Beading on Summer Getaways: Make Your Portable Bead Kit

Aug 11, 2010
Spacer 10x10 pixels Here's a typical question that might pop up on a long car trip this summer: If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you be glad you packed? Sandwiches, of course. Some colas. A Hollywood tell-all magazine, maybe? That would be for a short stay, I suppose. But what about a Gilligan's Island-style three-hour tour gone bad? Well, a lifetime supply of canned goods and a can opener might be good. But knowing myself, even though food might be at the top of the list, something to do with my hands would be a close second. I'm pretty sure weaving together banana leaves into rope and fashioning drinking goblets out of coconut shells would get old really fast. So yes, I'll admit: I'd be content to have my beads and beading kit along.

Your getaway beading kit

The wonderful thing about doing beadwork is that it doesn't take up a lot of room. In our desert-island scenario, for example, I could pop everything I need to bead into my purse and have something to do on the beach while I wait for the rescue boats to arrive. Because the tools and materials required are so few and so small, it's a great craft to take up if you live in a small apartment or R.V., for instance. (Our stashes are a different matter altogether, of course.)

So what basic supplies are in a beading kit? Here's my list of bare necessities:

Spacer 10x10 pixels Seed beads
I usually carry around a palette of size 15°s, 11°s, and 8°s, even if I'm not working on a particular project.
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I try to keep my needles (my favorite is the shorter "sharps" style) in their original envelopes so that I can easily identify the size. I also like it that the envelopes are flat, taking up less room in my beading box than a chunky needle case.

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I'm a braided beading thread (FireLine) addict and always carry both the crystal and smoke versions in 6-lb weight. I find that these spools-although smaller than the mega-spools I have in my studio-take up a lot of room in my box. To pack more lightly I put the line on bobbins using the bobbin winder on my sewing machine.
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Since I primarily use braided beading thread, I keep a small utility scissors for cutting in my beading box. But if you use nylon thread, include a sharp, pointed pair. There are beautiful embroidery scissors you can buy, but for years (pre-FireLine) I used a pair of surgical scissors-the best beading scissors I've ever used.
Spacer 10x10 pixels Magnifiers
I really can't bead without my bifocals. Even if you don't wear glasses, make sure to bring some kind of magnifier with you to the desert island. Seed beads are so tiny and eye strain is just no fun.
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Spacer 10x10 pixels Beading surface
This is one of the most important elements in a beading kit, but often overlooked. You want to be sure to have something to work on where the beads will stay put. You don't want to be worrying about beads rolling into the sand, right? My favorite surface is Vellux (the fabric they use to make those cheap hotel blankets), but other people like felt or a swatch of leather.


I also like to carry at least one pattern in my bead box at a time. It's great to be able to whip out an in-process project and work on it. Looking for some great patterns? Check out the 12 gorgeous pieces in the new eBook Best of Beadwork: 12 Nature-Inspired Projects. It really is a stunning collection of beaded designs that are not only fun to make but great-looking to wear.


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Pattern Compilations

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on Aug 11, 2010 2:57 PM

I'd take an awl and something with which to shape beads in order to make beads out of the coconut shells.  I like the natural look!

rdsoxfn67 wrote
on Aug 11, 2010 8:05 PM

I always bring my chain nose plies, bent chain nose pliers, flush cutters, and beading wire, along with an assortment of crystals, freshwater pearls, other beads, and findings.  Vacation is the best time to do beading - no cleaning, laundry, or cooking to do!

Just be careful traveling with tools.  On the last cruise my family took, I got called down to the security office because they saw the pliers when they x-rayed my luggage.  It took 30 minutes and much pleading with several supervisors to convince them that I really was planning to make jewelry, not sabotage the ship!!

Patriciakoko wrote
on Aug 11, 2010 9:13 PM

Jean, Thanks for the great ideas for a beading kit.  Might I suggest that you consider the containers sold by Robert Jenik from Knot-Just-Beads in Wisconsin?  They are an all in one package that rolls up with a strong band to close it.  There are removable zippered sections that can be snapped into place and I got three. That way I can put the necessities for a project in a section (clear one side and mesh on the other, zip it shut and change projects. The whole thing has a velvety lining and I generally add a velux sheet to the mix.  Just a way to keep it all together!

candyT2 wrote
on Aug 12, 2010 10:36 AM

So far so good, Jean!   I carry my mini-projects in one of those single-serving lunch salad bowls from the deli, with the tight-fitting lid. Perfect size. I cover the contents with soft foam rubber, right up to the top of the bowl, so that if it slides off the car seat things won't get jumbled up too much.

Bandyboo wrote
on Aug 12, 2010 11:47 AM

Adding onto rdsoxfn67 ... I have been allowed to take on a sharp pair of scissors in my carry-on, but you never know which screener will be a pain about getting them through.  I solved it by pointing it out to them before hand, and telling them what it's for.  In a real sweet voice!  Also, I try to wear a bracelet I've made, because you wouldn't believe how many times when I say I'm a beader I am asked to repeat it, because they think I've said I'm a beater!  :-)

GlendaM@13 wrote
on Aug 12, 2010 6:37 PM

I enjoyed reading this - I love beading when I travel, especially on planes so I have my portable beading kit permanently packed - you might enjoy reading my what not to pack or do when beading on a plane post that I titled:Travelling with your beading – a packing list, do’s, don’ts and never say never

Happy beading all


bylynette wrote
on Aug 12, 2010 6:42 PM

It's the "palette of size 15°s, 11°s, and 8°s" that does me in. How can I know what color's will I'll be inspired to use when I'm traveling?? My working kit sits on a flocked beading board on a small pillow on my lap when we travel - nearly always by driving cross-country. But my stash often fills a couple plastic bins, which start out in the back but end up on the floor between my feet. AND I always shop along the way so bring home more than I take. But I can stay sane and productive for hours while my hubbie drives and drives. and drives.

Lou Ma wrote
on Aug 12, 2010 6:46 PM

I would definitely add the following:  My "Bead Buddy" with its built-in lap desk, covered beading tray, covered bead board and very, very generous storage space.  I have it with me everywhere I go anyway and I love it; a full tool set in miniature, a crimper, and flush cutters.  Food?  Coconuts and bananas will be fine 'cause I'll be beading.

on Aug 12, 2010 9:40 PM

Hi there

Well I don't travel light I have to pack wire, all kinds of beads,and tools that I have to carry it is a small rubbermade container I have tryed to narrow it down to a few things but when I work on things I like to have a wide selection I wish I didn't have to take so much with me when I do shows and craft fairs I would be nice if I could travel light. But that was a good sugestion.

pearlgirl64 wrote
on Aug 13, 2010 2:39 AM

"To pack more lightly I put the line on bobbins using the bobbin winder on my sewing machine."

Of course! *smack on head* Why have I never thought about that before??? Thanks Jean...

... and thanks Glenda! Funny & informative article on travelling w beads. Didn't know such a thing as a Clover Thread Cutter existed, will look it right up! :-)

Susan M. H. wrote
on Aug 13, 2010 11:26 AM

very timely - I've been trying to put together a Bead Kit to bring to work to do some beading during lunch. It needs to be simple and have few tools (I'm new to beading and don't have duplicates -- yet). Your list is a great start. Now just to decide the colors and pattern. Thanks for a great start.