Seed Bead Storage: Bead Tubes or Bead Boxes?

A couple of my favorite seed bead storage solutions for tubes of seed beads.

Back when I was still a baby beader, I ordered my seed beads from a paper catalog. (Wow. Imagine that!) The seed beads arrived in a small box, neatly packaged in plastic tubes. And what did I do with those tubes of seed beads? Why, I immediately dumped them out into organizer boxes and storage containers, and I ditched the tubes.

I must have been insane, because now, years later, I love it when my seed beads come in those plastic tubes instead of plastic baggies. When I was an owner of a bead shop, we ordered our seed beads in bulk, and they came in large plastic bags – the kind that you can't reseal once you open them. I spent many, many hours sitting at a table, measuring out ten grams of seed beads from plastic bags to put into tubes.

My last order of seed beads from a new company came in boxes. What am I going to do with them?

But recently, an order of seed beads I placed arrived packed in those little square boxes, and I can't say that I was terribly impressed with the boxes at first. Sure, they were fun for my three-year-old son to stack while he was waiting for me to make dinner. But all of my bead-storage solutions up until now revolved around ways to store those tubes of seed beads, not the boxes!

I don't know why I don't like the boxes. They are just as convenient as the tubes, and it seems that the lids of the boxes don't come off as easily as the tubes. (Let me show you the bead soup that resides in the bottom of pretty much every drawer where I store my seed bead tubes.) The boxes don't roll off the table or roll around on my bead tray every time I shift position when I'm beading. So what gives?

I think for me, personally, it's just that sense of nostalgia that I feel when I hold a tube of seed beads in my hand. My first seed beads were all in tubes, and most of the seed beads that I order and buy at shows come in tubes and not boxes, so maybe it's just that I don't want to change over to boxes at this point. The empty tubes are also more readily available from my favorite beading supply companies, and they're not as expensive as the boxes, so there's the convenience factor to consider when I need to transfer a bunch of new colors from plastic bags to another seed bead-storage solution.

What do you think? Do you prefer your seed beads in tubes or boxes? Leave a comment and share your thoughts here on the blog!  

Bead Happy,


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Beading Tools & Supplies
Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

50 thoughts on “Seed Bead Storage: Bead Tubes or Bead Boxes?

  1. I, too, love the tubes. For some reason, the flip top boxes just don’t “do” it for me. Granted not all of the boxes are the same, just like the tubes come in various lengths, but to this day, I still prefer the tubes, and when travelling with a project, the tubes fit nicely into a cheap pencil box. 🙂

  2. I order most of my seed beads in wholesale quantities, so they arrive baggies. I keep the large bags in a 5-drawer storage tower, by color. For my delica stash, I also have one flip-top box for every bead # I own. Those are kept, by color, in clear acrylic boxes. It makes it much easier for me to select beads for my next design.

    I am thinking of doing the same for my ever-growing stash of round seed beads, but those fip-tops do represent quite an investment.

  3. I don’t have that many seed beads – but I prefer the boxes… you can stack them better in a box, wherr they usually live 🙂 and the box won’t roll on my table and spill everything around (yup, did that once).

  4. I like the tubes best, also I have several rifle shell boxes to put the tubes in when I am doing a pattern,,,,,there are differet sizes of holes and the boxes are about 5×5″ and hold about 100 tubes,,,,,,,,you can have a box for each project and they can be seen and carried or just set aside………..

  5. For the moment, I only order once in a on-line bead-shop. I received my first Toho seed beads in boxes. I loves them because they are little but can contain a lot of seed beads. And in my little seed beads suitcase, they are really great to store a big amount of seed beads. I ever had other square plastic box , but they take a lot of place in my seed beads suit case. I have to try seed beads tubes. But I’m not sure it’ll be better than tiny seed beads square boxes. 🙂 For me, for the moment, these boxes are expensives so I found another type of these little boxes. “Tic tac” tiny candy boxes looks like them. Square boxes are great when you want to have few seed beads on your work table.

  6. Hi

    I like the tubes, but I do NOT like how the lids fall off and dump the beads out into the bigger storage box. The little plastic boxes are okay, but I have had their lids come off too.

    However, I am also a biologist and the stockroom where I work was getting rid of supplies that no one used anymore. There I found never-used plastic test tubes with screw top lids. I snatched them up and I LOVE them for keeping my beads. NO more spills!!! Soon, I’ll have to buy some more (from a biological supply company). There is no turning back for me.


