There are heaps of different types of cord in the beading industry: waxed linen, leather, Nymo, and Fireline, just to name a few. However, the cord we return to time and time again for the majority of our beading needs is SoftFlex. We have tried other brands of flexible beading wire, and we have found that, when it comes to flexibility & durability, SoftFlex stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest.
With their wide range of diameters & colors, SoftFlex offers one of the most extensive selections of cord we have ever seen. But how do you know which cord is appropriate for your project? We’re glad you asked! 🙂
This is a great cord for beaders just starting out who aren’t sure if they want to make beading a full-time hobby. We say that because, although Econoflex (like all cord in the SoftFlex family) is comprised of thin, steel wires woven together and coated with nylon, it has the fewest number of metal strands woven together. That means it is the least flexible type of SoftFlex, and so it is prone to kinking more than other styles. However, as its name indicates, it is the least expensive cord SoftFlex makes, and it’s a heck of a lot better than stringing your beads on fishing line or (gasp!) dental floss. (We understand that there are very few options for stringing materials at summer camp, but it’s time for an upgrade, people.)
Regular SoftFlex comes in several diameters:
Photo courtesy of caravanbeads.blogspot.com.
Very Fine – .010 inches in diameter (Use 1x1mm crimps to fininsh.)
This diameter is only found in the SoftTouch style of SoftFlex. Being that it is very fine, it cannot withstand a lot of weight before it kinks and, eventually, breaks. The folks at SoftFlex recommend it only be used for sewing, crocheting, knitting, and weaving. Other diameters in the SoftTouch family (see below) are better suited for necklaces and bracelets.
Photo courtesy of Rare Find Jewelry by Cindy Lou on Etsy.
Fine – .014 inches (Use 1.5×1.5mm or 2x2mm crimps to finish, giving each crimp and extra squish.)
This diameter is designed for softer, less abrasive materials such as fresh water pearls and seed beads. As SoftFlex states, “Diameter .014 offers the softness and flexibility of pearl stringing threads, yet has the strength of stainless steel.” It is best not to use heavy beads with this diameter; as a good rule of thumb, avoid .014 if you are stringing beads that are larger than 8mm.
Photo courtesy of ArtfulHummingbird on Etsy.
Medium – .019 inches (Use 2×2 crimps to finish.)
This diameter is our favorite! Medium works well with small to medium glass beads, gemstones, crystals, metal beads, and the majority of freshwater pearls and seed beads. We recommend using this diameter when you are designing with a variety of materials.
Photo courtesy of Rocktopolis on Etsy.
Heavy – .024 inches (Use 2.5×2.5 crimps to finish.)
This diameter is designed for abrasive materials (it has the thickest coating of nylon applied to the woven wires) and “designs that will meet excessive movement such as watch bands, bracelets, belts and purse straps.” It is great for large, heavy beads, such as lampwork glass and large gemstones.
Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company.
SoftFlex Metallics and SoftFlex Colors
These two subcategories of SoftFlex are manufactured in the same way as the other Fine-through-Heavy SoftFlex cords, with one exception: the nylon coating on the outside of the woven wires has had color added. This is a permanent color and will not bleed. It is ideal for woven and floating-style pieces where you want the cord to show, or if you have somewhat translucent beads and you don’t like the idea of having the standard, gray color of regular SoftFlex to show.
Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company
The fanciest of the SoftFlex family, this subcategory also comes in SoftFlex’s full range of diameters, but what makes ExtremeFlex so nifty is that the woven wires underneath the nylon coating have been plated with precious metals! These cords are shimmery silver & gold because they have real silver and gold in them. Don’t worry about the plating wearing off: you’d have to scrape through the entire layer of nylon to get to the wires, then scrape the electroplating off of the wires. In other words, it would be darn near impossible. We recommend using ExtremeFlex for the same kind of projects where you’d use the Metallics or Colors. Covering up such lovely (and somewhat pricey) cord would be a waste!
We hope you find this guide helpful, and that you have great success with all of your beading projects. Flex your beading power!