Get Organized: Bead Storage Checklist

Oct 27, 2008

If beads are so small, how could I be running out of storage space?  For the last year or so, I've been buying random containers for beads and creating a bead tower in my basement.  Sounds cool, but it's actually a little scary!  When I was working on submissions for Stringing a few weeks ago, I realized that it was taking me twice as long to design pieces because I was spending time hunting down beads, rather than playing with them.  I thought I was organized, but I really wasn't. 

According to an article titled "Creative Organization" in the new issue of Studios, I made a common mistake.  Buying containers should be your last step in organizing, not your first.  Instead, you should start by sorting.  While my beads were mostly sorted by type (gemstone, glass, pearls, etc.), I also separated out recent purchases so they would be easier to find.  I didn't realize until I started sorting everything that having this separate "new" category actually made it harder to find those beads!

Now that I've finished sorting and donating any beads I can't use, I'm ready to tackle the storage question!  I've been re-reading the top organization tips from the contest held earlier on Beading Daily this year, browsing the related posts on the forums (share your space, garage storage, organization), and flipping through my copy of Studios.  My conclusion?  While there is not one-size-fits-all solution, it's helpful to hear about other people's solutions and pick the ones that work for you.  Here are some storage features I'm considering:

  • Access:  Can I easily reach everything I need without digging through layers?  (This is what drives me crazy about my current seed bead box!)
  • Accountability:  Because I submit designs to magazines, I need to keep track of where I bought every single bead.  Right now, I'm doing this by marking the packages of beads, but I could create a system separate from my storage like a computer file.
  • Categories:  Sort by bead color, type, size?  If I change the way I sort, I may need additional containers.
  • Clarity:  Do I need to see inside the container or will something opaque work?  (I've found that if I can't see it, I generally forget I have it.)
  • Cost:  Will I still have money left for beads?
  • Expandability:  How long before I run out of room?  Are there extra pockets or drawers?  Can I easily get additional matching containers?
  • Green:  Can I repurpose something?  A spice rack for jars of beads?   A lunch box for a mini beading travel kit?
  • Inspiration:  Does just seeing my bead storage inspire me to create?
  • Portability: Can I easily tote my beads upstairs or across the country?
  • Security:  Will my beads be safe?  (I'm not worried about theft, but about paws and little hands!)
  • Sentimentality:  Can I make a family connection?  In Studios, I saw lots of artists using  heirlooms like teapots, purses, and suitcases as storage options. 
  • Studio Space:  Will it fit?  I love the idea of a giant, bead-filled armoire, but I'm not sure where I could put it!

For more ideas on organization and storage, see the new issue of Studios magazine.  (It's the one with this cute cat on the cover!) There are some very helpful articles like "85 Ways to Organize" and "Creative Organization," plus lots of photos of real-life artist studios, including beaders and jewelry artists like Beth Quinn, Judi Goolsby, Fran Meneley, and Susan Lenart Kazmer.  I loved seeing the old mannequin in Beth Quinn's studio--she uses it to take photos of her jewelry, but also keeps it "dressed" in pearls and vintage rhinestones when not in use.  Buy a copy of Studios today.

What organization tips do you have?  How do you sort your beads?  I'd love to hear what works for you! Share your ideas on the website.


Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.



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Comments

Bejeweled wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 11:41 AM

perfect time for this blog.  I, myself, am in the middle of organizing.

on Oct 27, 2008 12:40 PM

I go to the fishing section of Walmart and get the multi level tackle boxes. They have 4 trays that slide out completely and one main holder for them. They cost only $14. All my beads are sorted by color. I have 2 of these and they hold so much.

Also when we had hurricane threats they were easy to carry (heavy) and put in the car) I had them in the car before anything else. Is that bad? lol

SusanC@71 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 12:45 PM

I organize my seed beads in those clear, stackable containers.  While watching the Olympics this summer, I finally organized each stack by color.  It took quite a while, but was well-worth it.  For all my other glass beads, I use the square plastic containers that you can buy at JoAnns, and I also have those organized by color.  I have a LOT of them!  It's great though, because each color has its own boxes and when I buy a new package of beads, I just add it to the corresponding color.  It makes it very easy to find the right bead for each project.

RosemaryL@8 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 12:48 PM

I organize my beads, which are mainly gemstone, by colour.  Each string, or unstrung string of beads remains in their original bag to remind me how much they cost and exactly what they are, and  each colour is kept in ziplock food storage bags which I then keep in a large plastic storage box. Even with transparent containers, I still have to look through the bags regularly to remind myself of all the treasures waiting to be used.  Pearls are kept seperately, one bag for white pearls, another for coloured pearls and another for shell and mother-of-pearl.

My findings are organized by type into plastic food containers with lids which stack up into a neat pile and are labelled on the outside with what's inside, like rings, clasps, earring findings etc.  Stringing materials and tools are kept in open baskets for easy access.  Current projects are worked on and stored in rigid plastic project cases from the stationery store which have snap locks, and I use the deep kind which are high enough to contain pinch bowls into which I put seed beads, and I line the cases with beading mats to prevent the beads from roling around. This protects them from being sat on or played with by one or other of the cats!  

