It has been ten years since I posted my 3-part series on Hand-Knotted Pearl Necklaces. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. I have new information, but in addition to adding updates to the first three parts, I decided to create Part 4.
Over the past two years, because of Covid, I haven’t gone anywhere that required me to dress up. The pearls my mother gave me needed to be restrung, but there didn’t seem to be any hurry, since I wasn’t going to be wearing them. It is a 24-inch strand of 7mm pearls.
A few months ago, a friend asked me to restring her 23-inch, 6mm cultured pearl necklace, which was given to her by her mother many years ago. It has a lovely 14K gold clasp with tiny blue stones and a matching accent bead, which is strung partway down one side. I restrung it once before and it’s a little fussy because there is a second start and end due to the accent bead. I was worried about the condition of some pearls because a few of them have lost some of their nacre. She told me not to rush so I kept putting off the restringing. Last week I decided that I couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time to restring both her pearls and mine.
I haven’t knotted any pearls for several years. It's funny how you have lightbulb moments after being away from something for a while. I discovered a few new preferences as I worked on the necklaces this time. I’m going to write about them here.
1. Size E Silk Thread, Doubled
I keep all my spools of threads together in one place. I have notes there regarding which size thread I had used on each pearl necklace that I’ve already restrung. My notes said that I had used Size E silk thread for my necklace, but they didn’t say what I had used for my friend’s necklace. I should have tested more than one size of thread for my friend’s necklace, but the Size E worked, so I went with it.
My experience this week is that the Size E is perfect for my necklace. It’s a little tight getting the thread to go through the first and last three beads a second time, but it does fit. It makes perfect knots between the pearls.
However, the Size E might be just a smidge finer than is ideal for my friend’s necklace. The knots look nice, but not quite as nice as they do on my necklace. I’m sure that nobody will notice this but me. If I ever string her necklace again, I’ll test out Size F thread. If it’s too thick, I’ll go back to Size E—but the Size F might be better.
My first point is that there is no standard for the size of hole that is drilled into pearls. My friend’s pearls are 6mm in diameter, slightly smaller than my 7mm pearls, but the holes in her pearls are larger than the holes in my pearls. Go figure
My second point is that you really should test out different sizes of thread to be sure which size is ideal. Then, record that size so that the next time you restring that necklace you won't have to repeat the thread-size tests.
2. Medium-Size French Wire
In the past I’ve used the Fine-Size French Wire with Size E thread and sometimes it just doesn’t slide along the thread easily. When it gets caught on the thread, the wire stretches and is ruined. It has to be cut off and a new piece strung on. Sometimes it catches on the thread and frays it slightly, leaving it with a weak spot.
This time I used Medium-Size French Wire and it was so much easier to work with. It looks just as nice. I don’t know why I didn’t try this before.
3. The Clasp Has Two Parts
When you open most clasps, you see that one side of the clasp has bits that can catch on your thread as you do your knotting, while the other side of the clasp is smoother. Use the smoother side of the clasp when you begin with the first three pearls to make your knotting easier. That clasp will be involved in the knotting of every pearl in the necklace. Save the "catchy" part of the clasp for the finish.
4. Preventing Twisted Thread
I’ve always thought that there was no way to avoid the thread twisting as it hung to stretch. I WAS WRONG!!! I hang mine from a plant hook which has a chair below it. As I was hanging the weight on the thread for my friend’s pearls, I noticed that the thread was resting against the chair in such a way that it kept the thread “circle” spread open. I left it that way to stretch for about 48 hours. When I was ready to begin working, I removed the weight and was surprised that the thread didn’t twist, as it usually does. To my delight, the thread never twisted while I was working, and I never had to use the Thread Heaven again. It was so much easier to string the pearls and make the knots this time.
I prepped the thread for my pearls next. I couldn’t get it to stay spread open this time, so I hooked one side over the top spindle of the chair. That worked. Again, no twisting and much easier stringing and knotting.
In the past, when I’ve put the weight in place, the thread began spinning around. As it stretched it must have “set” the twist so that it stayed that way—sort of like a permanent does to hair.
The key is to prevent the weight from spinning the thread around. It must stay still the entire time it hangs. This is a game changer.
5. Thread Heaven Is No More!
No need to worry, though. There is a new product called Thread Magic. It gets great reviews from everyone who uses it. It works the same way, but is supposed to work better.
6. Don’t Cut All The Beads At Once
After I clean the necklace in warm water and gentle dish soap, I dry it carefully with a soft cloth. In the past I would always cut off the clasps and all the pearls at the same time and lay them out in the proper order on a bead board. After stringing and knotting the first three pearls, the French wire, and the first part of the clasp, I would string and knot the rest of the necklace: I would string one pearl, knot it, then string another pearl, knot it, and continue until I reached the last three pearls. Doing it this way is fine.
This time I changed things up a bit. I cut off the first part of the clasp and the first three pearls, leaving the rest of the necklace intact. After stringing and knotting the first three pearls and the first half of the clasp as I always have, I cut off the next 10 pearls. I strung all 10 pearls onto the thread before knotting them. Then I cut off the next 10 pearls, strung them onto the thread and knotted them. I continued stringing and knotting this way until the last three pearls and the second half of the clasp were left. Finally, I strung and knotted the last three pearls, the second piece of French wire and the second half of the clasp.
This is just a matter of preference. The reason that I like doing it this way is that it’s a little faster when you string a group of pearls at the same time. I like using 10 pearls at a time, but that’s not set in stone. I don't like stringing all the pearls at once because the knotting gets unwieldy. Use whatever amount is comfortable for you. Also, by cutting off only the pearls you are using immediately and leaving the rest of the necklace intact, you don’t risk getting the order mixed up or losing any of them if you should accidentally bump the bead board.
7. The Third Pearl
When adding the third pearl, after painting the four strands of thread with Gum Arabic, pull the pearl tight up against the prior knot. Be sure that you cut off the doubled strand that contains the overhand knot BEFORE you make the next knot. That way, if you were unable to cut the thread close enough to the pearl, the knot will enclose any tiny bit of thread that might be showing.
I had forgotten how much I enjoy knotting pearls!
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