Before you can begin most beadweaving projects, you need to prepare your needle and thread. Here's a look at just what that process entails.
1. Pull a Length of Thread
Begin by "pulling" a length of thread to work with. To pull thread means to unroll an amount of thread from its spool. The length you pull depends on how much thread you feel comfortable working with. Some beaders prefer no more than about one arm span of thread, or about four feet. This ensures that the thread passes all the way through each bead with one tug. With longer lengths, you need to tug the thread more than once to "reel in" the excess, at least early on. This is time consuming and can lead to knotting and tangling.
2. Cut the Thread
After pulling your desired length of thread, you need to cut it free from the spool. If your thread is made of nylon (such as Nymo, C-Lon, or Silamide), you can use a pair of sharp beading scissors. However, if your thread is made of gel-spun polyethylene (such as DandyLine, PowerPro, and FireLine), consider using a rugged pair of children's craft scissors instead; these threads are more difficult to cut and can dull the blades of beading scissors.
3. Pre-Stretch the Thread
This step is necessary for nylon thread, or any other type of thread that is prone to stretching out over time. Hold the thread with both hands and pull it in opposite directions with a couple of gentle tugs. Do this along the entire length of thread.
Precaution: Be aware that size D and thicker thread can withstand stronger pre-stretching than smaller threads, such as sizes B and 0, which can snap and break relatively easily.
4. Condition the Thread
This step is optional, but recommended for any nylon thread that is not labeled as being "prewaxed" or "preconditioned." Conditioning thread helps it to pass through beads more smoothly. It also slightly strengthens thread and makes it less likely to tangle.
You can use either beeswax or a commercial thread conditioner, such as Thread Heaven, to condition your thread. Many beaders prefer commercial brands because they do not leave the thread feeling sticky.
To condition a length of thread, press it onto the surface of the wax or conditioner and pull it slowly through the product until the entire thread is coated. Then pull the thread gently through your index finger and thumb to rub-in the wax or conditioner and remove any excess.
5. Thread the Needle
Now it's time to string your beading needle onto the thread. Most beadweaving is performed with single-strand thread, which means that you slide the needle down six to eight inches and fold over the thread tail. You keep the needle from falling off by holding down that tail as you stitch.
If a project calls for double-strand thread, you can either string two equal lengths of beading thread through your needle's eye (if it's large enough), or you can use an extra-long length of thread, slide the needle to the middle, and bring the ends of the thread together.
Tip: Beading needle eyes are very narrow. The easiest way to thread them is to squeeze the end of the thread between the fingers of one hand, and use your other hand to move the needle toward (and over) the end of the thread. A desktop magnifier can help you see the thread and needle much more clearly.
6. Attach a Bead Stop
This is another optional step. Many beaders find it helpful to attach a bead stop device, such as a stop bead or Bead Stopper, near the end of their thread. It keeps strung beads from falling off and helps control tension in the first few rows of beadwork. If you decide to use one, position it where you want the ending thread tail to begin: about six to eight inches from the end for a standard thread tail that you plan to weave-in, or further up if you plan to use the thread tail to stitch more beadwork later.
Tip: As an alternative to using a bead stop device, you can wrap the thread around a finger of the hand that you use to hold your beadwork.