Crafts-Hobbies Vivian | 10 Feb 2010 05:10 am

A Seed Bead Primer – Part 1

The popularity of seed beads is astounding. They are used to create more than beaded flowers. Bead artists use them in loom work, jewelry, weaving… the list is endless.

Seed beads are simply tiny glass beads. The name is fairly generic, and is often used to describe several kinds of beads made by extruding glass into a tube, which is then cut into beads. The quality of the beads is partly determined by uniformity of size and shape, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for.

The size of these beads is indicated by a number, the higher the number, the smaller the bead. Sizes range from 1.5mm (size 15/0) to as large as 5.5mm (size 3/0). Be aware that the actual size of the bead can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so again you need to be familiar with the offerings you’ll find. The shapes will vary, too, as will colors and finishes.

Sound confusing? Sure it does …. so here’s some information to help you.

The most popular seed beads are either Czech or Japanese. Those made in the Czech Republic are a little less uniform in size, although this usually will not detract from the appearance of your work. Indeed, many bead artists use this imperfection to add interest and texture.

Most beaders feel Japanese seed beads are of a higher quality than the Czech beads, and are more uniform in size and color. In a more cylindrical shape, well suited for patterns and loom work, they are called Delicas or Treasures, among other names. The more rounded beads are great for free-form stitches or circular stitches such as right angle weave, and for beaded flowers. Beads from Japanese manufacturers also have larger holes, making them easier to work with if you make several passes through them with your thread.

Various shapes, but still considered seed beads, are:

  • Bugle beads – long thin tubes, sizes vary from 3mm to as large as 25mm or more
  • Triangle beads – triangle shapes in the most common sizes of seed beads, these give your work lovely texture
  • Cube beads – this cube shape also offers wonderful texture, and are available in slightly larger sizes than other shapes
  • Hex beads – hexagonal in shape, these beads add lots of interest as their surfaces reflect light beautifully

In A Seed Bead Primer – Part 2, we’ll talk about colors and finishes of seed beads. For now, let’s go make a pretty beaded flower! You can get a free book packed with tips for making the perfect French beaded flower right now. Written by top French beaded flower and Ganutell artist Sharon Foster it’s more than just a great book for the beginner, it has something for beaders of all levels.

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