Your First Seed Bead Stash: Buying Seed Beads When You're Learning How to Bead

Feb 14, 2012

When I started learning how to bead with seed beads a long, long time ago, I ordered most of my seed beads from a paper catalog. Yes! A paper catalog! I could look through the pages of this catalog and see all the colors of seed beads that were offered by this particular beading supply company. (I think I held on to that catalog through three moves and four jobs while I was finishing college.)

When learning how to bead, buy beads in colors that you love. These are some of my favorite colors from Whimbeads.
But what I really remember was placing my first order of seed beads. I already had a beading kit full of seed beads that came with a book about making amulet bags (this was back in 1998!), and I was ready to start learning how to bead other things like bracelets and earrings. I needed some seed beads!

Being a college student at the time meant that I had a limited budget, so I had to think carefully about my first seed bead stash. As my seed bead stash (and my budget!) have grown over the years, there are a few things that I still use as guidelines when talking to new beaders about building up their collection of seed beads.

Choose the colors you love. If you're working with a budget (and who isn't these days?), start out by choosing colors of seed beads that you absolutely love. You can always branch out and start experimenting with other colors later, but for starters, you want to have a palette of seed beads that you feel comfortable using for your seed bead projects.

No matter what the size of your seed bead collection, a good storage system is critical!

Stick with one size...or not. Since most seed bead projects use size 11o beads, it's a pretty safe bet to start out with a range of seed beads in that size. As with the colors, you can always add other sizes in other colors as you need them. But I have a couple of beady friends who insist on buying three sizes of seed beads in each new color that they add to their stash - size 11o, size 15o, and size 8o. While this will give you a nice range of sizes for your seed bead projects when you're learning how to bead, it will also mean that you'll have less colors. Choose whatever feels right to you!

Get a good storage system. There are so many ways to store your seed beads! I've gone through so many different types of plastic organizers and containers, I can't count them anymore. I've used a Seed Bead Pavillion, a Seed Bead Tower and plastic tackle boxes to store my beads in tubes. The bottom line? I love them all, but I usually end up tossing my tubes into a drawer with similar colors. (All the blues in one drawer, purples in another, etc.) So look around and find a storage system that works for you so that you can keep your burgeoning seed bead stash organized while you learn how to bead!

Of course, sometimes it turns out that all bets are off. During my recent trip to the Tucson bead shows, I went armed with a list of seed bead colors and sizes that I wanted to get for some specific projects I have sketched out. Unfortunately, at the sight of all those wonderful little sparkly beads, the list was about the last thing on my mind. While I certainly surprised myself with some of my bead choices, I'm not disappointed that I got to branch out a bit in the seed bead department!

So now that you have a good idea of how to add more beads to your stash, you probably need some new ideas and projects for using them. If you're learning how to bead, or just learning how to expand your stash of seed beads, check out Dustin Wedekind's classic Getting Started with Seed Beads, now in paperback! Dustin takes you through the basics of bead-weaving and provides his own advice on shopping for seed beads along with twenty-eight seed bead projects made with eight off-loom bead-weaving techniques. Pre-order your paperback copy of Getting Started with Seed Beads and feed your need to bead!

What advice would you give someone who is just learning how to bead and wants to add to their seed bead stash? Share your advice by leaving a comment here on the blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Author Dustin Wedekind takes readers through the process of working with seed beads, from shopping to storing and from stringing to sewing a successful beginning project.

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Comments

KimberJ wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 5:54 AM

Don't forget about thread choices when starting out!  There are so many to choose from in so many colors...however, what works best for me?  Inexpensive Butler brand waxed dental floss!  While I do used the colored thread now and then for special pieces, the dental floss twists and knots much less than any other thread I've found, it's pre-waxed so no conditioner is needed, it doesn't stretch like some thread brands can, it's stronger than most threads out there, it can fit through a size 12 beading needle, and although it looks sort of thick, it can make several passes through even a size 15/0 seed bead so it's compatible with almost every on- or off-loom stitch you want to use.

Dmm987oh wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 7:48 AM

I'm also addicted to seed beads and all their wonderful sparkly cousins. It was nice to know that I am not the only person who has more seed beads than will ever be used....but they're mine!

donnam

Bobbie@69 wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 7:54 AM

I also teach beading and use the mantra,"Buy only what you love."  It will always get used and make you happy! This applies to all beads - not just the seeds. Just because it is cheap does not mean it is good!

I use plastic shoeboxes to store 11's by color. Two boxes are for 15's, one for 8's, one for metalics and one for odd shapes. It still means sorting each time, but that can add to your joy over a new idea!

Gemstone, ceramic, bone, etc. go into flat plastic tackle boxes by color and so do findings. Easy to find the right clasp this way. Big plastic bags are my choice for threads and needles and easier to transport to my classes. Bobbie Guillory

salla2 wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 8:39 AM

1) buy when you can - I try to buy at least 1 tube of beads each payday. Some times I get to buy more and sometimes I have to skip, but the goal is at least one tube.