  7. I love the flip-top boxes. it’s harder for my cat to take off with them or bat them off the table. They are much more compact when you have to pack them for a show or teaching gig, at least for me; I have a largish collection of seed beads, so anything that packs easier is better.

  8. I have the bead tower both styles. I love it. Organize colors and neat and I know where my beads are. The only problem is the square holders top come off. I just tape them now. They are cheap for the storage you get with them.

  9. I’m still dumping the tubes into boxes. I found these storage boxes from Michaels (which I think are actually from Beadalon), that have 2 large boxes inside and a lot of little ones. They work perfectly for me and I have about 20 of these boxes now, sorted by color. I couldn’t ever find a way to store the tubes as neatly as this (and half the time broke fingernails trying to get the tubes open) so I latched onto this system. I love it and it works for me!

  10. We sell our seed beads in triangular tubes. To me the best of both worlds. They do not roll around, the tops don’t fall off easily, and they can be clustered into a hexagon with a rubberband. I keep groups of beads for projects on my beading trays this way.

  11. Most of my seed bead collection is in repurposed glass spice jars that I found at various yard sales, they worked out great because the seed beads came on hanks and I just can’t bead with a tangled messy hank. The rest of my collection is in the original tubes that they came in, some of those tubes are cylindrical and some of those tubes are triangular. Then I store all of my beading supplies in shoe boxes. Various boxes read “Size 15 seed beads”, “Size 6 seed beads”, “Size 11 seed beads”, “Crystals”, “Hardware and findings”, “Tools”, “Wire”…….and so on…. You would be really surprised just how much stuff you can fit into each shoe box!! I just stack them on top of one another inside a closet that I have reserved just for my beed collection.

  12. Hey Scottish Sue: Tubes with screw cap sounds a lot better!!! May I ask, where would I find them? I am sure it will solve all problems. I use shoebox to keep all the tubes and I had to sort them out and one time it happens when I find a lid came off — YIKES!! beads poured out!!!! I am considering to buy tube caddy to keep all tubes (boxes? my problem) and sort by color and size.
    Thanks, a great biologist who gave us ideas!! Thank you Sue!

  13. I love the boxes! They fit perfectly into Infinite Divider System plastic storage boxes I found on line. The smaller flip top boxes can also be found on line, as well as in the craft dept. at Walmart. I organize my beads by type, size, and color, and this system makes it easy to find the right bead at a glance. The IDS boxes fit perfectly into a cabinet I found at a tag sale, and also fit into my rolling craft tote for travel. I like to curl up on the couch when I bead and the IDS boxes make it easy to transport beads from the storage cabinet to he couch.

  14. I was introduced to beading a couple of years ago when my aunt gave me a supplies organizer, the drawers of which were filled with different beading supplies. There were tubes and boxes in there (and bags for that matter). I think because of that, I’m not too particular as to what containers my seed beads come in. As long as it holds them and keeps them from rolling all over the place, I really dont care.
    I also have small storage boxes with a bunch of separated compartments in them, so for me it’s whatever container is most convenient at the time.

  15. I prefer boxes because they end up being more compact to store. But the other reason is I can put a piece of tape over the top to keep the lid from coming off. I have not found a tube works for that. Some boxes are a lot better than others. I like the tubes with screw on lids that Tohos used to come in. Don’t see them so often now. I just wish they didn’t have the loop on top of the cap, but I understand store displays, too.

  16. When I started beading, my teacher had all her seed beads in the boxes like you received and I got used to them. I have some tubes also and I have spend time separating too very close colors too many times, so boxes for me

  17. I love the flip top boxes because there is no worry about spilling the beads all over the place when you flip the box open and the boxes aren’t as bulky when traveling with them. Plus, it seems to me that the tubes’ plastic seems thinner. I’m 100% into the box storage

  18. I’m sorry but I can’t stand the tubes and move everything into boxes as soon as they arrive. It’s mainly because I hate it when the tops pop off of the tubes. I like being able to control when and when I don’t have bead soup. But also, the boxes are available in so many different sizes that they can store a large number of types of beads including semi-precious stones, and they store so beautifully!

    I never worry when I carry my boxes from point A to point B because I know that they are compact when putting them into traveling containers and they will arrive intact too.

