How To Sew With Beeswax


When I first started sewing, I remember being bemused by beeswax. No, scratch that and rewind. Specifically, I remember being bemused by the knots that would appear in my thread whenever I tried hand sewing. So I did some research, and learnt that beeswax would help. I just didn’t know how!

I thought I’d write a blog post about something that may appear obvious to some. To others who may be similairly bemused, I hope this helps!

So, beeswax. You can buy it in most haberdasheries. If you don’t know what it looks like, check out the above. Or ask for a shop assistant’s help. Or just wander around looking for something that resembles a giant’s gobbet of dried up snot. (Too much information?)

Here are my tips for working with beeswax.

Cut a length of thread for hand sewing. My rule of thumb is that it shouldn’t be longer than about 80 cm/ 31 inches. Any longer and it will knot, even with the help of beeswax. To guesstimate this length, I hold the end of the thread between forefinger and thumb. I stretch my arm out horizontally from my body. I then pull the spool back in my other hand until it’s pressing against my collar bone, thread extended between both hands. I imagine I’m Katniss in The Hunger Games, pulling back the string on my bow before releasing an arrow straight into the heart of an enemy. Because sewing is just like The Hunger Games.

Thread cut, I run it through my beeswax…

beeswax and thread

Very Important Next Step. I then seal my beeswax into my thread by running a moderately hot iron over it. I’ve heard people say this should only be done between two layers of absorbent cloth. Never bothered, myself. But, I have found that this step really helps strengthen and smooth the thread.

iron and threadIf I have quite a lot of hand sewing to do, I’ll cut three lengths of thread and prep them. Then I’ll gather my thread in a small container – an espresso cup does just the job! – and take it with my thimble, needles, pins, and embroidery scissors and settle on the sofa for a good, long session of hand sewing. I come from the camp that loves hand sewing. So meditative, so satisfying, so easy to do in front of the telly.

espresso cup

I use the Sunny Gal Patented Method for tying a knot in my thread. (Do click through on the link for a very detailed explanation of this small but useful technique.)

Knotting thread CollageThen I thread my needle (thoughts on needles here) and am all set for some knot free hand sewing. Thank you, bees of the world. I salute you!

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34 Responses to How To Sew With Beeswax

  1. Bethany says:

    I’d never even thought about using beeswax before, but now it makes perfect sense and my life (and thread) will never be the same again

  2. I’m with you on this one! I use waxed quilting thread to handstitch gathers before machining. It’s really durable so doesn’t snap, nor does it knot up.

  3. I so need to get some of this stuff. I’m constantly having to unravel or cut out knots when I’m handsewing. This is really helpful thanks Katniss 🙂

  4. Janet says:

    I bought myself some beeswax about six months ago (it was an affordable thing to buy on an outing to Liberty) and haven’t looked back. I didn’t know about sealing it with an iron, so thanks for teaching me something new. Having spent my sewing time this week quilting the lining for my Burda 7020, the next thing is to cut the actual outer fabric (gulp). Roll on improved hand sewing… 🙂

  5. DavyMade says:

    This is really helpful! Thank you!

  6. Kathy Lynch says:

    So, not even half way through my brekkie cup of tea (the best cup of the day) & already I’ve learnt something so very useful; what a great way to start the day! Thanks, Karen!

  7. Thanks so much for this info!
    I too, love handsewing —
    Did not know about pressing
    Thread after beeswax! Is there
    A certain brand if wax you
    Use. I bought some at Joann’s
    And it is dry.

  8. KellysSewing says:

    I am a newcomer when it comes to waxing your thread for hand sewing. I did not buy beeswax. I use an old clear candle. Just drag my thread through an edge, then iron between the layer of press cloth (old cotton pillowcase) It truly makes hand sewing less painful!

  9. Fadanista says:

    I bought some beeswax in a special container in a sale very cheaply. It has a couple of grooves to run the thread through and it works like a charm, but I’ve also used my old surfboard wax and that works well too! The ironing tip is new to me, I shall try it, thank you.

  10. Ok this post came at the perfect time. I was just looking at an online sewing store yesterday that was selling beeswax. When I saw it my brain was like “why would I need beeswax to sew?” And now I know. You wouldn’t know I’ve been sewing for like 7 years. Whoops!

  11. Sharon says:

    The benefit of pressing the waxed thread between absorbent cloth is that you don’t get beeswax on your ironing board cover.