And my 'sketches' or 'drafts' - ideas for new designs which I try out on fishing wire, are kept in ziplock food bags into which I put all the necessary beads and findings until I get round to completing each project.  

tmkrowan wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 12:52 PM

I store my beads by color and/or by type - example:

pearls all go into pearl storage boxes, no matter what the color. Stone beads are sorted by color. Wood beads go in the wood bead storage box. Ambers and yellows, oranges, go in another box. Ditto the greens, blues, purples, etc. The seed beads go into another box that has no dividers, and I keep them in their little tubes. I rejected the thought about hanging them by their tops, which usually have that little loop, on a circular wire, because I'd have to take off the whole lot to get to what I wanted. So the storage box without separators works better. I stack my storage boxes on a shelf in my workroom. Because the boxes are clear plastic, I can see at a glance which color and type I'm looking for. I also leave sterling beads, findings, etc. in their original plastic bags in a storage box with separations. When they're kept in plastic, they don't oxidize. The same goes for sterling wire -stored  in a ziploc bag, then they're all placed in a storage box without separators. My beadalon wires go into two storage boxes, along with my stretchy string, and macrame cord goes into its own storage box without separators. Gold-filled wire, findings, etc. have one storage box without separators, because I really don't use much gold-filled products. My polymer clay has its own container with compartments, and the beads have their own separator storage boxes. It took me a very long time to get everything together, but now the system takes care of itself.

marokel wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 1:00 PM

I like to use a combination of egg cartons and clear plastic cups.  Both are great because they can stack on top of each other for easy storage.  And you can also group the beads in each carton by color or type.

of course, right now, I have to resort because the closer I get to festival time I have a tendancy to sort haphazardly, so I resort during my down time.

on Oct 27, 2008 1:06 PM

I store my beads in 35mm containers that my film came in; and glue one of beads on top.  If it is an expensive bead, then I glue a picture on top.

Ondine of NV

KimS@81 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 1:13 PM

I sort gemstones by color, pearls are grouped together.  Both are in stackable metal mesh trays.

Seed beads on the other hand are stored by size in those stackable plastic drawer units with a label on the outside  These are great since they're easily expandable without changing my whole storage system.

I also repackage seed beads in rectangular tubes.  I find the round ones just create more of a mess.  I note the place purchased, item numbers (for reordering), and descriptions on the labels.  

Since I also submit designs for publication I always weigh new beads when repackaging them and calculate a cost per gram at the same time.  This way I can easily calculate the amounts for materials lists info for submissions and for figuring out the costs of items for my retail site.    

Its more work up front but makes my life easier in the long run.

on Oct 27, 2008 1:40 PM

Last Christmas my 3 daughters pooled their resources & surprised me with a storage system for my beads.  I had everything in clear plastic shoe boxes in 5 general categories, which I thought worked just fine, but apparently they were frustrated using that system.  So the girls purchased Stack-On 39-Drawer Storage Organizers from Home Depot.  Part of the surprise was they sorted the beads into the new drawers before I was 'on' to their project.  They even had to race out & buy 2 more drawer sets for a total of 10.  Now each drawer is labeled & things are grouped by categories, such as semi-precious, pearl, seed; then broken down into the drawer by color.  I like keeping the seed beads in their original tube, box or strand.  There is enough room in the larger drawer to keep 1 general color of seed beads.  And it's easy to move drawers from one box to another when I have to reorganize.  It's a work in progress but the girls got me going, so it was a gift that keeps on giving.

AmyA@26 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 1:42 PM

I have finally found a system that works super well for me. Darice makes three sizes of bead storage boxes, an example of which can be found at the following link:

www.darice.com/.../ProductDetails.aspx

Each clear plastic box has several clear screw-top cylinders. The smallest cylinders are perfect for findings, while the mid sized and largest size are good for crystals, larger beads, etc. I like this system for four reasons:

1. I can see everything at a glance

2. The boxes stack neatly together and make a very compact footprint on my limited shelf space - I've reduced my bead storage from 5 shelves to 1 1/2!

3. I can pull the individual containers out to mix and match when I'm brainstorming, or if I'm travelling, I can make up a box or two with just what I want to bring along.

4. The lids are very secure, so even if I drop one, I usually don't lose anything. If I drop it really hard, it will break, but that's to be expected of any plastic product.

Darice doesn't sell to the public, but I have seen these at Michael's and at a couple of other good bead shops.

The other storage trick I figured out is for my seed beads. I have a large cork bulletin board to which I pin bags of seed bead hanks by type and color. It's amazing to be able to look at everything I have at a glance - very inspirational when designing.

My husband loves my new storage systems because now he has room in the hall closet for some of his junk :)

JamieN@3 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 1:43 PM

I too struggled with this issue and ended up with so many containers for my beads that I couldn't find anything!  I then splurged and purchased some cabinets from "Best Craft Organizer".  To accommodate what I currently had and still leave room for growth I bought one tall unit and another mid size that can be added to later.  I ordered black drawers and now have them all labelled with white letters on black so I can easily find things.  I have crystals and semi-precious sorted by color and metals sorted by type (for example, I have a drawer for just sterling silver clasps and one for sterling silver beads; one for sterling chain; one for copper; one for brass, one for thread; one for wire).  Then my seed beads are sorted by size 15, 11, cubes and drops, delicas.

I still forget sometimes how MUCH I have but on my conversion to this process I ended up with containers and containers that just contained old bead containers (that were donated elsewhere).  It was such a treat to get just a little bit of organization into my life and office/bead room that the extra expense up front was well worth it!  One more drawer and I'm ready to add a new cabinet.  :-)

Arsefire23 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 2:01 PM

Currently, I have a wall in my basement office with five 6-foot shelves that house my beads. The majority of my beads are sorted into the stack pack containers (the cylinders that screw together) and those are sorted by color into photo boxes to hold similar colors or similar types of beads. (for example, i have one box with all my containers of firepolished beads).

This works, for now, although I do find I have to constantly look through each box to find something I want to use. One day, I hope to have one of those stackable units with the tray insert drawers for all my beads. I dream big, what can I say?