    Of course, the boxes are much more expensive, but hey, I should be allowed to indulge from time to time, right?

  19. I’ve only been beading for a couple of years, and started out saving my purchases in the small ziplock bags that my local bead store sells.
    It was very hard to sort or find anything when I needed it. When the bead store added the clear plastic boxes, I purchased several dozen and have since added many more.
    As you say, they have a great closure, don’t roll around, come in many different sizes and can be labeled.
    Whenever I purchase seed beads, crystals or pearls, I take the store label and attach it to the clear plastic container to make it easier to identify and reorder.
    I love them. I have almost all of my stock in these containers, with the exception of findings. These I keep in a double-sided clear plastic container that I purchased in the toy department at Wally World. It is designed to hold the small hot wheels cars, serves well for my findings and was originally purchased by me to hold machine embroidery threads. I keep anything silver on one side, gold, brass, bronze and odd findings on the other.
    Hope this helps

  20. I use a little of both. I prefer tubes for seed beads and hang them for visibility. But, because some beads arrive in boxes I also use those to store crystals and larger beads. I store those in a drawer because they are used less than the seed beads.

  21. The boxes can store the same amount of beads in a smaller space, so it is a good solution when you are traveling, or have limited storage space. I have shallow plastic boxes that hold the bead boxes so that I can see everything there is by picking up the larger box. And I don’t spill many beads. I actually have all kinds of storage, but only because it is expensive to try to unify things: bead boxes, strings, tins with clear lids, wire-top bottles, cleaned Bacos bottles (they are good for larger glass beads), divided plastic boxes (ugh! terrible idea), tubes larger and smaller, with inverted Frisbees holding current activities. I hope someday to get organized…

  22. After reading all the comments, apparently, I’m odd woman out. Personally, I love the stack jars available on many sites. They come in many sizes, with 4 – 6 jars per “stack” and one lid. Most are pretty inexpensive and even cheaper in bulk. They’re perfect for storage as I use rolling carts (double wide, available at office supply stores). I can fit 18 stacks, 13 containers high x 3 tall. That’s 702 different storage containers per drawer, and I get the carts with 3 drawers. And that’s the largest stack jars. With the smaller stack jars, even more fit per drawer! The jars are also effective for using while beading. No having to dump then into another container to work with, just dip the needle into the jar to pick up one – or several. When traveling, I do keep a few of the square boxes on hand (easy to fit into a shoe box or a pencil box) and stick to only taking one or two projects with me, but for storage and working at home, give me my stack jars or give me death! I also get sticker paper from an office supply site. I tried using the store labels, but found that with much use, they tend to fade or peel off – or both, so I type the labels myself and print the sticker sheets with the bead size, type (round/Delica/Tila/etc.), color name and, in the case of Delica’s, the color number as well. These “labels”, in the right font, fit easily onto even the smallest stack jars as well as the boxes, are more clearly visible, and they don’t tend to peel off or fade as quickly as the store labels do.

  23. I actually prefer the tiny ziplock baggies 1×1″ for focal beads and small amounts of seed beads,and 1.75×1.75″ , 2×2″ , etc. for larger amounts. Then I store these baggies according to color,in plastic stack drawers. They take up much less room, as the boxes and tubes take up the same amount of room whether they are full or almost empty ! I should probably sell all my empty tubes,boxes and other small containers that the beads originally came in !

  24. I really dont have a preferance,but I have mostly tubes. I store my beads in recycled plastic containers etc. I also have bought some stackable containers that work well for hanks of larger stones, thread,wire,chain maille stuff,stringing material etc.
    For traveling I have smaller (depends on the materials being used) plastic containers,some lined with felt so I can do my work right in the container.
    LOL I have a hodge podge of containers! My Siamese kittens would most likely say they prefer the tubes because those are easier to grab & run from mom! Also they are easier to chew on and put holes into,hence spilling the beads and making one heck of a mess!! >^..^<

  25. Tubes are harder to store, because of the length. I have started putting all the beads I’ve gathered together for a project in it’s own container. And the tubes are often too bulky to easily add to the mix. They are pretty though. I’ve noticed that it LOOKS like your getting more too. Now what do I do when I’ve finished a project but have some stuff left over?