    I use a piece of chambray and can cut up to 15 lengths of thread at a time, run each one through the beeswax and then put them all together in the middle of the chambray, fold in half and press.

    I use both the block (a gift from a good friend) and the one in the plastic container has the grooves in it which seems to be readily available here in Australia.

  12. louise says:

    It’s a while since I used beeswax, Id forgotton about it, I should get some again. didnt know the tip about sealing with an iron, thanks. I too love handsewing (so therapeutic) expecially while watching a good film. Yes I know there are machine feet that do just about everything, but If I can hand sew I will.

  13. Reblogged this on Crafting with the Crippled Crafter and commented:
    Hi all!
    Busy with my wheelchair dancing taster coming up tomorrow, so not had enough time to edit the photos of projects I’ve squeezed in the last couple of weeks!
    There’s been stuff going on on my Facebook page if you follow me there, but thought I’d share this with you guys too – it’s such a great tip!
    Hope you’re all keeping well, and wil be back next week
    Donna x

  14. Jane says:

    I’m a very recent convert to beeswax and have been amazed at the difference it makes. Thanks for enlightening me about two things: 1) sealing it with an iron – didn’t have a clue I had to do that 2) showing a picture of what the beeswax looks like after multiple uses – I thought I was doing something wrong when big ridges kept appearing in my lump of wax! x

  15. I’d always wondered what beeswax was useful for. Will have to get some next time I’m in a haberdashery.
    I’ve always used a technique my dad -who’s a tailor – taught me to prevent knots and tangles. Once your thread is on the needle and you put your knot in hold it taught and give it a couple of twangs. This stretches out the twist of the fibres and voila tangle free. Good for quick sews when you haven’t got beeswax to hand.

  16. Never used beeswax, but thanks for the tip – I would never have thought to iron it in. I didn’t know about he thread tying method either – my mum taught me to wrap the end of the thread around my forefinger a couple of times, and then roll it off – it’s a bit like your method, I guess.

  17. Jenny says:

    If you havn’t any beeswax another tip to help prevent the thread knotting is to thread the needle before you cut it – something to do with the way the thread is twisted (sorry can’t remember the specifics). I found it makes a big difference.

  18. Big thank you! in all my years sewing, this is something I have never tried, never ever!
    but now I will…. lump of snot here I come…
    Daisy j

  19. James says:

    I’m a member of the hand sewing crowd too : ) and beeswax is really handy but I’ve not tried hitting the thread with an iron trick yet. I’ll have to give it a go – Tally Sew!

  20. Lisette says:

    I never thought of ironing it before, but that’s brilliant!

  21. fabrickated says:

    Lump of snot!! Mine smells of honey.

  22. Luz Thacker says:

    A product called Thread Heaven does the same thing and doesn’t need ironing. I comes as a tiny box of colourless goo that you just pull the thread through.

  23. Melanie says:

    Last night I was thinking about the problem of thread knotting while hand-sewing because I have some projects to finish up and I knew there was something you could do to prevent it. And voila, here you are! How timely! Thank you so much.

  24. SarahStar says:

    I didn’t know about pressing it with an iron, either – thanks Karen! I have some lovely beeswax from my friend’s bees, it smells wonderful as well as doing a great job.

  25. Adele says:

    I got some for my birthday it is a round bit about an inch in diameter with a hole in the middle like a thick slice of candle with the wick removed. You can thread the thread right through the middle of it. Nifty!

  26. I’ve been using Thread Heaven instead of beeswax lately, no pressing needed.

    And when hand sewing, put your thumb down over the thread where it is pulled into the fabric and it will cut down on the number of knots you have.

  27. I’ve used beeswax for a number of years, but the concept of ironing the thread after is new to me. I will definitely try it! I routinely measure my thread length, nose to finger tips.

  28. Debs says:

    I started using beeswax when saddle stitching leather, but then found it works wonders in embroidery thread too. Sometimes I sew holbein stitch on linen with a single strand of cotton and without any beeswax it soon breaks up. The wax holds it all together for nice, defined outlines.
    I don’t iron it, but run it through my fingers to set and smooth the thread after waxing.

  29. Pingback: What’s worth hand sewing (and what’s not)? | DIY wardrobe

  30. SMM says:

    I’ve used beeswax for a very long time. I always iron it between two sheets of paper. It’s an important step if you don’t want to ruin your iron or transfer wax onto your clothes.

  31. Nali says:

    Some use a hot flat iron for your hair

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