Lisa Arrow wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 2:05 PM

I also got a "mini stackables" cabinet from bestcraftorganizer.com for a birthday present.  It is THE BEST!  My only complaint is I should've gotten the taller one -- I'm almost out of room! But it holds pretty much all of my glass and gemstone beads, as well as my tools, wire and thread.  I've marked all the compartments with a per bead/unit price and organized them by color/type.  Separate from this, I am currently organizing my sterling findings, which are in multiple locations, into two separate boxes:  one large one that stays at home with all my specialty sterling findings I use less often in bags to keep them shiny and new, and another smaller box that is more portable in which I store findings out of bags that I use often (so I don't worry about them oxidizing).  I can take the small box along with my Beading Buddy case so I can bead on the go!

on Oct 27, 2008 2:13 PM

I am so glad that how to organize is being discussed.  I can't decide how to do it,either.  I'm glad to read everyone's comments and can't wait to put some ideas into action.  One of my ideas, especially for chunky beads, is to put them into plastic medicine bottles.  My dog gets a pill that's really big and so is the container it comes in.  These are not always clear, but are clear enough to have an idea what's inside.  I also purchased at a Target store a rolling storage unit with several drawers (all plastic, but sturdy enough) and it was only $28.00.   And to carry my tools and things I need all of the time, I have a plastic tackle box. I hope these are helpful for some. thanks for all of your ideas.

MaryH@172 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 2:21 PM

I've got the coolest large wooden tool chest that I keep my tools, stringing materials, glue, and sketching stuff in.  It has a top tray under the lid that I keep new purchases until I get them filed into the bead stuff (or strung up for me to show off).  

And Michelle, for those little thread spools, get over to the sewing notions.  There are several brands of bobbin cases - clear plastic, holds many bobbins, and is the perfect size.

I've got one from Dritz, but I know there's a brand that clicks shut that I'm still on the lookout for.

Chrystyna wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 2:35 PM

I have tried many containers with partitions but found that for seed beads they did not work well.  I store beads that came in tubes or containers in their original container,  making sure that the bead size, color number and supplier are marked. All other seed beads are stored in Biology specimen jars ( the jars that amoeba, paramecium etc come in). I work at a college and the Biology instructors are happy to give me the jars for my form of recycling. My beads are sorted by size first then colors. The jars are kept in plastic drawers, the kind you buy at office supply stores.

LiskaJ wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 2:49 PM

I love everybodys storage ideas, and i have to say that they do inspire me. What i have been using, in the spirit of recycling is all my old med bottles...they are gold transparent so the color of the beads are altered somewhat, but they are perfect because they dont accidently come open and i have meds every freaking month and so  that is one of the things that i have been doing. Another idea my sister in law shared with me, is her daughter is a nail tech and the little boxes that nail tips come in are a great size and clear and easily stackable and nail techs typically just throw them away...of course the baby food and juice jars are good as well since they are clear and have a screw on lid to prevent accidental spills.

amy ropple wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 2:53 PM

Plastic Condiment Cups and Lids -- yay!   I used to use film canisters, but recently changed over to the little plastic condiment cups (by Solo?) and lids that you get in catering places (I did ebay -- got 200 at a time, w/lids, for $30ish.)  The covers are clear, they are light weight, they stack well, and can survive a drop (my bird likes to pick em up and toss them from the shelves sometimes...talk about an uttered prayer as that takes place!) They travel well, and hold lots of beads in a small space. After years of trying, I am finally happy and it was an inexpensive option. Good luck!

AmeliaV@3 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 3:01 PM

I use the metal containers sold at home improvement stores that have 2 different sizes of drawers with dividers available.  They were meant to hold nails and such, but they work great for beads and can sit at the back of my bead table within easy reach.  I label the drawers with the gemstone name or for glass beads with the color.  There are separate drawers for findings, etc.  I do have some small clear plastic bottles for seed beads.  Rx Medicine bottles with snap on lids work great, too, however they are often times amber colored.  

SusanP@128 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 3:23 PM

After using bead boxes for quite some time, I invested in a craft organizer.

www.bestscrapbookshelf.com

This was the best investment I have made.  I have a double stack with one inch drawers.  The beads are sorted by color, mostly.  I also have separate drawers for silver, broken down into types of silver as caps, findings, beads, clasps, charms and spacers.  It depends on the number of types of beads I had at the moment.  I also have a drawer for tools and one forprojects in progress.  As I purchase beads, I price them per bead and note the price and where I got them on a slip of paper that I put in the partition with the beads. I used a label maker to mark each drawer, although they are transparent so I cam see the colors.  I also have a drawer for lampwork beads, and gemstones are also kept separate as well as two drawers for pearls.  I also have drawers for seed beads.  This system has really cleaned up my workspace so I have much more room to create.

WillowWalker wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 3:37 PM

I'll start with seed beads first.  I keep mine in tackle boxes I found (years ago)  they each have a nice sized compartment in the top for current projects, thread, needles tools etc;, on the bottom their are 4  dividible cases that pull out. I divided them in half lengthwise giving me about 8 compartments to store long seed bead tubes in & I could get 6-9 tubes per slot.  I organized them by color and style.  Two did the trick.  Seed beaders-If you can get  a hold of those translucent , plastic 3M tape containers they are great to use for your current project.  They are great for beading straight out!  You can pour your seed beads back into storage containers when done or put on the well fitting lid until the next session!  I also used them to store all my bugle beads in!

  I have a large toolbox that I keep all my tools, glass cabachons and wire working supplies in.  My wire is in a 12/13 month divided file organizer labeled by size & shape. I found it at Ace and is one of those fabric style that looks like a handled tool tray.  I store the rest of of my beads in Craftmate craft organizers.  The large  ones that are in a purple, two sided binder-like case.  I get them from my local craft store with their 40% off coupons.  I use two of the smaller versions for my "new" seed bead collections and 4mm crystal bicones.  All organized by color.  I also use two of the large ones for my findings.  All these bead (& findings) "binders" are stored in a large sewing machine tote bag that is on wheels.  All I need to do is grab my toolbox & tote & I'm ready to bead on the go!  I like how I can see what I have in the craftkeeper's (48 compartments!) and they NEVER come open when bumped, dropped or whatever.  Those round, clear screw together ones "pop" open when dropped or knocked around.

