Jewelry Making Tutorial – Mixing Thread Fibers with Handmade Beads

Polymer Clay Thread Beads

Vid #78: How To Make Unique Polymer Clay Beads With Fimo Translucent Clay and Snipped Up Sewing Threads:


You know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”? Well today’s article is based on that concept rephrased slightly to this: “When life gets fluff and junk in your clay, make a thread bead!” :-)

Let me explain… It was cold in the studio one day, so I decided to wear my fluffy angora sweater to warm up. While conditioning a batch of translucent Fimo clay, some sweater fluff got into the clay… Duh! I really should have known better. But I thought I could be so careful that it wouldn’t happen to me. Besides I wanted to be cozy!

Any ways, it was quite a bit of fluff. Long purple strands of wool, completely intertwined with the clay. No chance of removal. Clay was ruined, right? Nope. Time to add more junk and pretend that I meant to do that and call it an inclusion bead!

I’ve added lots of stuff to beads before…. Nutmeg and curry to make spice beads; Rose petals in rosary beads; And crayon shavings to create some very colorful polymer clay inclusions. So I looked around the studio to see what would go nicely with purple angora fluff.

A drawer of the sewing cabinet was open, with a messy tangle of threads poking out in every color. That got me to thinking about what those tangles would look like mixed into translucent clay. How about that… being able to clean up a mess I’d been meaning to get to.. AND doing something creative at the same time. It’s like tackling two crafty birds with one stone.

So after snipping up that thread tangle into tiny bits, I mixed the pieces thoroughly into the polymer clay. Taking care to evenly distribute the thread bits by pulling apart the clay several times. Then rolling the clay into pebble shaped beads.

The important thing to know when adding any inclusion to polymer clay, is that any bits sticking out from the clay surface will probably fall out after baking. So if you want to make sure these exposed pieces stay put, simply cover them with a small thin piece of translucent. This will encase the particle or thread and keep it from falling out.

Care also has to be taken when you’re wet sanding beads of these types. You don’t want to expose any encased particles. Try to make the beads as smooth as possible before baking. Then sand very lightly through the grits and buff.

Although this story has a happy ending and I ended salvaging the clay to make some pretty neat handmade beads, I still recommend not wearing a fluffy sweater when working with polymer clay. That is unless you are making thread beads!

What is the funniest thing that’s happened to your clay by accident? Tell me some stories. I’d like to think I’m not the only one making mistakes.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor




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The full version of the “Thread Bead” preview video shown above, is available for purchase at my Polymer Clay Bead Making Videos Library in the Volume-007 Back Issue Package.

In this “Thread Bead” video I show you how to roll sewing thread clippings with translucent clay to create beautiful fiber beads. Topics include:

  • How to keep the fibers from sticking out of the clay… or worse yet, from falling out after baking.
  • How to buff these beads to give them more depth and uniqueness.
  1. Cindy Lietz, 12 October, 2008

    With your thread beads, keep the thread bits fairly short or you may find they mat together in one lump which may not give you the effect you were expecting.

  2. Alison Hall, 13 October, 2008

    How I love those ‘happy accidents’ Cindy!! x

  3. Cindy Lietz, 15 October, 2008

    Thanks Alison! I wish all my mistakes turned out so well!!

  4. krati, 20 October, 2008

    Q: sometimes I will drill a hole in my beads after baking….to ensure that the form of the bead does not get distorted…i always drill on a big tray so as not to have PC dust and twirlies all over for my dog to get into….

    i think those are so pretty when i started to collect them…all the colors of the rainbow..i put them in a big clear brandy glass for decoration….

    do you think i could take some of those baked PC dust piles and put them in some translucent or white clay and make beads out of that as well????

  5. Cindy Lietz, 21 October, 2008

    Krati that is an excellent idea! They will work really well in the clay!

    One cool thing to try would be to pour some liquid polymer clay onto a smooth tile that will fit in your oven. Then sprinkle on your ‘spirals’ and let the settle into the clay, then bake.

    When you peel off the your baked clay from the tile you’ll be able to see those cool bits embedded inside and the surface will be smooth on one side.

    You can cut this piece with scissors and push it into new clay so the smooth side is up. I think this could make really cool pendant and beads!

  6. Silverleaf, 29 October, 2008

    I LOVE translucent inclusion beads! It’s such a great technique, and people often comment on how interesting the beads look.

    I’ve used sand, spices, glitter, makeup, seed beads, tiny foil stars, poppy seeds, wax crayon shavings, dried petals… you name it, I’ve tried it.

    So when I saw this I had to have a go.

    I used tiny bits of about 10 yarns in different textures, in shades of red. Some of the reds had some purple in there as well. I pulled the “normal” yarn strands apart.

    By the time the yarns were mixed into the clay a lot of them had broken down into tiny fibres – and the baked beads look FANTASTIC! They remind me of marble with the tiny lines of colour running through them, or even tiny blood vessels.

