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!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mandi Designs Like A 12 Year Old

June's awesome post about the birth of a kit and her design techniques led me reflect on the evolution of my own design process. Today, I want to share a little story with you.

Mandi Ainsworth
a sample of  my beadwork at age 12, found in my grandma's jewelry box 14 years later

I’ve been in love with beads ever since my grandma gave me her loom at a young age.
I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit since then, too.
One summer when I was 12, I decided to make some bead money by selling my strung seed bead jewelry. I lived by the lake, and the busiest day is the fourth of July. There was a little store that everyone would buy ice at on their way to the boat ramp, and the owner agreed to let me sell my jewelry in front of his store.
With the date set and the agreement made, I started beading up a storm. I created patterns that I liked, and color combinations that made me happy. I’d finish one design that would spark a new idea for another design. I realize now looking back that I was creating a collection! I didn't think too much about what people would want to buy, and only a few designs ended up red, white, and blue. I stayed up late creating with reckless abandon, just doing what I loved.
The big day came, and I laid out my jewelry on the walkway in front of the store. My sign read bracelets $1, necklaces $2, and leather keychains $5. I didn't exactly get the idea of pricing for my time, but I never questioned the value of my work. I had the mentality of “who wouldn't want one of my cool bracelets?” I ended up making $76 that day, and I felt so rich!
Mandi Ainsworth
My Andromeda Spike Pendant- one of 3 projects I will teach at B&B 2014

If my 12 year old self knew what used to go through my head when I designed, she would kick my *$$! Recent designs have been edited by the thoughts, “What will my colleagues think of this?” and even worse “Is this good enough?” I've held myself back in ways I never did before I decided I want this to be a career. The piece I created for a beading challengejust to have fun, was the piece that ended up in a Beading Daily newsletter.
Now I design like my 12 year old self, and I feel liberated. I haven't had "designer's block" since! I also take time to create things that allow me to be fully expressed as an artist that may not turn into a kit or class. 
Mandi Ainsworth
Rajah, the beaded tiger I'm working on
Some designers don't create things outside of what they're teaching or creating tutorials for, but I know it feeds my soul, so it works for me. 
My design advice is to bead what makes you happy, and get lost in it. Get so lost you have to set an alarm so you remember to eat! Most importantly, have fun!