Cords, cords and more cords!

Kumihimo cord

There is often a considerable amount of confusion about which cords or threads are suitable for beaded kumihimo, which is a shame because using the correct cord is one of the keys to maintaining the necessary tension to keep the beads in place. S-Lon and C-Lon beading cord are identical products and are perfect for most applications. However, both of these brands offer beading thread, which is designed for use with a needle and is too fine to be successful in beaded kumihimo. In addition, both brands offer different widths of beading cord and they are now becoming more widely available, especially since Jewellery Maker has recently added two new widths to their range. It therefore seems a good time to write a blog about these cords, especially as I will be appearing on Jewellery Maker tomorrow (20.5.15 1-5pm) and I will be demonstrating both of the new cord widths.

I would like to start with an explanation. It is easy to measure the diameter of a rigid material like wire with calipers, but as cord can be compressed it is not possible to get an accurate reading. This makes it difficult for jewellery makers, because it is easy to understand diameter, but the weight of a cord is not easy to visualise. As a result, most retailers will indicate the approximate diameter of the cord they sell and this can vary from place to place, making it difficult to make comparisons and ensure that we are buying the product we want. My aim here is to give the information necessary to try to clarify the situation.

The only accurate way to make a comparison is to look at the Tex value. Tex is a weight measurement and represents the weight in grams of 1000m of cord. The most popular S-Lon/C-Lon is Tex 210, which means that if you take 1000m of cord it would weigh 210g. The heavier/thicker/wider cord is Tex 400 and the lighter/ thinner/ finer cord is Tex 135. Many retailers do include this information in the descriptions.

The main confusion arises with the diameter of the cord. Tex 210 is sold as both 0.5mm and 0.4mm. Tex 135 is sold as both 0.4mm and 0.3mm. Tex 400 is variously described as 0.9mm and ‘just under 1mm’! They may be called thin/thick, narrow/wide or lightweight/heavyweight. Oh dear! I do not want to add to the problem, but I should add that Tex 210 is sometimes sold as size 18!

The good news is that all 3 thicknesses are brilliant for kumihimo and a selection of all of them is a useful addition to any stash. The following comparisons refer mainly to Round Braid using 8 slots.

Tex 135, fine/thin cord. This will fit through almost any bead, pearl or gemstone you would want to use for kumihimo. It may be very fine, but it is still very strong and resistant to fraying and abrasion. It can also be used with multiples of cord in each slot to create a more substantial braid. It will only work with single strands and beads if the slots on the disk are very tight, so only use your newest disk for the exclusive use of this cord. Fine cord like this works up very slowly when used singly in the slots and produces a very spindly braid.

Tex 210, medium cord. This is a great all-rounder. It will fit through medium sized glass beads, such as sizes 6 and 8, as well as some size 11s. Magatamas, Long Drops and small drops are fine, but some of the other shaped beads, such as Rizos can be more challenging. With gemstones, most chips and 4mm beads upwards will accommodate the cord, but some of the more precious stones and pearls have smaller drill holes and cannot be used. The cord works up into a delicate braid in single multiples or a more substantial braid when used with several cords in each slot. It may be necessary to use a core cord with very round beads, which often do not sit neatly together and can cause the braid to have a squashy feel.

Tex 400, thick cord. This cord works well for larger beads, whether they are glass or gemstone and provides a firm braid to support bigger beads. When used on its own it works up quickly into a firm, but flexible braid. Smaller beads and gemstones will not have large enough drill holes for this cord.

As a general guide, use the widest cord you can comfortably thread through the beads, doubling up the cords if necessary. A few reels of each size in neutral colours is a good addition any stash.

In the show tomorrow I am planning to demonstrate some of the benefits of the new cords and over the next few months I hope to have fun exploring some new methods and applications.

The show can be seen on Sky 665, or the jewellery maker app.