Friday, November 8, 2013

Seed Bead FAQs ~ Aurelio & Mikki

Beading FAQ’s

We get lots of inquires on our websites as well as on Facebook from people wanting to start beading, we try to guide them to the best of our abilities, but in general we have found these questions are about the same every time. “How do I choose the beads for my project?” “What size of bead should I buy for …?” “How many beads should I buy?” 

Mikki's Bead Count reference for a downloadable copy
As bead artists we know Bead weaving can be confusing if you don’t know the basics or if you are not familiar with the terminology which tends to be very technical, at times even for us. Before you run to the stores and allow yourself to get lost in the midst of these little treasures, make a plan. Know what you need and look for the best quality materials, believe us it will pay at the end. We would be lying if we told you we didn’t have more beads than we can bead in our entire lives. Our point here is for a beginner this can be overwhelming and sometimes discouraging in terms of decision making. 

For the most part we buy beads with a specific project in mind, however sometimes we buy them just because we like them. If that is the case, we buy them in varying sizes and shapes of the same color. That way we have our bases covered and can avoid running to the store in the middle of a project. And if you ordered your beads from an online store it would be a much longer wait to finish your project. 

Beading can be extremely rewarding and possibly life changing, but only if you get all the beading facts right. If not, confusion could discourage you from ever picking up another bead. There are several types, sizes and finishes available. Deciphering the size of the beads can seem quite confusing at first, it is however, very simple to understand. What you need to know is that the number shown as the size is the opposite of what you would actually expect. The bigger the number, the smaller the bead. For example, a size 11 bead is much smaller than a size 6. (The same goes for beading needles!)

Miyuki Bead Image courtesy of click to go to the store for a clearer view (and to shop)

Now, that the size confusion is out of the way let’s talk about the different types of beads. Here are a few of the most common types.Our personal favorite (of which we have stashes way too large for one man or woman to bead in a lifetime) the Japanese Seed Bead. Among these you will find the Matsuno, Miyuki and Aurelio's favorite Toho (Mikki is a Miyuki girl). These beads are made with much more uniform shape and size than other types of beads. You can find these in two shapes round and cylinder both shapes have large holes making them easy to work with. 

We also have the Charlottes seed beads AKA One-cuts or True-cuts. Aurelio would say these are his second favorite in the seed family. Why? Well, they have one facet cut into them making them a bit of a sparkle, which in turn give the final project more depth. 

Hex Cut Beads are seed beads that have been cut into a hexagon shape. We don’t have much experience with this type of bead however, they are known to have sharp edges that can cut your thread. Hex cut beads are not the only beads in the seed bead family that can cut your thread, Bugle Beads are just as “dangerous.” Bugles are long tube shaped beads that can be found straight or twisted and come in different lengths. We tend to stay away from the horrors of cut project that took 3 reweaves was enough for Mikki, but there are some tricks like adding a seed bead at each end of a bugle to save your thread.

Then we have the Czech seed beads. These have smaller holes and are quite irregular when it comes to shape. The irregularity in shape is the reason we who do precision beading stay away from them. They are however, less expensive and wonderful in projects where you don't need as much precision.
Mikki just created a bracelet mixing the precision of a Miyuki Delica with the character of a Czech aged, striped seed bead.....the two distinct sizes within the strand of Czech beads allowed for different effects in the beading.

Mikki's StickleBack cuff for men with Czech beads from

The Cube Beads are made in Japan by Miyuki and Toho, they are small squares with large holes and come in different sizes than the normal seed beads. Those sizes are 1.5mm, 2mm, 3mm, 3.4mm and 4mm. Also in the rectangular family are a new breed of two-hole beads...Tilas which are a flat square 'tile' and a very new half Tila, Bricks which are pretty much self descriptive.

Triangle Beads are also made in Japan with Toho bringing us size 11/0 and 8/0 and Miyuki bringing us triangles or sharp triangles in 10/0, 8/0 and 5/0 sizes.

Drop Beads AKA Tear Drops or Magatamas are as the name suggests tear drop shaped  (though the magatmas are a sort of flattened teardrop). Perfect for accents giving your design a little extra “je ne sais quoi” (that’s all the French Aurelio knows). The Miyuki drops come in many sizes 2.8mm, 3.4mm, and the new long drop which is 3 x 5.5mm. Miyuki also has 4mm Magatamas and long magatamas which are 4 x 7mm.  Toho produces 3mm and 4mm Magatamas.
New drop beads are Rizos or Rice beads and like their name they look like rice grains.

Seed bead shapes are expanding rapidly these these days, it seems there is a new shape every week.  It's overwhelming to keep up and designers are working as fast as they can to create projects to show you how to use all these new beads. Look for Berry, Peanut or Farfalle beads which when woven in RAW (right angle weave) give a great body and look like CRAW (cubic right angle weave.  There are also 2-holed beads Twins and Superduos, Rullas, Piggy Beads, and more we're sure to have forgot....the overwhelming part! But hopefully you have enough to get going.

Peyote Ring by Aurelio

Taking your time to understand the basic tools of the art of beading will help you become a more efficient and prolific artist. Happy beading!

P.S. If you find a good deal on seed beads inbox us! No, really, inbox us!


  1. Thank you very much, this is very helpful.

  2. My very favorite source of delicas is Painters Art Beads out of Washington. I buy 10 gram packages and she has the best price I have ever found anywhere. When you visit her site you need to calculate an automatic 20% discount from the listed price. There is nothing fancy about her site, but she is an honest seller. I did find that my first order was delayed due to a snow storm. She has never disappointed. Here is a link:

  3. I think Painters are great for someone who needs just small amounts of Delicas....being able to buy by the gram is great for the project beader. Thanks for the reminder :)

  4. Ha!..had to laugh at the *more beads than one man or woman could bead in a lifetime*...ohhh how true is that!!

    Hmm..I've used Hex cut beads in several projects...same trick as for Bugles - place a round seedy at each end.. ;)

    Great article Mikki and Aurelio!..and very informative!..I'm sure a *newbie* will be able to gain a greater understanding of things.. Ohh!..and did we mention 15/0's and how they resemble a piece of fly...ohh never mind!...just to anyone reading....DON'T DROP THEM ON THE FLOOR! ;)