making bracelets – “waxing” on linen, cotton and chinese knotting cord

bracelets black cropped

As a craft store owner I hear “What’s this used for?” over and over in regards to the variety of bracelet making materials available. It can be somewhat overwhelming if you are just getting started.  So here in a nutshell, are my thoughts on waxed cotton cord, Irish waxed linen and Chinese knotting cord and some bracelets I’ve made using them.

1. Waxed Cotton Cord

I love this stuff!  We have it in 1mm and 2mm widths.  Its only real drawback is the limited color range and we only have it in brown and black.  Its tightly braided construction means it’s durable and the ends just barely fray with use. The very light wax coating wears off over time and becomes very soft. Then it feels like cotton.  It’s not as stiff as leather so it’s great for knotting and specifically sliding knot bracelets.

spacer bead bracelet

For this spacer bead sliding knot bracelet (also pictured second from left in first photo aboveI used: 

  • 1 yard 1mm waxed cotton cord
  • 24 heishi spacers
  • two 4mm round beads at ends

To start this bracelet, use about 12″ of waxed cotton cord and slide all but 2 of the spacer beads to the middle of your cord.  (You’ll use the extra two spacers and 4mm beads for the end knots.)  Tie a knot right against both ends of the spacers so the spacers are centered.  Next, you can tie your sliding knot.  If you haven’t tied a sliding knot before, here is a really good tutorial on how.

pearl single slide knot

Pearl and waxed cotton cord sliding knot bracelet (above).  I love this bracelet because the pearls remind me of the ocean. I wore this everyday, all day, for a week and the cut ends of the waxed cotton cord did not work their way out of the sliding knot and barely frayed on the ends. For this bracelet I used the 2mm waxed cotton cord and 7 pearls with large drilled holes, made exactly the same as the spacer bead bracelet above.

2. Waxed Irish Linen

Great for working with small hole beads.  We have it in a variety of pretty colors and in 2-ply (smaller) and 4-ply (larger) sizes.  Leather wrapped bracelets are very popular and the 2-ply is great for keeping the beads in place while you wrap them onto the outside leather cord.  Some people don’t like working with the waxed linen at first because of its stickiness, but the light wax coating eventually wears off.  If you don’t have a collapsible eye needle – get one!  It makes the process of stringing small hole beads much easier.  A dab of glue down on the cut ends of your knots will prevent fraying.

braided bracelets stacked

Here’s one of my blog posts “Easy Braided Bracelets…on the beach” using 4 ply waxed Irish linen.  This project is quick and easy and a great project for taking along on vacation.

triple wrap leather

For this leather triple wrapped bracelet I used:

  • 2 ply brown waxed Irish linen
  • 1.5 mm antique brown leather
  • one 12mm bead for the clasp
  • about 20″ of 4mm crystal cut beads
  • collapsible eye needle

This is my personal favorite bracelet to wear.  The only drawback is that I wear it so much, that the 2 ply waxed linen starts to wear down at the bead I use for the clasp, but it’s not too hard to replace it.

Here is a video link to a tutorial on making these leather wrapped bracelets.

rhinestone double wrap

Waxed Irish linen, leather and rhinestone chain bracelet (above).  These are really quick and add some color and bling to your bracelets.  Here’s the link to the blog “Honestly…WTF” and the post I used to make these bracelets.

Waxed Irish Linen Charmlets (above– I used 4 ply waxed Irish linen for these sliding knot bracelets.  They are very simple and plain, but look cute with a charm or little pendant added. The sliding knot is pretty sticky at first, but after some usage and wear the knot works great.  Here is a great link to how sliding knots are made from the blog “The Adorned Article.”  

2.  Chinese Knotting Cord

This is a nylon woven cord that is also easy to work with. It comes in bright colors, a variety of widths and the knots it creates are very even and clean.  The smaller sizes work great for the Shamballa Style bracelets (see below) You can use a cigarette lighter (I don’t smoke, so I have to admit buying a lighter for this project felt sort of strange) to seal the ends from fraying.  It doesn’t have the stiffness of leather so the knots are easier to make and stay in place well.

gold bead bracelet

For this metal bead bracelet (made similar to spacer bead sliding knot bracelet above) I used: 

  • .8mm black chinese knotting cord
  • fourteen 5mm beads with holes large enough for 2 strands of cord
  • a cigarette lighter to seal the ends

agate macrame

Shamballa Style Agate Bracelet (above–   Here’s a how-to video on making the Shamballa style bracelet above.

For this bracelet I used:

  • I.8 mm black chinese knotting cord
  • twelve 12mm cut agate beads
  • two 6mm beads for the ends

bracelets black cropped

Rhinestone Sliding Knot Bracelet  Here is a really cute bracelet using chinese knotting cord that is pictured second from the right.

I made this one straight from the blog  “Honestly…WTF”.  Look for the DIY Rhinestone Sliding Knot Bracelet.

Here’s another way to use chinese knotting cord.

For this project above “Ice Resin Book Charms” , these obviously aren’t bracelets but it’s a good example of ways to use bracelet making materials in another way.  The article and photo above show how easy it is to melt the end of the cord so it doesn’t fray.

4. Leather

bracelet stack turq 100

I know leather wasn’t on this list, but it’s one of my favorite materials to work with and I would hate to leave it out if someone is unfamiliar with using it as a bracelet making material.  We keep in stock .5mm, 1mm, 1.5mm and 2mm wide leathers in distressed brown and black colors.  The distressed style of leather is always softer and has a richer, more weathered look to it which I love.  It’s also inexpensive, lightweight to wear and inexpensive.  Here are the materials I used on the “stacked leather bracelets” from the photo above.

believe-and-let-go finished

Here’s another leather wrapped bracelet I made using 1.5 mm distressed leather.  “Let go leather wrapped stamped bracelet”

finished bracelet

And finally, here are 3 more very easy knot bracelets from my blog that are great for beginners.  The two bracelets on the left are made using distressed leather and the turquoise bracelet used 2 mm waxed cotton.  Another great thing about these materials is that they can be used together and look great.

