So What’s the Big Deal About Beeswax and Sewing?
For many of us who have been sewing for a LONG time, we have known the secret of beeswax but rarely hear about it among the conversation between newer sewists. Why is that? The answer is simple. It’s another step and most newer sewists do not want to put the effort out. They do not understand the HUGE benefits to the effort and as a result miss out on so much.
Waxing your thread before performing any of the following tasks makes them far easier and less stressful.
- Sewing on buttons
- Hand-worked buttonholes
- Setting-in a sleeve by hand
- Inserting a zipper
- Hand-stitched French Seams
- Sewing-on patch pockets
Any task that requires a bit of extra strength from your thread will benefit from using beeswax. Cotton and silk thread should always be waxed before sewing with it.
What is beeswax? 100% beeswax, not a beeswax substitute (such as silicone), and not beeswax mixed with paraffin (which makes the wax flaky and can cause a real mess on your needlework).
The yellow wafer of “beeswax” in the clear plastic slotted containers that you find in most sewing stores on the notion wall is rarely100% beeswax, READ the label. If you want 100% beeswax, you need to find it somewhere besides the notions wall of the local fabric store. There are so many USA producing aviaries that sell their beeswax wholesale and retail, both filtered and unfiltered, that finding a quality product is no issue. Beeswax has been used for centuries to coat threads. It has also been used to burnish the edges of leather, and is even used in the making of shoes.
Strength & Protection with Beeswax
Beeswax is used in general hand sewing, and embroidery, but usually in specific circumstances, and all of those circumstances have to do with strengthening and protecting the thread.
Beeswax is used to coat threads to strengthen them in MANY circumstances. For example, when attaching objects like buttons or hooks and eyes to fabric, coating the thread with beeswax will strengthen the thread against normal wear and tear, so that the buttons – or beads or other objects, are held to the fabric more securely, for a longer period of time.
There ARE many uses for beeswax. It is phenomenal at strengthening thread and making it less likely to tangle. The thread conditioners are VERY different from pure beeswax and often contain silicone. This is not the best option as it can accelerate the process of rotting the textiles. This is especially true in relationship to natural fibers.
The Longevity of Beeswax
Beeswax has a great history, and it is often used to strengthen and protect threads used in hand sewing, and even in specialty embroidery.
When making period correct clothing and accessories, I ALWAYS coat my thread in beeswax to strengthen the thread and thereby the seams.
Tips for Waxing Thread:
Using thread between 18-24” long helps prevent tangling and knotting. However, this is a common rule in hand sewing anyway.
Once the thread has been cut, draw each thread two or three times through the wax, then press it with an iron between a pressing cloth to blend the wax and the thread. This also removes excess wax. I always use another layer of sheeting or muslin on both sides to prevent wax to accumulate on the iron or the ironing board.
You can buy beeswax in haberdasheries, tailoring supply shops, often in tea shops. The fresh wax smells lovely… we get it from aviaries, You need to press it into the thread before using it so that you get the beeswax into the fibers of the thread