I learned to crochet when I was 7 years old. I started beading shortly thereafter. Over the years, I’ve occasionally mixed the two, but have never been completely happy with the results. I struggled to find a thread thin enough to fit through my beads, strong enough to withstand the friction of stringing the beads without fraying, and yet thick enough to provide some substance to the completed piece. I’ve crocheted with nylon cord, upholstery thread, cotton crochet, monofilament fishing line, Fireline, wire. . . just about anything I could string a bead on.
Perle cotton #8 gives your bead crochet a nice drape, but can fray and separate if the bead holes are on the small side.
The most commonly recommended thread for bead crochet is Perle cotton #8, and I’ve probably used a mile or two of it. However, it’s a pain to string the beads onto it because the thread unravels easily if the bead holes are too small. And even if you can get it through the eye of a beading needle, the double thread won’t fit through an 11/0 seed bead (which is what I like to use in my bead crochet). In addition, it’s easy to pierce the thread with a crochet hook if your tension is too tight. And my tension is ALWAYS tight!
Tuff-Cord #5 works great for 8/0 seed beads or larger beads.
A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning my thread problems to Julia Gerlach, editor of Bead&Button
, and she said, “Why don’t you use Tuff-Cord?” She has suggested Tuff-Cord to me before for other projects, but I guess I forgot about it. Lo and behold, I happened to find Tuff-Cord the very next day at one of our local bead shops and picked up both sizes they carry, #5 and #1. The #5 is the thicker of the two, so I put a dab of clear nail polish on the end and easily strung 8/0 seed beads. (Actually, 11/0 seed beads pass easily onto #5, but since the thread is thicker, they tend to get swallowed up by it as you crochet.) It was a piece of cake to string the beads and, in retrospect, I probably didn’t even need the nail polish. Tuff-Cord #5 is a relatively stiff thread and did not fray one bit, even after I strung three yards of beads. I used a 2.25 mm crochet hook and it was easy to work with, but for one problem. There is absolutely no give to Tuff-Cord (maybe that’s why it’s called “Tuff”), and for someone who crochets as tight as I do, it was a struggle to get the hook between the beads and the thread. I did eventually learn to adjust my tension after accidentally jamming the hook under my thumbnail seven or eight times, and I can report that I did not pierce the #5 cord one single time.
My new favorite bead crochet thread: Tuff-Cord #1. Even 11/0 seed beads are easy to string!
The big AH-HA! moment came when I tried the #1 Tuff-Cord. This cord is thinner than the #5, and stiffer and thinner than Perle cotton #8. It does not fray, and you are not as likely to pierce the thread with the hook. I was able to string 11/0 seed beads onto it using a Big-Eye needle, and it works up beautifully with a 1.4 mm crochet hook!
I’m grateful to Julia for her excellent problem-solving skills. Now, on to my next problem — I wonder if she knows how to replace a #2 cylinder in a Toyota Corolla?