  26. I finally found wholesale online site to buy my toho and myuiki beads 250 gm in a plastic bag at a time (cheaper than buying smaller amounts), so I use pint size canning jars, or ice cream topping jars, or small relish jars after I remove the labels and then put the original bag label on the jar with color name,price I paid, or anything else I want to add. Of course I still have tubes and boxes but the jars are easy to stack and see the colors well. Beading has so many different items you need, I am not sure there is a good all in one storage solution but its so much fun even trying to organize 🙂

  27. I use plastic mini square storage from a dollar store (10 for a buck) Stocked up last year when I found that they fit in my bead (tackle) box perfectly. Big enough to just take off the lid and scoop or needle up without having to pour and chase beads and/or cat across the table. About 1 inch deep, 2×2, with snap tight lids.

  28. I love the boxes. They have a flip-top so you don’t have to remove the whole lid & I can see the colors better than in tubes. I too used to dump my beads into containers with multiple compartments; I did it by color so that I could easy decide which red or blue I wanted to use. But discovered this was very cumbersome to take the whole container when transporting a project (plus multiple containers if using multiple colors). At least each compartment had it’s own lid so you didn’t risk spilling beads into another color when removing.

    But now I bought the boxes in bulk & moved all my seed beads into the boxes. One advantage is multiple sizes in the boxes, so if I only had a small amount of a certain color, I can store in smaller box & get more boxes into same amount of space. I put a label on each box identifying the size of the bead & color# in case I want to re-order. I filled the multi-compartment containers with larger beads & findings.

  29. I love seed bead tubes, too – especially the long tubes! Getting SB’s in a box, though, is better than those plastic bag that are sealed shut.

    It’s so disappointing to place an order for several colors/sizes of SB’s, and everything arrives in little unlabeled bags!!

  30. My main problem with the flip top boxes is that when you come to put surplus beads back into them at the end of a session, they just won’t go in. With a tube you can just tip the beads back in from the palm of your hand without a problem. I also find that if the flip top is too stiff it pulls the whole top of the box out when you try to open it. It’s tubes and little grip seal bags all the way for me.

  31. Actually I love the small round storage “disks” with twist tops. They comehave in overed boxes that hold 24 of them. Each of my boxes hold one color, sorted by hues and it is as easy as pie to find what I am looking for. (Small FYI LOL -I always wait for 50%you off coupons to buy them at bargain prices).

  32. I agree entirely with aliciaH. I love the boxes best of all. But I dont like having to re-label so as they arrive mostly in tubes they stay in the tubes. Sometimes when I have just over one tubeful left I with decant them all into a larger container that fits them all!

  33. Rather odd one for me–I clean and re-use my MANY prescription bottles for the hanks I buy. I apply a label with what, where etc on it and works great since they look. Down side is they aren’t clear. I have the Dollar Store ones as someone else mentioned. Those are good as well. When I make my own little mixes, I like to use those especially. I also HAVE plenty of tubes which I store upright in round vases where I can grab them…those are stored by size at my workbench. Not as thrilled with the boxes also…haven’t found best way to store those yet. I do use my clear plastic boxes with compartments for other supplies, lampworks,silver,gold,SO many things getting there own box! Those are also labelled or I just might forget where I put a treasure later on! 🙂

  34. I like the tubes mainly, but if I am travleing, I will pour some of the beads into a box. They are less likey to spill, and easy to label with a piece of scotch tape to write on.
    When I am done, I pour the leftovers back into the tubes and take the tape off.

  35. I just started beading and the vast majority of my seed beads come in tubes. I like tubes but agree the tops fall off easily.

    I would like to hear from everyone how they store their tubes or boxes. I started with just a simple plastic organizer (like the ones used for cross stitch). However I’m quickly outgrowing this storage method.

    So – How do you store your tubes or boxes??

    Hope C.

  36. I prefer to keep my seed beads in the original container I got them in, then organize them in large Ziplocs by size. I like knowing what shop I bought them from and remembering where/when I bought certain ones. And I’m too lazy to relabel them if I did put them in a different container. I have a few lids, both round and rectangular, that want to come off, so they’re segregated for the moment until I decide what to do with them.

  37. I really don’t care if the beads come in boxes or tubes. Just as long as they stay closed when I want them too.
    I have most things set up for the tubes but I have found, in my old age, that I can actually be very flexable.
    I have saved all of my old spice bottles and use them as well. They have screw tops on them and make them very nice for storing large quanities of seed beads.

