Question of the Week: Advice for Beaders

Sep 2, 2011

I discovered beading while my husband and I were living in a tiny apartment in Lake Placid, N.Y. I was still a college student, finishing up my degree in environmental science, and working as an intern in a small not-for-profit community development organization. I found that after a frustrating day of dealing with government regulations and paperwork, beadwork was the perfect way for me to unwind. But since I lived in such a rural area, I didn't know that there were any other beaders around to give me advice when I needed it. I was unbelievably excited the day that I discovered a bead shop in my little college town and found myself in a group of like-minded bead lovers, attending weekly beading classes! The instruction I received in these classes was helpful, but what was even more valuable was the advice I got from these other beaders who could point me in the right direction when I wasn't sure about what size needle or thread to use for a project.

This week, I decided to ask our panel or artists and experts about the best advice they received as a beginner, and what advice they offer for beaders now. Read on:

Mikki Ferrugiaro: When I started beadweaving I didn't know anyone who did it so I actually never got any advice as a beginner. My advice to any beader now is know your stitches and your beads. Really knowing the stitches will help tremendously when following a pattern if your a beginner or designing something new if you're an advanced beader.

Michelle Mach: Buy the best tools you can afford. I didn't follow that advice at first.  I was too worried about spending money on what was probably going to be a fleeting hobby.  You don't need to buy top-of-the-line tools to start, but buying tools that hurt your hands, that break easily, or that don't produce good results are not a good value for your money.  (I think good round-nose pliers are especially important.) It was not until I bought a good pair that I learned that my cheap round-nose pliers were a little bit oval-shaped.  No wonder I found it difficult to learn making wire loops!  Not surprisingly, this is the advice I give most often.  I don't want new beaders to make the same mistakes I did.

Kelli Burns:The best advice I got was from a friend - Terry Hixson Burress  - who actually didn't give advice, but told me in no uncertain terms that I should attempt to have my work published in a magazine.  After several tries my first project was published in 2007 and I've since been published in over 25 magazines and one book!  Each time I get something published, it's like the very first time. I'm still thrilled and jumping for joy, just like a kid!

Advice I would give to any beader is know your industry.  Read magazines, books, literature of any kind related to beads! I use bead literature as an "encyclopedia of reference" especially when I think I have an idea that I might want to submit to a publication. I check to make sure I'm not infringing on anyone's previous designs and I always use them for inspiration - I've even been inspired to take my own designs to another level!

Jean Campbell: The best advice I've received is this: Invest in good, strong thread. Nothing else matters!

Beki Haley:The best advice I've received was to just allow myself the freedom to play with the beads, to listen to them and allow them to guide me into a design.  Sometimes they can speak loudly, other times it is just a faint whisper that you have to really listen for, but they always have something to say.  Giving yourself the freedom to just play will open your mind up so that you can hear them when they "speak" to you.

Advice that I give to other beaders is to not be too judgmental over your creations and yourself as an artist.  Cut yourself a little slack! I think that we have taught ourselves to be too critical of what we create.  Coloring outside the lines is okay if that is what makes you happy.  Just create! Turn off all those voices of doubt and second guessing, of questioning whether what you've done is good enough or compares to what someone else has created.  Instead just let yourself create.  The freedom in that process opens up so many more doors for your imagination - I promise!

Rosanne Andreas: The best advice I would give any new beading student is to surround yourself with what inspires you.  Be it a walk in nature, or a museum, whatever....go exploring, and find out what truly inspires you to create. Keep a small drawing pad on hand if you are moved to draw ideas down.  I have a list of New York City museums at my web site that have inspired me.

Timeless advice I would give bead artists of any skill level is to HAVE FUN!  Enjoy the process of creating, and the end results will bring a smile to your face.  I will say, understanding the basics of bead crafting would make that part much easier. That's why I created my poster set for all skill levels.

If you've got some great advice for other beaders, share it here on the blog!

Bead Happy,


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Chibabies6 wrote
on Sep 3, 2011 10:11 AM

The best advice I got came from an old issue of beadwork I was given.  It was an article on like 5 things you could do to improve your beadwork or something and I dont know who said it but one of the experts suggestions was to always look for what else you do to your design.  What embellishment could you add, edging, etc .. and that just stayed with me and it has made a huge difference in my thinking about my work.  Before I finish off a piece I always set it aside and just ask that question and now my work feels 'finished' and balanced when I'm done.

Advice that I would give other beaders....  

-  Leave a long tail rather than the 6 inches usually called for.  This leaves you plenty of thread to embellish a loop or add a little fringe work or whatever you decide will look nice.  And if you dont use you just snip it off but I hate getting an idea for a clasp and not having the thread for it.  I always have a 12-15 in tail to play with.

- Follow patterns you find in magazines and stuff because thats the best way to learn new techniques but dont be afraid to break away from the pattern.  Think of things in 'components'.  A cool focal from a necklace design combined with a neat stitch can be a great bracelet.  Change up the beads and sizes for a new look too.  The fun thing about creating your own jewelry is that it can be anything you want it to be..  

- Dont 'stick with it' if you dont like your colors, bead choices.  I know it's pain to rip things out once started but trust me, you wont like it after you spend a week on it any better and it will sit in a drawer unworn because you never liked it anyway.  I have several of those.  Better to start the same project 5 times and end up with something you really love than spend 3 days on a cool spiral you just dont like.

megabgirl wrote
on Sep 6, 2011 12:06 PM

My best advice would probably be to take things that inspire you outside of your beadwork, and work them into your beading! I like to borrow from styles and motifs that are completely unrelated, and then place them into my beading projects and patterns. For example, I might be inspired by a windy day, or by seeing a "loud" animal print dress in a department store window. Also, feelings and emotions can be very inspiring. How would you bead "jealousy"? How about "tenderness"? All of these things help me when I'm getting stuck for a new idea.

JewelMary wrote
on Sep 10, 2011 11:46 AM

These are some good advice here. Thanks Everyone :) I have a question. I have my beads in draws in a tool box type thing that guys would put screws, etc in. So my question is.... How can I tell the size of my bead for beading, weaving etc? When they say you need a 4mm seed bead etc. How can I tell the bead size? Thanks, Mary

DORDEE wrote
on Sep 14, 2011 2:46 PM