Happibooker wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 4:27 PM

Cheryl C - I have also used a variety of different storage options. I also like the fishing tackle boxes and sort by type such as pearls, glass, gemstones etc. My seed beads were in the bags until recently when I found some lazy susan spinners with round plastic containers similar in size to the large round containers that stack together. I can easily rearrange the seed beads if I add colors by just rearranging the containers in the lazy susan. I use shoe boxes for things that are still in packages like some findings and keep them in groups like charms, jumprings, chain etc. I have started keeping track of all purchases in an Excel spreadsheet and have been going through all my receipts to find the correct pricing and location of purchase. Whew! what a job!!!

BettyL@20 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 4:37 PM

My passion lately is French Beaded Flowers. That takes TONS of seed beads. My "Plano" boxes just weren't big enough to handle a minimum of 4 hanks of one color at a time. So, I put all the beads in a zip lock and then sort by color into one of three clear shoe boxes. Then there's the issue of the wire spools. For now I have them in a display tray, but soon I plan to put them all on a dowel so that I can just pull the end and the wire will dispense without coiling against itself.

As for the gemstones and findings, I have those in the clear boxed sort trays that holds about 50 or 60 trays. I got them at Wally World several years ago for about $15 each (I use 3 of them).

Everything fits on shelving I have in my office/work space.

To keep track of pricing, I use Jewelry Design Manager program. It's user friendly and really helps you figure out just how much to charge for the pieces made.

Betty

MaimeA wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 4:53 PM

I've tried all different types of organization for my jewelry hobby.  Nothing really worked well because "out of sight, out of mind."  I spent too much time looking through storage containers.  I spent too much by accidently buying duplicate items, etc.  

My problem was solved when I purchased three Embellishment Centers from Memory Makers who sell them for scrapbookers..  I was elated when I found a web site that only cost my $54 for each, including shipping. (Really a deal!) I mounted them on the wall and bought cute old-fashion wire closed jars for $.50 to $1 for the shelves at a local discount craft shop.  I use the ribbon rods to keep my spools of threading materials.  I keep my beads in jars according to color, except for tiny seed beads.  The seed beads are kept in smaller jars.  It's so much easier pouring them into my rotating beading cup than out of compartments in storage units.  I also store my findings in the different size jars.  I keep my jewelry tools in a matching desk top carousel by MM.  The three centers hang above my work area.  My larger tools (beading boards, wire twisters, peg board for wires, etc.) are kept in a six drawer movable storage unit.  The extra drawers are used to file pattern sheets and instructions for my many tools... in case I forget how.  LOL

Organization is very important for me since my dedicated craft room (about 11x11 feet) is not only used for jewelry but also scrapbooking and folk painting... and my main computer work station.  I also use an Embellishment Center for each of these.  Each craft has its own area with storage and work area that is suitable for each craft.

I also have a 4x4 cubby unit (16 cubby spaces) from IKEA.  They come in 2X3 (6) and 5x5 (25).  There are baskets and inexpensive boxes thata fit perfectly into the cubbies.  They can be used without the boxes or basket too for books and magazines on beading and other crafts... as I do.

My third favorite organization unit is a cutting table.  It would be terrific for those who don't have much room since when it is folded, it is only 12 inches wide and about 36 inches in length.  I keep my up in the 36x36 inch size most of the time but I can also put it up into a 36x60 inch size.

Under the window, I have a narrow but long crafting center from Oriental Trading.  It has drawers on the ends.  In the bottom center open space, I keep a three drawer storage unit and a 24 inch stool... perfect height for the cutting table and craft center.  Above the craft center, I have a bank of adjustable growth lights.  The lights give excellent lighting for beading and crafting plus in the spring, I use the area to start my seedlings since I am also a gardener.

In addition, I have three other storage units with drawers.  They are see through so I put scrapbooking paper on the front of the drawers with labels to make it look neat and uniform.

I also bought two wonderful Sauder cupboards with shelves.  In the built-in cupboard, I put in a free standing shelving unit and placed individual drawers on the shelves with labels.  Simple white wooden shoe units are good for storing things in the top of the built-in cupboard.  You can store things in the top but don't have to take everything out to get to the bottom item.  LOL  The computer is in an armoir.  I put up cork boards on the inside of the doors where I can record what I'm running low on and need to purchase., list the projects I want to do, etc.

My little room is packed with stuff yet looks so neat... and most importantly... I can find anything at any time!!  It took me about four years of trial and error but I've finally arrived at complete organization!

on Oct 27, 2008 5:04 PM

PAT MC re: being organized

WHEN I WANT TO GET ORGANIZED BY PROJECT ,I PHOTO COPY THE PROJECT I PLAN ON MAKING, IF THERE ARE INSTRUCTIONS,  AND PUT ALL THE BEADS FOR THAT PROJECT IN A ZIP LOCK BAG.  IF THERE ARE NO INSTRUCTIONS, I JOT DOWN MY IDEAS AND SORT THE BEADS THAT I WILL NEED FOR THAT PROJECT IN THE SAME WAY. I PUT THE BAGS ON THE SIDE AND WHEN I NEED A PROJECT, I JUST HAVE TO SORT THROUGH THEM.  WHEN I PICK ONE, I HAVE ALL I NEED AND DON'T HAVE TO LOOK FOR ANYTHING.  I EVEN HAVE ALL MY TOOLS IN A SEE THROUGH BAG SO THERE IS NO DELAY IN FINDING THEM.  

