink, mustard, turquoise, etc. Another reason some seed beaders don't like it is because it can be difficult to thread through a needle since it is twisted.
Coated Wire aka Beading Wire
Probably some of the best products in recent development for bead stringing are the various types of coated wire threads now available. You've probably heard of Soft Touch, Beadalon, Accuflex, and Soft Flex, which are trade names for this type of material. Depending on the manufacturer, there are various sizes and colors available. This cord works great with crystals, all types of stone beads, and even the thinner sizes can be used with some pearls. The smaller sized cords can be knotted on the end to be used with bead tips (clam shells), but they are most often finished off with crimp beads. This cord is also great to use when making illusion necklaces.
Before the coated wire came along, tiger-tail was the way to go when it came to heavy-weight beads such as hematite. This is also a nylon coated wire cable. However, it is much stiffer than the cords described above. It also comes in various sizes. However, it comes in only a steel color. It is very strong since it consists of a number of strands of thin steel wire. I still use it because sometimes the other cord is so soft for some projects it can be difficult to use.
But, I think it might just take getting used to.
This is great to use for those heavy necklaces that use stone donuts. Plus, it is attractive enough to be incorporated into part of the bead design without having to worry about covering it up with beads. Usually, you'll find it in 1 and 2 mm sizes and it comes in all kinds of colors, so you don't have to just use brown or black any more. If you are uncomfortable with using leather products, there are also a number of imitation products available today as well.
Waxed Linen Cord
This is often used with macrame designs. It doesn't come in a huge assortment of colors and most often will be found only in black or brown. It is pretty strong since it's waxed. If you want to make long necklaces with heavy beads, this would be a cord to consider.
Not that long ago, you could only find hemp available in one boring light tan color. But today, you can find it in black, blue, green, purple, etc.
I've even seen it available in craft department of my local department store. This is also good to use with macrame and is pretty strong. It works nicely with large beads and the colors can be coordinated well with polymer clay beads too.
This thread is used to make bullet- proof vests. It's often used in seed beads when weight is a consideration.
It is very thin but only comes in a few colors. Yellow is its natural color, but I've also seen it in black. Another drawback is that it can't be bleached white.
Believe it or not, this is just a smattering of bead stringing media available for you to use. You can find all kinds of bead stringing supplies from most vendors who sell beads under the Beading Supplies section of this site.