Monday, June 27, 2011

Finishing Fingerloop Braid Laces with Beeswax

Recently, Heidi asked about alternative methods of finishing laces when aglets (metal lacing points) aren't available. I'd like to re-post my answer here with some additional information in response to a concern that was raised.

I finish all my fingerloop laces with beeswax. I don't know the true period, authenticity of using beeswax for this purpose, but it makes reasonable sense and it works.

With the ending knot still in place, dip the section before the knot (where you intend to cut) into the wax. Blow on it to cool it while you pull the lacing tight. Once the wax is cool and you can touch it, trim off the knot, leaving about a half-inch of wax at the cut end. Roll it in your fingers until it takes the pointed shape and the wax is set. The wax will spread up the lace a bit while you're working it. The beeswax stays pliable (unlike paraffin wax) but will hold the lacing together. If it starts to lose its point, simply rub it back into one with your fingers. I've never had to re-wax any of my laces- even my most used ones.

The concern that was raised was that the wax may liquify and stain your garb at hot summer events. It occured to me that others might have the same concern, so rather than answer it in a comment on someone else's blog, I though it deserved an answer on my own.

I can assure you that I don't have wax spots on my garb! (What sort of dimwit would I be if I kept using beeswax if it ruined all my garb?!) I tuck the end of the cord down inside my dress, next to my cleavage to keep it out of the way. It gets pretty warm in there, and I've never had the wax turn liquid. Even at hot summer events. It's not like there's a whole candle's worth of wax on it- it's just a light coating that's very thin. Plus, the oil and even trace amounts of dirt on your fingers rubs off on the wax as you work it into the point, effectively creating a coating on top of the wax.

Most times, your lacing ends aren't getting the kind of direct heat (like from a flame) that's likely to cause the wax to do much more than slightly soften, and since beeswax doesn't "sweat" like a piece of cheese might, there isn't a resulting stain. Remember that beeswax is not the same as paraffin wax- which is a petroleum byproduct- and beeswax has a higher melting point. In addition, consider that linen and silk hand-sewing threads are coated with beeswax to prevent them from fraying- if there was a chance that the wax could stain the fabric, that practice would have stopped long ago!

I'll also point out the my lace ends are always tuck in- hidden from view. The beeswax method isn't particularly aesthetic, so it's obviously not going to replace an aglet for dangling laces.

Obviously, there are always exceptions to every rule- I can only speak from personal experience. My mother also uses wax tipped laces and has also never had a melting or staining problem. However, I don't want anyone sending me nasty notes about how my beeswax method ruined their garb, so use this method at your own risk. Remember that you have to work the wax into a thin coating into the lace and up from the end. Do a test lace and wear it with an older piece of garb first to make sure the the beeswax points work for you. Treat your laces with respect- don't put them in a place in which the wax is close to its melting point. For me, the rare chance that my lace might stain my garb is worth the risk to save money- a pure, natural beeswax candle can be purchased from several different sources and one taper candle melted down into a votive can last for years if you reserve it for your laces. Just make sure that it's a chemical and preservative free beeswax.

If nothing else, it's worth a try in a pinch- you can always cut the waxed end of the lace off and try a different lacing point. But like I said, it works for me, it's how all my laces are finished, and until someone raised the concern, the wax melting and causing stains never even registered as an issue for me.

Not to mention that a little bit of warmed beeswax at your bosom would make a nice, subtle perfume!


  1. This might be a totally silly question, but will the wax stand up to being machine washed? Or do you take the laces out for washing? I have a terrible habit of not unlacing things before I toss them in the laundry's not a huge deal if I need to remind myself to unlace my gowns but for the inevitable slip-ups it would be nice to know my braid won't undo itself in the wash.

    Though I suppose I could thread wrap and then wax over it if I was really worried, that would hold it together in any laundry accidents.

    And staining, with beeswax, really? You are right, even here in Virginia I don't think it's going to do more than get a little bit soft, and that more from body heat. My sewing wax has never so much has gone soft even had the hottest events, though I have had paraffin candles go limp and fold over on themselves. :)

  2. I also often forget to take my laces out, and I haven't experienced any ill effects with washing the beeswax. I suppose it has something to do with it being naturally repellant to water. I also only use cold water for my washer, and most of my dresses don't go in the dryer. Usually I'll catch the lacing before it goes in the dryer if the dress is headed that way.

  3. How'd you get a fingerloop braid long enough to use for lacing?

    1. Great question. Lately, I use 4-loop braids for my laces, which fit my typically small eyelets better than the 5-loop braids I had been doing. I haven't transitioned to silk yet, so I purchase two skeins of embroidery floss (I can usually get an exact color match in DMC). My husband always helps me with my laces- the only time I tried by myself, it was a disaster. We stretch out each skein, and fold them in half twice to get 2 loops from each skein. I have not measured, but this starting length gives me more than enough length for even my longest dress opening. While I'm doing the braiding on one end (sitting in a chair that moves), he uses a dowel (or pen, or hanger, or whatever is handy) to push the braid tight. We get a rhythm- I do a set of exchanges and while I'm switching loops on fingers, he bounces the dowel between the loops twice. At a certain point, he runs out of room, but I'm also able to open the strands after each set enough to force the braid tight at that point. He winds the finished lace up on his hand for counter tension, so as we go, I move closer and closer to him. It's a great chance for us to talk, and I get a nicely tensioned lace is the process!