Fruitsalad37 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 5:19 PM

I have been beading for quite a few years now working mainly with seed beads and bicone crystals.  I have found that the number one most important thing when considering storage is CLARITY.  You must be able to see all that you have.  This can make for a terrible need for space, but if you've got a good container system then the rest will fall into place.  I tried using tackle boxes but their flat design made it impossible to see what they contained so now I only use them for findings.

The very best solution I have found is the tall cylinder screw together containers you can get at the dollar store.  They come in different sizes and can be screwed together in as tall or short a stack as you need.  I organize everything by color, keeping my crystals separate from my seeds.  I don't bother to organize by size since I know a white bead will be with the whites no matter it's size.  Inside every container I tape a small strip of paper facing outwards with the size/color/store info on it.  

All of these stacks are lined up on shelves.  I work at a desk that has a long shelf built right into the top of it so all the stacks are lined up there, in two rows, the back row for the things I use less, the front row for the most used and recent special purchases (like focal beads).  

I like this system since, when I work on a project I can just keep the various containers I'm using screwed together into their own stack right at my work area.  And this makes them very portable.  I've never had them break apart during transit.  

I recently moved across the country and all of my beads made the trip safely, all the bead stacks were placed in a large box that had been lined with a thick bedsheet and padded with pillow cases.  

Hope this helps!

ReneeH@16 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 6:12 PM

Hi everyone! I have discovered the most amazing container system!!! I got a screw,nuts, bolts container It has 60 drawers and its only about 3x2 tall. The cool thing about the drawers they are clear and there is no back to the rack that holds all the drawers, so I put it against the window and the sun shines through it and  you can see the beads very clearly! The container i bought at Target and it only cost $15.00. You can find it in the tool section!  

annmarie@7 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 6:49 PM

Wow, there were some really great ideas here! I unfortunately do not have the luxery of having a craft room or even a craft area for that matter! So I have several systems. Does anyone remember the large clear plastic bins witht he slide out drawers that candy stores kept candy in? The are each about 3' high and 2' across, they have 4 drawers across and 5 hugh. In those I keep all my hanks of gemstone chips, all my Onyx (that is the stone I have the most of), bone pipe, porcupine quills,  and all misc. things, all sizes of plastic zip bags, bubble wrap, lace ribbons, all holiday themed pieces. I have 4 of them stacked as a cube.  I then  have a smaller, 3'x2' with all the tiny drawers, in this I keep all drill bits, and in general things I don't often use, or just have a small amount of.  I purchase the largest rectangle plastic containers available in the dollar store. One has strictly all my delicas, they are arranged in color order in clear zip bags. Another has all regular seed beads in various sizes, Japenese, Toho, triangle,square, etc., they are arranged in color grps. in each particular size. They are also in clear bags. My 3rd has all that come in the long tubes and all my charlottes, again color arranged. I then have 3 more that hold all my gemstone strands, in clear bags, I start with Apple Jasper and go alphabetically (w the exception of the onyx-remember, it is in the candy box!). Then I move on to slightly small er containers, same style, one is for all Swarovski crystals, one for Czech crystals, rondells, etc. all in a color system from clear to black. One for small and medium cabs, one for large cabs, one fo rvariety of pendants-Swarovski, glass, bone, metal, etc., one for gemtone pendants, one for gemstone nuggets. Finally I have one of those beader boxes w all the little tiny boxes inside, in there I keep leftover beads, maybe 10 of pinapple jasper, 5 of cherry quartz, etc. I have a clear long flat plastic box for all my thread.  I have 3 lazy susan style platters that I keep all my silver, copper, gold, etc, all arranged by clasps, bead caps, beads, chain, etc. I know it sounds like a huge mess, but everything is clear, which I need for my eyes, everything stacks on top of each other. Since I work at my kitchen table I have a board where I hang all new glass beads and a small folding table that I keep all the things I am currently using, right now I have 6 projects going, so all the supplies for these are right there and I don;t have to look for them. My dream is to one day just have my own room, have a wall length wood work area and the same for my supplies. I hate digging thru the drawers looking for things, I like to be able to see them and know exactly where they are! For anyone thing about my silver tarnishing, I cover my platters with a large piece of black felt and throw those anti tarnish strips in w the findings.

So that is what works best for me in the situation I am in.

Anna

Cheryl@199 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 6:51 PM

Hi Everyone, I travel with my beads to homes to do birthday partys. I need to be able to see all my beads, and be able to pack quickly. I use the jewelers trays, about 15"x7" . In each tray I put sm jewelry boxes, like the ones you can put earrings in, and fill each with beads, color coordinated but not necessarily by gem, glass etc, just color. This way I can make any jewelry in mind while I'm at home, and can quickly pick up the trays, put them in my case and off to the birthday party. This seems to be the best way for me. I've tried the tackle boxes, and beading carriers, but I find it hard to get the beads out of the square sections. Hope this helps others out.

shines4 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 7:23 PM

I tried different methods, but the multi-drawer boxes (the ones you're supposed to put screws, nails, washers, etc. in) seem to work best for me.  I'm a very visual person, so I sort by color.  Each little drawer will hold an amazing amount of beads!

I use the small round stacking containers for my small findings.  Makes them a lot easier to see at a glance, and I know when I'm getting low on my favorites.

I keep track of my bead purchases on an Excel spreadsheet.  Over the years, my accountant understands the method to my madness.  When I finish a piece, I update my spreadsheet and everything calculates automatically.  I know to the penny how much I have in each piece of jewelry!  I have several different tabs in my spreadsheet - beads, finished goods, sold pieces, tax info ... you get the picture.  Yes, I'm also a bit of a geek!