So there was my nutshell on waxed Irish Linen, waxed cotton, chinese knotting cord and distressed leather.  I hope this helps your understanding of bracelet making materials and your desire to make bracelets!


  1. LOVE the rhinestone chain bracelet. I would never wear a rhinestone chain bracelet by itself, but by adding the colored thread & cord it has a whole new life & texture.

  2. Katherine says:

    Hi, I am considering making some jewelry pieces with cording. I need an education however. Some cording is gauged in mm and some in ply. I know the diameter in mm, but how does ply relate to it? Also, I want to use multi strand cording to make some designs that has some body and drape. If I use small hole beads the cord is so thin it doesn’t read well. I understand the waxing gives it more body? If you could give me a quick 101 on this I would greatly appreciate it, or if you know a good site that can do so that would work too! Thanking you in advance for your reply! Kathy

    • Hi Kathy, Ply usually means how many cords are wrapped together to form one overall cord. Here is a site that gives the ply and the mm size of waxed linen. The linen coating on waxed linen does give it more body, but it will wear off with time and become softer.

      I don’t have a lot of experience with silk, but it sounds like silk cording is something you might want to research further. Silk has beautiful colors, sheen, drape and strength.

      Good luck with your jewelry pieces and I hope I helped a little bit!

  3. Katherine says:

    you are so very sweet, thank you for helping a stranger! :)

  4. I’m so glad I found you! This is so informative. I am re-stringing my mala beads – I will knot them individually. What is the best cord to use?

    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Katrina! I’m not sure exactly – I’ve never strung mala beads before. My hunch is to use Chinese knotting cord because it ties so easily – but be sure and check that the size of the cord will fit the size of the bead holes. Silk would be a really nice option too, and it comes in so many beautiful colors. Sorry I’m not more help. I Googled mala beads to find out more about them – and I love the little tassels. Hmmm…might be a blog idea there! :) k

      • Katrina Coreces says:

        That would be awesome! I love mala beads – I wear them daily and I use them for meditation. I will definitely try the Chinese or silk cord. Since I have to knot 108 beads plus two, the easier to handle the cord the better. Thanks so much for your help!

  5. Hiya! I’m hoping you can help — I want to make the bracelet in this section: “For this leather triple wrapped bracelet I used” (it has 2 strands of wider cord on the outside, small beads in the center of the wide cord, and waxed linen holding it all together)

    But the video link you posted goes to the wrong page… do you have a link to a tutorial for this type of bracelet? Thanks!

    • Hey Jenn – I’m sorry about that! I have a new tutorial that shows how to do this same technique. The only difference is that for the triple wrapped bracelet, you will just use 1 bead between the wider leather cords on the outside. I hope that helps…now I need to fix that broken link! :/ karen

  6. Hello, I’m doing a project research, And my question is: What is the difference between wax cotton chord and waxed Irish linen?

    • Hey Sofia – The two different materials, cotton and linen seem to have similar properties. However I can find much larger sizes of cotton cord (1 and 2 mm) than Irish linen. Irish linen is plied and the most common sizes are 4 ply or 2 ply and are much smaller than cotton cord, but still very strong. The waxed Irish Linen also usually comes in more colors. Hope this helps! :) k

  7. Pam Newton says:

    Great page!
    I’m considering buying a pendant made with Irish waxed linen. My question is, how durable is this cord? I usually shower and swim with my jewellery on. Just wondering if it will last?

    • Truthfully, I don’t know what the pool chemicals will do to it. It’s strong, in terms of strength – but I don’t know what would happen to it getting it wet over and over. Sorry – I’m more of a jogger, not a swimmer! 😉

  8. Hi, do you have any thoughts on Hemp and Bamboo cord as compared to waxed cotton or linen? I seem to get the thickness I want with these but not always the bright colors..

    • Yes, hemp is thicker and a good choice when you want a chunkier look. I’ve found that with hemp, the overall thickness can be a little less consistant, but it is also less expensive. Hemp tends to break down a little bit more over time with wear as well. I haven’t used bamboo cord before, I’ll have to look into that!

  9. Hi! Thank you for the info, it was really helpful. I would like to know where your store is and weather you do custom bracelet weaves/ braids as i am starting my own bracelet line and need to find someone who does that. What I need is very simple braiding with regular thread. I also would like to come purchase some of the above mentioned threads.
    let me know, thank you!

    • Hi Saskia – Sadly, I closed my store in December of 2014. I would try the company Rings and Things for many of the items listed. And no, but sorry I don’t do custom bracelet weaves. Good luck with your new business!

  10. Could you recommend a couple of books that inspired you and taught you about making bracelets. I really love all the bracelets you made. Also,suppliers that you would recommend. Thanks

    • I was pretty much class taught and internet taught, so I don’t have a good recommendation for a book. I get a lot of my jewelry inspirations from the Sundance Catalogue and Free People. As far a supplies go I like Beadsmith for stringing supplies, and I think their products are sold at a lot of jewelry stores online. Hope this helps!

  11. Darcy Robb says:

    Hi, I don’t know if you keep this blog up but I have a question. Would waxed nylon thread be a viable option for bracelets/necklaces? Or embroidery thread?

  12. Virginia Cruz says:

    Just wanna say Thank you sooo much… now i can make simple bracelets and necklace for myself and to my family. I can even start and produce an item to sell .
    So excited …..!

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