  38. Last year my husband received a very large pill box as a gag gift. You know the ones with one box for each day in one strip. That is what I have been using to store my beads since they arrive in plastic bags. I have about 6 of those giant pill boxes and I love them. I found them at our local dollar store for $1 each.

  39. I prefer the rectangular boxes. I buy a storage box of them (25-40 sm boxes) of 5 different sizes @ 40% off. (Local beading store has a 40% off 1 item/wk coupon. I place an “erasable” label (office stores – est. $8) on each sm box, listing source, color, size, J or CZ, cost per weight (2.80/10gm). The storage box is labeled by color and size, J or CZ, type (delica, hex, seed bead, etc.).

    The different sizes of sm boxes allow me to store the maximum nbr of beads in the smallest space. If there are too many of a particular bead to fit the box, I hang the extras in a small plastic bag on a nail in a non-prime storage spot.

    I do buy round tubes of beads but not empty tubes. They fit perfectly in the storage boxes along with the sm boxes.

  40. I am just wild about the flip top boxes. I love that they don’t roll, that you can open them with one hand., that you can see the beads so clearly, and that they come in a variety of sizes. I also love the little clear plastic 4″x6″ storage boxes I bought to organize them in. The storage boxes come empty or filled with various sizes of flip top boxes. I bought dozens of them because I also use them to organize other small supplies, like hanks of beads, large beads that wont fit in a flip top box, stitch samples I’ve made, findings and much more. I also used these as project boxes to keep all the beads and other materials for a jewelry project together. These storage boxes and flip tops help me store my beads by type, ie and color so I can find things easily. And best of all, these 4″x6″ boxes fit perfectly in IKEA’s Benno CD/DVD tower, so I can see all my beads at once. This makes it so easy to pull together the beads I need for a project! To design a project, I can just arrange various flip top boxes until I see something I like. I may need a second CD tower and more boxes soon…. (my boxes came from fusion beads)

  41. I settled on flip-top boxes early on, and I’m glad I did. I wrote a blog post about my storage system a while ago, with sources for all the stuff I use.
    and this one:
    The IRIS project boxes store about 60 large fliptops or many more small ones in one layer, so I can see everything of a single size at a glance. I just bought more project boxes so I have more space and separated out bugles and drops from triangles, cubes and other oddities.

    Then I use my software for labeling everything so I know what it is and how much it cost.

    Lynn Allen

  42. We are all used to the tubes as we started with them. If the lids do not open easily on the boxes, then it is easier for us. (my yorkie loves when the tubes open, as it eats the beads) A friend gave me a bead storage, 3 section stand, that works for the boxes.
    Another advantage of the box, is that they come in 2 sizes. The smaller ones are great for 15′, delicas, etc. I also started putting my finding in the boxes as well.

    Happy Beading to All.

  43. Actually I like mine in 2×2″ plastic bags. I had a bead store for 10 years and this was the best solution I came up with. I always hated tubes for the reasons you mentioned and boxes weren’t available then. Bags are easier to fill you can open them and set them on your work serface and nothing comes out. I did not have wall or other space to display japanese seed beads so I kept them in plastic boxes with compartments labeled as to color and type. You can learn to open these bags with one hand and they last along time before the bags split, about 20 years depending on the wear and tear.
    I admit walking into a store with a wall of tubes or boxes is a real visual delight, but I’m not going to change my own seed beads over to boxes, besides as a former owner of a bead store I have lots of 2×2 bags!

  44. Does anyone know where I can find 6″ plastic tubes? Empty ones. I have a ton of seed beads that I would love to put in the tubes. Also, Jennifer, where did you get the stand up display in your picture. I would love to get one of those!

  45. I too love the tubes and after seeing an image on the web of storing them standing in 1/2 pt. jars I have jars and jars of the tubes, full of colorful beads, sitting on tiered spice racks, all along on the back of my beading work table. To see all the colors better, I don’t overfill the jars, so the tubes lean a little, standing up, to expose the colors. It makes it so quick to scan bead size or colors for whatever embroidery project I am working on. My husband installed lighting under the shelving above my work table so it’s bright to look for colors.
    I also convert all the beads that come on strings to tubes! I use a thin marker to write the color info on the tube and using one of the little triangle scoop goodies, put the beads in the tubes. I use this method for just about every size seed bead. I group the jars by bead size and I can get the tubes very reasonably at my local bead shop. She buys them to fill and label, so she sells them to me too.