To become a master crafts person you have to start somewhere

It is true, in order to master anything, you must first start.  You have to make a decision about what it is that you want to become a master of.  The next step after making that decision is to start with the basics and practice, practice, practice, and practice some more until your ability to execute the technique has become almost second nature to you.  In beading this means that you must first start with a decision about what type of beads you will work with, delica  or large chunkier beads and the material to string them on.  Will you make a necklace, bracelet, anklets or are you looking for something a little more practical, a keychain, a beaded coin purse? Are you willing to rip it all apart and start over, or will you abandon the object just a few stitches in because it is more difficult than you thought?  My suggestion is to start with seed beads or pony beads, these beads are easier to work with when first learning.

When working with pony beads, they are larger than a seed bead so manipulation of the bead and thread are quite easy, most of the time you wont need a needle when working with these beads as the hole is large enough for lanyard if that is the type of stringing medium you wish to use.  Macro may thread is also great when working with pony beads.  You can thread a few beads then macro may a design for a spacer before weaving in more pony beads.  The design possibilities with the different types of threads, wires, and cords on the market today are only limited by the designers imagination.  If you live in a town where craft supplies are not that readily available I would suggest checking out the following article where I will compare some of the places you can find the exact thread for the needles you already posses, or if you can get the right thread but no needles we’ve got you covered there to.

I prefer working with seed beads as I am considered to be a petite woman.  I stand about 5’2″, weighing in around 130 pounds.  I also have a chronic pain condition so having large chunkier pieces of jewelry make me look even smaller than I am and cause great discomfort for me.  The nice thing about seed beads is their versatility from a simple strand of beads to intricate designs that are woven on a loom or sewn into a delicate fashion accessory statement. I am excited to discover the endless techniques that I have yet to learn.  I am certain I could spend a life time learning the different techniques of weaving, threading, and sewing these little guys into designs that are just mind blowing.  In the beginning paragraph of this article I suggest that you ask yourself if the project you really want to do is one that you will follow through with.  Working with seed beads is time consuming and can be quite messy.  I hate having to pick things up and put them away once I have gotten ready to start a project, or in the middle of one when my hands decide that they are taking  unscheduled vacation days.

The first technique I learned when working with seed beads was to string a simple one color necklace.  I like to use the Beadalon Big Eye Beading Needles as they are simple to thread and to pass through beads that already have been threaded once or twice before.  I also like to use cotton thread, not the smallest as this will twist and knot up and unravel when you are working with it, beeswax to draw the cotton thread through so that it doesn’t get damaged by any rough edges on the beads and a pair of needle nosed pliers to help pull the needle through if the thread starts to get to thick to get the next or last pass of thread through.  I would have to guess at size D, the craft stores where I live don’t consistently carry the same size or brands of thread and very few of the beading needles I like to use.  You will need to tie a knot around one bead and then proceeded to string on the other beads.  I thought to myself, “This is simple.  I could make a bunch of these in no time.”  After you have threaded enough beads for the desired length, thread the needle down three or four beads and tie a knot, cut the leftover thread.  After I cut the remainder of the fish line, I noticed my necklace was all twisted up, and kinkie too.  I thought it looked like crap and could not figure out why.

I soon discovered, that if I slowly rolled the beads between my fingers the kinkes started to straighten out.  I continued to do this and notice about the second or third time around the necklace that some of the beads were smaller than the others, or not as round as those they lay between.  I realized then that it really is important to sort your beads first!  Not only so that they are of consistent size, but also you will find several beads that are broken, the holes way to small, or perhaps the bead is just a sliver of what it should be.  All of these things will slow you down and could possibly make you have to cut you item apart and start over, or possibly just give up and forget about beading ever again.  This step is the most important I believe, no matter what type of beads you are using if you want your item to have a consistent look, a neat and tidy look, then sort your beads before you begin to string them.  As you get a few inches of beads on the string, roll them through your fingers to straighten out any kinkes, and to get the beads to stack straight.  This will not only help to give your finished product a more cohesive look, but it will help you to practice building the foundation for more difficult techniques and a foundation for unique, individual pieces of jewelry that hopefully one day will get passed down to the next generation with the story of how that item came to be in Granny’s jewelry box.  And remember, Keep on Crafting Montana!

What is a Seed Beed?

The term seed bead encompasses to two different types of beads:  beads made of nature’s seeds and beads produced in a factory, we will be speaking of the factory made bead. Most seed beads are made of glass; however, other materials have been used.

Seed beads are made of drawn glass; first compressed air is blown into molten glass, forming the hole in the beads. The molten glass is then stretched and lasers measure the diameter of the drawn glass cane, to get the correct size. The cane is cut into yard long lengths and tied into bunches by hand.

The cane bunches are then put onto a vibrating platform which slides them down to be cut in the correct sizes. Next, they are then sent to heat processing to be rounded and smoothed. The beads are mixed with clay like compound to coat their surface, heated in a kiln, rotated to prevent them from sticking together, and their holes from closing. They are then cleaned, sorted by quality control; finally they will be strung and/or bagged for sale.     They come in an almost overwhelming variety of colors and sizes.  They can be transparent, opaque, metal finished, color lined, and metal lined, frosted or AB finished (); round, square or hex-cut (faceted).

It can be difficult to make sense of the sizes, as they are listed in xx/o sizes, from 6/o down to 22/o.  The larger the number, the smaller the size; still, even the largest seed beads is tiny at 3.3mm. The smallest seed bead is less than 1mm long (.9mm).

The Italians began to make seed beads in the 15th century, but seed beads have been found in graves not only in Egypt, but in Nigeria and Spain, dating 4000 years back.

Seed beads have been around for almost 500 years. They are very popular because of their versatility, variety of sizes, finishes, shapes and, price. They are used for jewelry, clothing, purses, and so much more.

Today there are four major seed bead producers, Preciosa Ornela in the Czech Republic (former Bohemia), Miyuki, Toho and Matsu no in Japan. You can also get seed beads from China (Ming tree), India and Taiwan, but they are of lesser quality and are less uniform in size, hole and finish.

No matter where you purchase your beads from, remember children should always be supervised when doing bead work as they present a chocking hazard.  Also the patterns you can create are only limited by your imagination.

Keep crafting Montana!