November 03, 2018

DIY Glue Needle for Easy Bead Stringing

Stringing beads onto floppy thread or cord can be maddening, if not downright impossible.  Several solutions exist to this problem. There are big eye or collapsible eye needles, both of which work fabulously, but only if your thread or cord can fit through the bead doubled over.  I have run into this problem several times recently making macrame bracelets.

DIY glue needle for easy bead stringing

The charm on this bracelet sat unused for the longest time because I couldn't get a cord through the small holes. When I tried, the cord would just split and fray.

What can you do when you have the perfect beads but the cord will just barely fit through them? You could use silk cord with a built-in needle - but that can get expensive, and silk cord doesn't work for all knotting options - especially macrame or kumihimo.  My solution is to make a glue needle.

Of course, the type of glue is the key.

  • I've tried crazy glue and stuck my fingers together. I don't advise it.
  • I've tried white glue and just made a mess. 
  • I've also tried Modge Podge and glues that were made to stiffen fabric. No dice.

You'd think with all of those attempts - something would have worked! But they didn't.

Finally, by accident, I ran across Henrietta's Gum Arabic Glue. I was not searching for it at all, but once I saw it, I had to try it. It's a very unimpressive little jar, but I couldn't have made some of my latest projects without it.

How to make a glue needle for bead stringing

When I first opened the jar, I thought it was bad. It's not a very attractive glue. Fairly thick and a weird (ugly) tan color. But it works!

Just dip the cord end in the jar and then use your fingers to thoroughly saturate the cord end. Let it dry completely. How do you know it's dry? Well, walk away and do something else and then come back and the cord will be stiff. If you keep touching it to see if it's dry, it just doesn't seem to happen. It's like watching a pot boil.  And if it's not thoroughly dry, your beads will stick to the glue - so trust me. Just walk away.

The glue washes off your hands with water. Much easier than when I tried to use crazy glue. That was a bad idea. My fingers were sticking to everything! I have no idea what I was thinking...

Anyway, here is what the glue needle looks like compared to the knotting cord without the glue. The glue smooths the fibers to make the cord or thread a little thinner, but it also keeps the cord stiff and from fraying when you add the beads.

learn to make a glue needle for beads

I've read some articles that recommend cutting the glue needle on an angle to make threading beads easier. I found the opposite was true. That a blunt end was easier to add beads to and also stayed firm and tight longer than when I cut it on an angle. The angle seemed to make it fray much quicker - which of course made adding beads more challenging.  It may depend on the cord, so give it a try and decide what works best for your stringing situation.

I was able to string these beads with barely any fraying on the end of the cord.

DIY glue needle for easy bead stringing

Here's a peek at the project that I'm making.  The center is a lampwork donut and the band is square knot macrame with beads. Almost done!  I am using the Beadalon Tying Station to hold the cords in place. I was initially disappointed with this tool, but over time I have adjusted to using it for my macrame bracelets and find it very convenient now.  Sometimes, you just have to keep using a tool to see the benefits.

Beadalon Tying Station

And here's a short video of the process to make a glue needle. It's super easy - and I think very cost effective. Gum arabic can also be used to keep cord ends glued in place or to secure knots.  However, the fact that the glue is water soluble, makes me think it is not going to be permanent. I haven't fully tested that application yet, so I'll post more when I do.

The more I have looked into gum arabic, the more interesting of a substance it is. It's used pretty extensively in painting, so I may buy some of the gum arabic powder in the future. Not that I paint or anything! (I really don't).

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  1. Thanks for the tip! I sure am gonna use it!

  2. Does the arabix glue work better than nail polish? That is what I use to thread seed beeds on embroidery floss and other threads that like to unravel.

    1. I've never tried nail polish, but I'm going to guess this works better because it is water soluble and it washes off your hands super easy. That means you can run your fingers down the cord to help smooth and compress it - and then wash up. No need to worry about getting nail polish on anything.

    2. I've always used the Elmer's white glue; I guess that it worked better for me. You do have to draw it through your fingertips a few times to make the length you need the needle to be and allow for trimming if necessary. I also cut a slanted tip when I have a cord that I'm determined to get through a too-small hole. I can catch the tip with tweezers, pull firmly, and hope that enough cord comes through before it breaks. It does ravel. P.S. your small porcelain soy sauce (?) dishes gave me a jolt; I didn't know what they were but used them to rinse hard contact lenses more than a few decades ago. Now they corral beads. Thanks for your informative website!

  3. I have used Fray Check for making glue needles, and am pretty happy with the results. You can get it at any sewing emporium, and it's inexpensive. I use it in sewing, and thought it might work for making a glue needle. It does take a bit to dry, depending on how much you've used, but I've found if you work on something else for a bit and let it hang from something (I have a jointed desk lamp fitted with an Ott-light bulb that I use for beading, and I hang cords and glued things from it. I also often have a fan blowing gently in the background, so that helps) to dry. 15-20 minutes, usually. :)