The one thing I haven't got a good system on is my sketches and ideas.  I tear out pictures from magazines for design ideas and cool color combinations.  I keep them in a plastic storage box and flip through them for inspiration.  I know I should put them in sleeves, in a binder, but I'm afraid if I organize too much, I'll lose out on the fun of rifling through the box!

This isn't an organization tip, but I cut a length of rubbery shelf paper and put that on my beading table.  Sure cuts down on the beads bouncing off the table!  When I drop one, it stays pretty much where I dropped it.

Great ideas on this site - I'm going to read through them more thoroughly and see what I can learn!

Teajaye wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 7:51 PM

Since I am relatively new to beading jewelry I am a work in progress. I use baby food jars or clear brown prescription bottles.  I also have 2 tackle boxes, some clear containers, & other bead storage containers. I have so much beading supplies to organize if I find something I forgot about my husband says the "amnesia fairy" has come to visit. I love getting tips & suggestions. Keep them coming. Thanks for everything.

Twitch2 wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 8:33 PM

I have my beads in a cabinet I found at a thrift store several years ago. My mom picked it up for my coloring books and large plastic heart shaped pony beads... (I am 19 and i have been doing arts and crafts for as long as I can remember) It was after a while converted into a paint studio and canvas rack, then a yarn organizer, and now holds yarn, beads, and wire working materials. It holds those clear plastic bead boxes you can generally pick up at Walmart or Joann's for about $2.00 with the little sections seperated out. It holds about 15 of those boxes. My tools (pliers, wire,  tapes, ruler, ect.) and some basic beads (spacers, crimps, ect.) that are always helpful go into the bottom section fo a cleaned out fishing tackle box, along with a few crochet hooks, and scissors. In the top section of this tackle box, i usually have small zip up baggies with beads I feel inspired to use that day, and a few printed pictures or photocopied inspiration pics. In addition to the beads, i usually hold onto a stamp pad  and rubber stamp for my pricetags. (My folks have a gift shop and I sell things online) And I never leave home without at elast 3 pens and a scratch pad, to jot down...whatever...new bead stores in town, design ideas, bead prices, contacts, otherbeaders...ect... Thats my organization...and it works for me...

Twitch

KishaP wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 8:57 PM

I store my seed beads on the back of my guest room door.  How you ask?  In one of the clear shoe organizers.  It really holds alot of beads.  And it's a place to keep them out of my husband's eye sight.  He doesn't understand the 'bead bug". I store the rest of my beads and components by category, i.e. gemstones, crystals, sterling silver, etc.  I store them in tic tac boxes in a container designed for the garage.  It's  common purpose is for small accessories in the garage but it is perfect for the tic tac boxes.  And because I bought the dymo label maker years ago, my home is now dymo land.  I label everything.  A little over the top for most people but believe me it works.  And because everything looks neat it makes the entire household happy.  And I like that.

ironsmith wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 9:24 PM

Since I have very limited space for my all-be-it small bead stash, I have bought a shoe rack for my bedroom closet.  It holds 15 pairs of shoes, eack pair in a cuby hole about a foot deep and five inches square.  The total rack measures about 30" wide, 24" high, and a foot deep.  In Canada they are available at Canadian tire, finished in white Melamine, and required a little construction.  Mine fits under the lower closet shelf at one end.  I have fewer clothes than most, since I need few work clothes, so the box provides some storage for bead storage and the beads are not too dificult to find.

TessieQ wrote
on Oct 27, 2008 9:43 PM

Hiya, Michelle...

Funny you should mention organizing...I've been "digging-out" my sewing room for the past two days just so I could get IN there to, oh...I dunno...SEW?!  ALL my beady stuff is downstairs by my comfy chair in the livingroom because there's no ROOM in my sewing room for it...or the dining room which I've pretty much taken over with OTHER crafty stuff.  I have an EXTREMELY patient husband....

I, too, forget what I have (which is rather shameful, considering the money I spend on crafting) if I don't SEE it all the time.  So I tend to "go shopping" through my stash just to remind myself what's IN it.  Just like fondling fabric is fun for quilters without actually SEWING anything right then (hey...don't laugh!  Ask ANY quilter!), playing with my beads is often enough for inspiration.

I've learned to sort by bead type...seed beads separate from fire-polished separate from wood, etc.  At a thrift shop I found a heavy-duty carrying case/box that was originally designed for small tools or parts of tools.  It's ugly but it's VERY convenient to store my small tubes of seed beads in because the divided areas are just the right size for them.  I wish I could find more of those boxes.

I also invested in a thin, flat, clear plastic box that has several round jars in it that have screw-on lids for my seed beads that didn't come in tubes.  The little jars fit perfectly into it.  I like this set because...again...I can SEE all the beads!  If I'm traveling with it, though, I put a rubber band around it, just in case.  These sets would be great to store findings in, too.

I store my Nymo thread in clear plastic bobbin boxes.  They're roughly the same size as bobbins, the boxes have little curvy slots for the spools, and they have a separate lid (although I've learned the hard way to rubber-band the boxes closed!).

