Stretch Cord Primer
Learning the Basics
It's easy to make beaded jewelry using stretch and illusion cords if you just know the basics. Endless bead bracelets, multi-strand stretch beaded bracelets, floating bead necklaces and more can be made quickly when you know which cord to look for and how to use it.
First of all – let's define the different types of stretch cord. There is a brand called Stretch Magic, a very strong, very elastic beading cord. It is commonly used for the new endless beaded bracelets and has other great applications as well. It is a bit on the pricey side, but is extremely durable. Another product on the market is good old covered elastic cord. It is now made in a small enough diameter to be used with 11/0 seed beads, and is very inexpensive. It is, however, not very durable and should be used with care.
There is also a cord called Monofilament and one called "Illusion" cord. These are not stretch cords but are clear, monofilament type threads to be used in the "floating" and "illusion" necklaces or bracelets with a clasp.
As for how to work these cords, there are a few schools of thought. I prefer using the smooth, cylindrical crimp beads, using a crimp tool to close the crimps. The newer Tornado crimps would work very well with stretch cord, too; perhaps even better than the cylindrical crimp bead, as they do not have as sharp and edge.
The other way to work it is to stretch the cord out, then knot it. The easiest way I have found to do this is to use a "third hand" tool; one of the jewerer's tool units with a weighted base and a couple of alligator clips attached to multi-swivel arms. They are not expensive and often come in handy. After making the know, add a drop of Super Glue to the knot, just to hold it in place. I have tried clear nail polish but it does not work very well. Wait until the glue has dried to clip the ends, as the knot will slip out if the glue has not set. Push the knot inside one of the beads to hide it.
Another way to secure the cord is to melt the knot together. The absolute best way to do this is to use the lit end of a piece of stick incense. This is a good but not foolproof method. You must make sure that you do not get the lit end of the incense stick close to the cord in any place other than the knot. If you do accidently melt (or even overheat) a part of the cord, you will weaken the cord and the beaded piece will probably break in a short time.
Keep the finished beaded pieces out of water and out of light when they are not being worn. These elements can weaken or disintegrate any type of stringing material but are especially hard on stretch cord. Also, since these types of cord are fairly new, their long-term durability is not known. There have been reports of beaded bracelets lasting for a year and longer, even when worn constantly. Of course, there have been reports of knots slipping after just a few wearings and of the thread losing elasticity and breaking in a short time. It is likely that other problems enter the picture – rough wear, too much stretching, etc. Use you best judgement and confine the use of these cords to beads you could stand to lose. If you do want to make a stretch cord beaded bracelet or necklace using heavy or larger beads, use as many strands of cord as the bead holes will allow to add security to your finished beaded piece.