Waxed thread is a type of thread that is often used in a number of different crafts and sewing applications. This thread is basically made by lightly coating individual pieces of thread, usually polyester or nylon, with wax, sometimes combining these together into larger spools of thread. It appears much like any other type of thread, except it has a somewhat glossy finish and can appear slightly darker than the thread really is. Waxed thread can be used for a number of different applications, such as beadwork, hand sewing, leatherwork and jewelry making, though it should not be used for baking or cooking.

Sometimes called waxed cord or waxed string, waxed thread is often found in craft stores or fabric stores. It is typically made by coating individual strands of thread in wax, often bee’s wax. This final thread is often three or four ply for greater strength and durability. Though there are many different uses for waxed cord, it is often preferred for applications that may be exposed to the elements, since the wax makes it fairly waterproof and less likely to mildew.

Waxed thread is often used in handmade crafts and sewing applications such as hand-sewn leather goods and making strings of beads and other jewelry. The wax on the thread provides lubrication that can make sewing easier, as the thread is able to pass through dense objects like leather more easily.

It should not be used with a sewing machine, however, as the machine can quickly wear off the wax and be damaged by the buildup.

The wax applied to waxed cord can actually affect the color of the thread and make it appear darker. This means that in the long term the thread may seem to lighten, when really it is simply the wax wearing off. Users of waxed thread may want to consider choosing a thread that seems slightly too dark, since as the wax wears off it will become the proper color.

Waxed thread can be purchased or made at home and is typically made using either nylon or polyester since they cling well to the wax. Plain thread can be rubbed against a cube of bee’s wax, coating the thread in the wax. Despite its numerous other uses, this wax should never be used for baking or cooking. Many recipes will call for butcher’s twine to be used to tie up a piece of meat or other item during cooking. If waxed cord or thread is used, however, the wax will melt while heating and can end up on the food.


Before waxed thread was commonly available, a seamstress would use her own earwax to stop the cut ends of threads from fraying.


1853 Wickersham's Patent Model
1853 Wickersham's Patent Model

1853 Wickersham's Sewing Machine Patent Model


The patent US 9.679 was issued on April 19, 1853 to William Wickersham of Lowell, Massachusetts


Wickersham exhibited his boot and leather sewing machine at the 1853 New York Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations.


His address in the catalogue for the exhibition was listed as 20 Bulfinch Street, Boston.


In 1853 and 1854, Butterfield & Stevens Mfg. Co., of Boston.Massachusetts, manufactured sewing machines based on his patent of April 19, 1853. In his patent specification, Wickersham wrote:


My machine for sewing cloth, leather, or other material is calculated to sew either a chain stitch (the formation of which is well understood) or a stitch . . . formed of two threads and so that the loops of one . . . shall alternately pass through or be interlocked with those of the other . . . .


Although he mentions sewing cloth, it was for sewing leather for boots and shoes that his sewing machine became important. Wickersham’s patents introduced the method that allowed for the use of sewing leather with waxed thread.


The development of mechanisms that would allow for sewing with wax thread was crucial to the industrialization of the shoe making industry.







New England Wax-Thread Sewing Machine


An Act to incorporate the New England Wax Thread Sewing Machine Company

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled and by the authority of the same, as follows :

Sect. 1. Elmer Townsend, William Butterfield, Edgar M. Stevens, their associates and successors, are hereby made a corporation, by the name of the New England Wax Thread Sewing Machine Company, for the purpose of constructing sewing machines, suitable for the manufacture of boots, shoes, harnesses, sails, garments and other articles manufactured from leather, India rubber, cloth, or other fabrics, in the city of Boston, in the county of Suffolk; with all the powers and privileges and subject to all the duties, liabilities and restrictions, set forth in the thirty-eighth and forty-fourth chapters of the Revised Statutes.

Sect. 2. The said corporation may hold, for the purposes aforesaid, real estate not exceeding the amount of fifty thousand dollars and the whole capital stock of said corporation, shall not exceed the amount of three hundred thousand dollars.

Sect. 3. No shares, in the capital stock of said corporation, shall be issued for a less sum or amount, to be actually paid in on each, than the par value of the shares which shall be first issued.

Sect. 4. This act shall take effect from and after its passage.

Approved by the Governor, April 27, 1854





US 10.994            Martin W. Stevens & Edward G. Kinsley

Lock-stitch, reciprocating shuttle in cylinder bed, with feed-wheel.

May  30, 1854


US 11.240                           William Butterfield

Sewing Machine

 Assignor to Butterfield & Stevens

application filed October 26, 1853

July   4, 1854


US 11.588                       Sidney  Stevens  Turner

Sewing leather. Single thread, Chain-stitch

assignor to Elmer Townsend

application filed November 30, 1853

August 22, 1854

Reissued       March 25, 1856       US RE 363