I'm working on TRYING to get ALL my crafty stuff upstairs into my sewing room but that will take major planning.  In the meantime, while I would love to have all my beads in clear glass jars on shelves lining my room, I worry about sun exposure.  Sun fades fabrics...does it fade beads as well?  I imagine so.  That means I'd have to position those shelves out of direct sunlight.

on Oct 28, 2008 12:25 AM

Hi there.  I am Madeleine from South Africa and thought I could share my way of storing with others.  I have a spare bedroom that I turned into a working area for myself.  I have a big sturdy table that I do everything on. Needlework, beading, writing etc.  We have stores here that is named Crazy stores where I purchased for cheap all diffirent sizes of clear plastic containers.  After having problems that the containers kept falling over I asked my brother-in-law to make me something to keep my containers in.  We came up with a cabinet with pigeon holes just big enough to contain a certain amount of containers.  We measured my table and now the cabinet sits on top of my table right in view of my eye and I can see through the clear containers exactly what I have.  I also went and sorted the containers by colour.  It works perfectly for me and sometimes when I am in a not-so-good creative mood I just go and sit in front of my beads and look at it.  Quite soon enough the ideas just pops into my head.

b33p2 wrote
on Oct 28, 2008 3:13 AM

Hi there, I'm Fanny from Indonesia. I put my beads in several clear containers (usually for nuts n nails, and separate them into plastics) and some used jars (i get from butter nut jam or strawberry jam ^^, they are re-use-able)..

I found it is difficult to separate with colors, so i just separate them with types of beads. Seed beads, crystals & semi precious stones, ceramic/clay pendants and fresh water pearls..and I separate all types of pins, chains, etc, in separated lunch boxes..

I also put my wires n strings in a used can (ex choco stick snack).

Then I place them in a cabinet..

I think organizing can be fun as long as we can see them..and put our beads in any kind of storage we like :)

just be creative, 'n re-use some container to "green" the earth ^^

Vickysbeads wrote
on Oct 28, 2008 4:06 AM

For my rolls of Nymo, I use the Darice Bobbin holder.  You can get them from Wal-Mart, they're see thru so you know what's inside.  You can sort your thread by color and size.  It's very handy.

sue@404 wrote
on Oct 28, 2008 5:37 AM

My seed beads were the big organization problem.  Last year I bought several of those smaller 5-drawer plastic cabinets from WalMart and sorted by size and color group.  I use small colored stickers on all the drawers (and other bins and stackable organizers) to note the color family within.  It ahs really helped.  Do all beaders have furry helpers?  My cats love to help sort, and heaven help me if I leave a bead mat out with my little neat piles of beads ready to start.  You think I'd learn!

on Oct 28, 2008 6:10 AM

Regarding Michelle's comment about keeping track of her cost of materials for each project, I recommend the software program: "Jewelry Designer Manager" from Bejeweled Software Co.  (www.jewelrydesignermanager.com).  I purchased this program from Fire Mountain Gems.  It is very comprehensive and allows you to: Accurately cost & price jewelry; organize parts & vendors; track and manage customers; and create invoices.  You can also import photos of your finished pieces into your cost worksheet.  It takes a lot of due diligence to input all of the information, but it's well worth it in the long run.  If you can get in the habit of inputting your materials when you receive a shipment, then it goes pretty smoothly from there.

Hope this helps - Happy Beading!

Connie76903 wrote
on Oct 28, 2008 8:49 AM

We all put our beads in some sort of bag or box, but what to do with those?  I had mine all laid out on a 8 x 2 foot table, but soon ran out of room without stacking.  My solution was to go to the Salvation Army Thrift store and buy a few used two and three shelf bookcases, stack those on the back half of the table, and go vertical!  I also bought a couple of floor to ceiling bookcases, and put those into use, using the lower shelves for the least used. most bulky of my supplies since RA keeps me from bending easily.  It recycles, I donate to a good cause, and I have tripled my space by going horizontal.

Have a deadiful day!!!

Connie McCollough

Connie's Creations

San Angelo TX

RandiL@5 wrote
on Oct 28, 2008 4:30 PM

I used to use the 35mm film canisters, but I could nevee tell what was inside until I spilled them out. Now I buy the clear plastic baggies (2" X 3", 3" x 5", and 4" X 6"), and use the bead packaging to label my beads. I keep only the part where the name & style # is & slide it into the bag. That way I also know when I need to replenish. You can get them at A.C.Moor or Michaels.

I keep the bags in clear plastic container boxes that are sectioned. These I get at The Container Store. They come with different configurations of compartments. It's easy to see what's in each box.

Now I just need a room to store them all in!! :)

jem@10 wrote
on Oct 28, 2008 9:14 PM

Such a constant source on consternation!  I finally broke down and bought a double stacked organizer by bestcraftorganizer.com.  I am overwhelmed by how great it is!  I love the different sized drawers as I have a diverse collection.  I have seed beads, gemstone beads, and findings.  I cut coloured file folders down to size underneath the clear inserts so my beads and findings show up since I bought the white trays.  I also bought thin sheets of foam from the craft store to use as tray covers.  The drawers still fit in the cabinet with the covers over the trays.  The 2 and 3 1/2 inch trays are great for bottles of seed beads turned upside down to see the colours.  I made a computer file which records the price and supplier of the beads in an excel grid that matches the inserts for my trays.  This way I can change the information when I change the sorting.

I also have a pegboard along the back of my bench which is actually just a low counter.  It is great for hanging all my tools.  I organize them according to project function.  My Art Clay Silver tools are in one section, my beading tools in another and my silversmithing tools in another area.  It is very convenient and quickly accessed.  I also mounted a long piece of metal strapping along the top equipped with heavy duty magnets to hold my small tools.  

All in all, I am very pleased and now to the task of continuing to sort those beads.

on Oct 29, 2008 12:34 AM

I have found that storing my beads in flat, clear plastic trays (Ultimate Bead Trays made by Darice, now found on line at www.consumercrafts.com--almost half price compared to craft stores) works the best for me.  The trays are crystal clear so beads can be found at a quick glance, and I organized them mostly by color.  I have 40 or so trays precariously piled high, tempting to fall on me.  I have luckily acquired an antique watch jeweler's set of 7 stacks of drawers which the trays fit perfectly into.  I refinished the drawers to have white interiors, making it easier to see the beads against the white background.   I have also mounted two magnetic tool strips on the wall in front of my table, making tool storage a breeze.  Still working on how to store all the bulky displays and accessories.