    I’m trying to decide whether to sand them, or whether to just use Future (since I’ve discovered the UK equivelent and I love it). I kind of like the unsanded effect, especially with the pendant – they are a little lumpy but that just looks natural.

    Great idea! I wonder if dog hair and rabbit fur will look as good – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve dropped a bit of trans on the floor and it’s ended up covered in hairs (even when I’ve just vacuumed)!


  7. Cindy Lietz, 30 October, 2008

    Thanks for the fabulous comment Anna!

    When I read that the fibers even looked like tiny blood vessels, I immediately thought of making spooky blood-shot eye beads! Of course it is Halloween tomorrow, so it’s sounds cool now but some other time of the year, it would just seem gross! :-)

    On the idea of pet hairs… why not try?! I think that would look really great! And please let us all know how it works out!

  8. Paul Arthur, 24 January, 2009

    WOW all I can say is WOW. Thanks for the tip, I just finished making some thread beads and they really turned out great. After they’re sanded and polished I will send you pictures. Thanks again. Please keep the tips coming.

  9. Cindy Lietz, 26 January, 2009

    That’s fantastic Paul! I would love to see your thread beads when you are finished them!

  10. Paul Arthur, 08 February, 2009

    Hi Cindy, Here are my thread beads, but I need your help. Why are my translucent beads not more clear?

    Paul Arthur Thread Beads

  11. Cindy Lietz, 09 February, 2009

    Gorgeous beads Paul! I love the way you put together your finished pieces and how the seed beads accent the colors of the threads!

    About your question on why your translucent beads are not more clear, the reason is translucent clay is only semi transparent.

    When the clay is very thin like the thin layer over the threads, you can see through it and it appears clear. But as it gets thicker, like the center of your bead, it appears opaque.

    Although Kato Polyclay’s translucent is the most transparent of them all, none of the brands are actually clear in the clay form.

    Liquid clays like Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS), Kato Clear and Fimo Gel are much clearer than any of the solid clays.

    Though the translucent clays are not actually clear, they do allow light to pass through them giving them some wonderful qualities.

    I hope that helps Paul and thanks again for sending your photo. You did an awesome job!

  12. Paul Arthur, 10 February, 2009

    You have no idea how overwhelmed I feel about what you said about my beads. I could never have made them without your video on thread beads. All your videos and tips are wonderful to newbies like me. Please keep up the great job. Thanks for the advice and information. I purchased your course and every bit of it’s helped me out. I refer back to it nightly and nonstop on the weekends. Thank you, thank you, thank you YOU ROCK!

  13. Cindy Lietz, 11 February, 2009

    You are so welcome Paul and thank you very much for your kind words! Glad to hear the course has been so helpful for you!!

    BTW I’ve tried to go to your Etsy site to check out some more of your great stuff but the URL you linked to your name is not valid. Thought you would like to know that for the next time you comment.

  14. Paul Arthur, 12 February, 2009

    Sorry about that, it’s Please be kind. I have a few polymer clay beads i’ve created.

  15. Cindy Lietz, 14 February, 2009

    Paul I checked out your jewelry and it is lovely. Why do you keep asking me to be kind when I view it? Are you not proud of it? Cause you should be!

    Also IMO you are not charging enough for your pieces. People will just assume it must not be good if it is so cheap.

    If you want to have success with selling your work, you must not undervalue it. Of course overvaluing it won’t work either, but undervaluing it is just as bad.

    I think I will write a post about this idea because this is a problem for many people. I hope you realize I am being kind by saying this. I just want to see you succeed so you don’t get burned out and quit. :-)

    **Read the article I have linked beside my name about the Etsy success one of the readers here has had and how I think she achieved it.

  16. Paul, 14 February, 2009

    Thanks for being so truthful. I’ve very proud of every piece I’ve ever created. All my friends and family have been telling me the same about the value of my jewelry, but I would not believe them. You saying this has opened my eyes, I will have to get better at pricing. Thanks and I really value your opinion. And believe me I will NEVER get burned out and stop. Thanks again. :o)

  17. Cindy Lietz, 15 February, 2009

    Oh Paul that is so good to hear! You are a pleasure having around here and I look forward to hearing about your many successes! :-)

  18. Jackie Norris, 26 February, 2009

    Hi Cindy,

    I just finished watching your tutorial on adding the thread to the clay. I thought it was a great idea, which got me thinking. As I was drilling some holes in some of my beads I had these small shavings from the beads, so I decided to mix them in with the translucent clay. It worked great and made some really beautiful beads. Anyway just wanted to share it with you. Thanks again for your wonderful tutorials.

    Jackie Norris

  19. Cindy Lietz, 26 February, 2009

    That’s a great idea Jackie! Bet your beads look cool! I am glad you are enjoying the membership tutorial videos. If you have any questions feel free to ask!

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