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February 07, 2019

How to Stiffen Beadwork to Hold Shape Better

Many beadwork designs benefit from being flexible that can make them drape like fabric.  Beaded ropes and fringe need to curve and move as part of their design. But sometimes, the flexibility of woven beads is not an asset. It can cause edges to curl or designs to lose their shape.

Circular brick stitch and circular netting, along with Russian leaves are designs that don't always stay flat for me. I've tried several different methods to have them hold their shape, but only one has worked really well for me.

I'll start with the ones that I've either tried or read about.

Nail polish was a big failure. It is hard to apply evenly, sticky, discolors, and eventually peels. The only positive is that it is something that I almost always have available.

Acrylic floor sealer like Pledge Floor Finish is something a lot of beaders seem to use. I have not tried it. The main downfall I have read is that it can change the finish on your beads, either by making matte beads shiny or causing some coatings to peel. It will also eventually peel. The funny thing is that reading the comments on the one at the link, it says it is a new formula that is not as glossy as before. That may be a good thing in my opinion - but the fact that it eventually peels is still a downside. I may eventually have to try it just to compare.

Renaissance Wax was something I tried but it didn't work. It shouldn't work of course, because it is meant to shine and protect the finish of metal jewelry - but I had it and was desperate for something to work at the time.

That brings me to ProtectaClear.

Yay! ProtectaClear really works perfectly! And with only one coat on one side of my beadwork.

Here's a look at one of my beaded mandala pendants before applying it. The flexibility is nice at first, but I've found that over time, the beadwork will become more and more relaxed and floppy. Another problem I often have is that the brick stitch around a flat center bead will loosen and turn.

ProtectaClear solves both of those problems for me. Applied thinly, it is unnoticeable. The details of the beads are still evident. BUT, if you apply multiple coats of ProtectaClear, it will look like your beads are glued into place. One coat is good, but if you put it on both sides and repeat, ugh, not what I wanted.

To use ProtectaClear, I brush on a coat using parchment paper underneath the beadwork. I use parchment paper because it is coated and doesn't stick. Plus, with my cooking skills, I've had the same box of parchment paper in the cabinet for about 10 years, so I might as well use it for something!

The ProtectaClear has a bit of an odor, so I try to do it outside, but it's not terrible and the fumes don't seem to linger too long. If you're sensitive, I'd suggest doing it outside.

Then let it dry. It will take at least 2-3 hours to be dry to the touch. If you are in a humid area, I think it will take longer. To be completely dry, it will take about 24 hours.

Here's a video that will allow you to see the process of how I coat a piece of beadwork as well as the difference a single layer of ProtectaClear makes.

ProtectaClear is also useful if you make wire jewelry. It can be used on copper jewelry to keep it from turning your skin green. It can also be used to deal the color of patina to prevent further oxidation. For those uses, I've heard it wears off more quickly, but have not tried it myself (yet!).

And last, but not least, I'm enjoying creating these beaded mandalas.  I started off making them to be very petite and used size 15 beads and only netting stitch. But now, I'm enjoying making these larger sized medallions. The new versions use a combination of brick stitch and netting stitch. I'm hoping to make a tutorial on these soon.

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  1. I've been using Sally Hansen Nail Hardener for years on brick stitch earrings and it works well for me, but I'm willing to try something better - thanks for the info.

    1. I've had nail polish flake or remove the color from my beads. I'm not sure if the Nail Hardener is a different formula though.

    2. I tried this and it worked great- the only thing is, now my earrings smell like nail polish and I don't want that on my skin/ close to my face. Have you found a way around this?

    3. Usually the smell goes away when the item is fully dry. It can take longer in a humid environment.

  2. Hi Lisa, thanks for the info. Appreciate any and all tips!
    Best, Gail

  3. Good Tip, I too use fingernail polish, didnt like the acrylic floor polish, but my question is what do you use to clean the brush. I was hoping that can had a brush attached on the inside. Thanks.

    1. First, I used a small paint brush and that got stiff and couldn't be used more than once. The brush I show in the pictures seems to stay good through multiple applications as long as I just wipe it off with a towel. The instructions do say to use a natural bristle brush, which the paint brush I tried using was not.

  4. Ooh - I’ve only ever used clear nail varnish. As a kid, I also found it worked wonders for securing marcasite chips in all the sparkly hair accessories I used to buy. One coat sealed everything! To be honest, I still use it to secure gemstones on shoes and bags.

  5. so would this be okey for use on miyuki beads with a matte finish? that is my main concern, i just started bead work, but i noticed that my galvenized beads really get worn fast.

    1. Yes, you can use protectaclear on matte beads, but it will add shine to them. Galvanized beads do show wear quickly - especially in bracelets or rings. I try to use duracoat galvanized beads, which have a coating that makes them wear a little better.

  6. Are there any beads or string that don't do well with Protectaclear?