Some embroidery threads, like metallic threads, are simply beasts that can only be tamed with the use of some help. Like the mighty thread conditioner.
Little did I know that a small addition to my embroidery tool case can have such an impact!
Especially with metallics, I’m happy for any help that makes using these gorgeous but often nasty to work with threads easier.
Disclaimer: this article contains affiliate links.
What is a thread conditioner?
A thread conditioner or thread wax is used to apply a protective coat around threads. For this you lay the thread on the thread wax surface, hold it in place with your thumb and pull it through the whole length.
If you want to apply it to your thread’s ends only, lay them on the thread wax and pull it with your thumb holding it down. Then use your thumb and forefinger to pull the thread between your fingers and spread the coat evenly.
Here are the benefits of thread conditioners
- the additional coat around the fibers helps to prevent the thread fraying as much
- embroidery floss can be threaded easier since the tip is stabilized and the fibers don’t separate easily
- metallic threads tend to behave better, fray much less and can be threaded without the cursing
However, depending on the kind of thread conditioner you choose and how much of it, it can leave a residue on your thread. That is why you shouldn’t use wax that clings a lot.
If the wax attracts too much dirt or dust and clings to it, the stitches can look greyish and not as vibrant anymore (or worse very yucky). If you want to make your own beeswax conditioner, test if the wax sticks to your finger easily. There are differences depending on how clean the beeswax is. I suggest using food grade beeswax used for cosmetics.
Traditionally, thread conditioner is made with beeswax. Coincidently, I made some dip-candles and shapes with my kids a couple of years ago and had some beeswax at hand. Given that you only need a very small amount of beeswax, it’s perfect if you have it already at hand and don’t need to buy some. You can cut off the bottom of a beeswax candle or the drippings of a used one. You only need a little bit, really.
If you have to buy the beeswax to make your thread conditioner – by all means, save yourself the time and purchase a ready-made thread conditioner or thread wax! Unless you want to make a production line of thread wax or want to use it for candles, too, it’s just too small an amount you need. Ready-made thread waxes can be found in many variations. Here are some cute shaped beeswax versions and a classic one in a tin container. (all these links are Etsy affiliate links)
To make 1 small container of beeswax thread conditioner you’ll need
- purified beeswax – cut off some shavings of a bar like I did, use pastilles/granules of beeswax or cut off the end of a beeswax candle
- a tea light tin, or another very small container suitable for melting in a water bath – keep in mind that beeswax is very hard to remove, so don’t use your chocolate melting pan or something that does require cleaning afterward
- a small pot, stove and a metal grid to lay in the pot like a metal strainer
- a container with a lid to store the thread wax – I used a plastic container for beads. You can use empty containers for lip balms or other cosmetics.
So let’s start making thread wax!
1// Cut your beeswax in very small chunks. The thinner the slice, the faster it will melt. Use a hot waterproof container to put your beeswax in.
2// Pour a little bit of water in your smallest pot and heat the stove at the lowest temperature possible. Put your metal container filled with beeswax on some sort of grid, like my guinea pig hey rack here. I use it so the bubbles from below don’t cause the small and very light tin to tip over. You can try it without, but I have warned you 😉
If the lowest temperature of your stove needs to long or it doesn’t melt properly go up a little bit with the heat. The water doesn’t need to cook – as you can see in the picture a little simmering is enough!
3// Once the beeswax is molten pour it into the small container. Make sure you don’t burn your fingers on the tin! I used pliers to get it out. Wait until it’s solid and cold. Let it cool slowly, don’t put it into the fridge or freezer to cool off. I heard this makes beeswax candles less good, so maybe it can affect the quality of thread wax, too?
A second method I wanted to show you (and show off really, because I thought it was so genius….) is the one you can see above. Here is the plan:
- pick up a tealight
- separate the candle part from the wick
- insert the wick into the tin again
- fill it up to the brim with beeswax nips or cuts of beeswax
- lit the candle and wait until the wax is molten
- optional: to melt even more wax for a second or third container, pour out the molten wax from time to time and add more beeswax to melt
In theory, it would have worked great. The wax would have been melting like a charm, I could have been filling several containers and my living room would have smelled like honey.
So what went wrong?
Well… it’s so hard to admit it, but it’s so hilarious I cannot NOT share. The little pastilles or granules you can see in the picture above? I thought they where beeswax because they were in my candle drawer right next to the big bar of golden beeswax. I was a little bit suspicious because they looked so pale, but I thought maybe they added something to make it brighter – what do I know?
For this tutorial, I wanted to make sure to add all the info and looked at the package if there is something added to the beeswax. And then laughed quite frantically. The package said it was 100% cocoa butter… Lightbulb moment.
So the pale stuff I filled in the first container is cocoa butter. If I add some sugar and cocoa powder I can dip my thread in chocolate – yay! I began to understand why the wick didn’t burn well.
After my revelation, I tested the method with the same beeswax shavings used for the method described above. The candle wick did burn a little bit longer, but it never became strong enough to melt the whole content of the tin.
So much for my genius mind, right?
Ready-made beeswax thread conditioner
If you don’t want to mess around with the beeswax, here are some pretty ready-made thread conditioners made from beeswax.
These modern thread conditioners come with a handy bag to store them in. But which one to use first? There are many more options like unicorns, shells, hearts, and more!
Sheep shaped beeswax conditioner
The Thread Gatherer creates these sweet sheep thread conditioners. And if you are not using it at the moment these sheep make a great piece of decoration, too!
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