There's this tale about a woman who would always cut the ends off her pot roast before putting it in the pan to let it bake. Her daughter asked her why she did that, and she realized she didn't know. So she called her sister, who also cut the ends of her pot roast off, but they realized neither of them knew why. So they called their mother. . . "Mom, why do you cut the ends of a pot roast off before you bake it?" "Well, silly," the mother replied, "I need it to fit into the pan, don't I?"
I'm always reminded of this story when I realize I'm doing something without knowing the reasons why I'm doing it. And, as I've grown older, I realize I'm becoming even more of a questioner who demands answers to those whys.
But how does this relate to beading, you might ask? Well, as I'm sure you've discovered, there are quite a few mysteries with beads and beading techniques that we just blindly follow without knowing the reasons why. Here are just a few of them off the top of my head that I researched while editing Beadwork, a bimonthly magazine filled with great projects and beadworking know-how:
Why the "°" after seed bead size listings?
This symbol stands for "aught," an old-fashioned term that refers to the number of strung seed beads it takes to reach an inch. That's why when you have a large bead size number, your beads are smaller. For example, it will take about 11 size 11° seed beads to fill the same space that 8 size 8° seed beads would.
What's the AB mean on a seed-bead finish?
You might know what an AB finish looks like—that grease-spill look that we all love—but did you know it stands for aurora borealis, a reference to the northern lights? What you might also not know is that the term in beading comes from a challenge from Christian Dior to Daniel Swarovski to come up with that aurora borealis look in a crystal-bead finish.
Why do we wax our thread?
When you rub wax on a nylon thread like Nymo or C-Lon, you're compacting the tiny fibers that hold this type of thread together, preventing it from fraying. The added benefit is that the stickiness of the wax helps with thread tension, and the added thickness of the wax helps fill bead holes. But what you should also know is that not all thread is built like those nylon threads. Braided beading thread, for example, doesn't really need to be waxed to prevent fraying because it's built differently. That's not to say, however, that adding wax to this type of thread is unnecessary. On the contrary: waxing braided beading thread works great for helping with thread tension and prevents the thread from tangling.
Learn the secrets behind more seed bead mysteries with 2006 Beadwork Collection CD.
Mysteries solved! What other bead mysteries are lurking in your mind? Share them on Beading Daily and I've got a feeling you'll get answers from your fellow beaders.