PamM@38 wrote
on Oct 30, 2008 6:12 AM

I've read thru all the ideas and no one has mentioned what I use.... I store my beads & findings in the small paint containers called Buddy Cups. They are clear with a removeable lid and hold maybe 1/2 oz. (They are not the thimble sized ones that are all connected w/ a piece of plastic.)  I get mine at Michaels in the fine art dept. They also have similar containers that have 3 sizes that has a red label.

I have a tall narrow shelf unit with 4"wide glass shelves and I set them all on this. I recently sorted them by colors and put them in check boxes that I labeled and it looks very neat. I can find what I want at a glance. I used to use the clear plastic bead boxes but there was so much empty space! I can usually put 2 or 3 buddy cups into one square when I travel. Its all condensed. I hang my seed beads on a peg board assorted by colors. I like to hang the chains that I have also so I can easily see them.  My craft house...er....I mean room contains stations for my jewelry, clay and eventually a sewing station (when I can get my son to move out....again.)

ha!...I also paint but I do that in the kitchen and store it all in the basement. Would "clean sweep" like to visit me???

bylynette wrote
on Oct 30, 2008 1:03 PM

Lots of great ideas - have you noticed we are all alike? Keep those beads and wires and doodads out where we can see them!!!

I'm so lucky to have a basement shop area with beading, soldering, polymer clay, forging and sewing station areas...but I still have storage and space issues. I cobbled together a jeweler's "bench" using put-together-yourself shop elements (workbench, drawer units, pegboard hutch with light) that works great as long as I can keep the workbench from filling up with projects and "I'll do this next" piles.

I keep my eyes open at thrift stores or garage sales - found little drawer units, a divided wooden tote that is perfect holding pliers on my bench, odd things for show displays.

For a visual seed bead tube holder, I staple-gunned a LONG length of 1" elastic to a strip of fiber board. Staples about 5/8" apart, leaving enough slack in elastic to slip a tube into it. Keeps things vertical and in view, though I could use several more.

I manage inventory with Quick Books - spent a lot of time one summer entering items with source, cost, markup, etc. Now I'm faithful about adding every new purchase and I can easily create "invoices" with a list of elements used in a piece. I get a sell price and adjust inventory at the same time.

And BTW, those fabric-fondling quilters have nothing on us bead fondlers - my favorite thing about bead shows with bead hanks on display is touching!!! Sometimes I just spend time sorting my stash to revisit my favorites.

My biggest organization problem is my saved back issues of several beading/jewelry publications  - they are great inspiration, but they sure take up space!

Calico3 wrote
on Nov 7, 2008 7:22 AM
Although I have a fully equipped sewing room with storage, counters, and track lighting, etc., I prefer to do my beading in the dining room rather than feeling isolated down in the basement (and where's there's no AC or heat). Although here's a variety of plactic drawer units available on the market, I didn't want plastic 'furniture' in the dining room. After much searching I found an absolutely wonderful 8 drawer wooden cabinet by Ewing on eBay for $85 plus $20 shipping. The assembly instructions were easy to follow and I was able to paint and embelish it to match my rather quirky decor. I keep my tools, wire and findings in the top drawer. All my finding are in small storage containers, sorted by whether they're gold or silver. Clasps, crimp beads, head pins, and jump rings all have their own containers. My beads are sorted by type in tiny zip bags (with stickers indicating the cost per bead) and take up the next 5 drawers. One drawer for beads that are sets, the next drawer is for gemstones and anything Native American, ethnic or especially unusual. The 4th drawer contained beads that are all different and are simply sorted by price and color. The next is for focal beads and anything metallic. Drawer 6 contains all my seed beads. The bottom 2 drawers are slightly deeper and that's where I keep all my polymer clay supplies. I really love this cabinet because the drawers are shallow enough to see everything easily, big enough to hold almost everything (except my pasta roller machine for the clay), and it's pretty.
JulieE@20 wrote
on Nov 9, 2008 6:22 AM
Love all the ideas! First a question - Michelle, where do you donate your beads that you can't use? Next, I love how I have my seed beads stored. I live on the lower level of a split level home, so I have a "shelf" running around the outside of each room. I boulght square glass candle holders at the dollar store and lined them up on the "shelf," lifting the back row on an inverted plastic drawer organizer. I have a place for each color and can see every seed bead I have at a quick glance. Thanks for all the ideas! Julie
KLDesigns wrote
on Nov 21, 2008 11:38 PM
I have a really neat idea for bead storage that saves a ton of room and you can look at your entire bead collection at once, I have pictures of what Im talking about in my blog at Bead-space.com, my user name is the same as it is here, KLdesigns. check it out and tell me what you think, I honestly love it and would never do anything different!
digupstuff wrote
on May 22, 2010 9:59 AM

I use old Gerber baby food containers which are see through and perfect for housing all of my beads. I keep them all in this cool looking CSI type case that I bought off eBay! ♥digsart.com♥

digupstuff wrote
on Aug 25, 2010 12:06 PM

I store almost all of my beads in old, plastic Gerber baby food containers and keep them all in my little CSI case. You can view the photo here...

digsart.com/.../storage-beadscsicase.jpg

digsart.com/.../storage-beadscsi1.jpg

digsart.com/.../storage-beadscsi2.jpg

The smaller Gerber containers fit in the top two sections and the larger containers fit in the bottom. I also have a 36 drawer unit that I have sitting on the shelf above my desk. Here is the pic for that...

digsart.com/.../storage-beadsdrawersred1.jpg

I hope this helps someone. ♥Dig♥