2) buy black and white - I find that these are the two colors I am constantly running out of and reordering. They are great colors on their own, and because they go with everything, they make excellent accent colors in most projects!

3) buy mixes - when you are just starting out, you will frequently find that you need just a little bit of certain colors. A great way to get "just a little" of a lot of different colors is to buy a mix - rainbow mixes are great for this, but you can also find earthtone mixes, blue mixes, and many many others!

4) if you can afford the splurge buy a 'set' - you will see this on ebay a lot, and sometimes on sites. a set of 5 or six colors of seedbeads/delicas that go well together. They will call them things like "spring garden" or "winter". This is a good way to get coordinating colors - especially when you are new to color matching!

5) know your numbers - seed beads are given a lot of different color names, sometimes by the seller, so make sure you know the number given by the manufacturer. That way when you go to re-order, you get the same thing!

Wendy Lucka wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 10:18 AM

Dustin Wedekin's book, Getting Started With Seed Beads was one of the best books I got when I first started to "seed bead". Especially if you are just learning or even trying to perfect certain stitches, he's got some nice projects in there. I still refer to it! I highly recommend it!!!!

mamaraye wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 10:20 AM

Storage idea: I have an old rotating spice rack with clear jars which is used for storing those seed beads which did not come in handy tubes or packets. I buy a lot of seed beads by the hank, so often have loose ones after a project.  These go into an empty spice jar, mixed by color, as my own "bead soup".  These mixtures are easy to use later, and help with putting coordinating colors together in a new project.  Also, I store my hanks flat in plastic 12 x 12 scrapbook paper drawer containers.  These 3-drawer bins are amazingly versatile, and can hold lots of hanks, tubes, smaller bins, etc.  I always store by color, no matter what type craft items I am storing. This helps me to better visualize a new project...or how I can change a project to fit my own color tastes.

fverac wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 10:38 AM

Hello,

Have u tried using tagua seed beads? Could you please share your designs with us? We live in Ecuador and are manufacturers of these eco ivory beads, and we are always trying to post in our blog, or facebook designs of artists using them. Could you please share? you will enter in our giveaway contest and win tagua beads www.ecuadorianhands.com/-i-16.html

pa4him wrote
on Feb 15, 2012 5:09 PM

My advice would be to make sure that you get good seed beads.  Don't use the cheapest stuff you can find just because you are starting out.  What you will find is that you can't make your project because the holes are not uniform and you won't be able to run the thread through it as often as you need to.  Also, if you wear glasses or perhaps not, get a good magnifying glass to thread those needles or use "wide eye" needles.  I also want to thank Jennifer for her advice on expanding the bead selection.  I unknowingly was taking your advice buying the colors that I like and typically most of them are in size 11.

Thanks for the good advice.

JLHGGY wrote
on Feb 16, 2012 7:00 AM

Good article, but I'd like to know the name of and where to buy the portfolio pictured in the article?

bittermelon wrote
on Feb 16, 2012 1:35 PM

i would tell a beader who is launching into seed beads to make sure they learn sizes and brands.  it is not in your best interest to pick up cheap seeds at walmart for a first project.  put a little extra time in to know the beads and purchase quality beads and you'll struggle far less, waste fewer beads and learn more quickly.

on Feb 17, 2012 1:53 PM

Just to add to the confusion, have you seen the new two hole seed beads?  They are beautiful, but places to buy them still are limited. Can't wait to try them out.

on Feb 18, 2012 5:11 PM

hi,.i just finished reading how to seed bead.i have neverever beaded before let alone seed bead.i am looking forwards to,one day to make a seed bead quilt.any tips anyone? thanks    deb

GingerH@6 wrote
on Feb 19, 2012 8:35 PM

Help...Looking for the names of seed bead suppliers.  I have been searching for 3 x 3 mm cubes and have found that the suppliers have limited colors or no color samples on their web sites.  as anyone found terrific vendors.  Thanks.

Ann bS wrote
on Mar 1, 2012 2:46 PM

Where might we find a seed bead tube storage like your black w/elastic fold-up pictured here??

WendyB@17 wrote
on Dec 12, 2012 10:19 AM

Buy exactly what you love in not just seed beads, but any beads...I promise that once you get them home and add to your stash, you'll find that they all go together. If beads make you stop and say "oooooooo!" when the others are just pretty or you like them....buy the oooooo beads!

Also, buy quality beads.  Don't buy beads in the craft section at big box stores, most of those are so irregular there's no point in even trying to use them for beadweaving. Japanese seed beads might cost a little more, but in the long run, they are worth it.  Try not to buy dyed beads, unless they're for a project that's not going to be work against the skin or exposed to much sunlight.

Finally, buy from your local bead store if you have one, or soon, you won't.

Luv2CUSmile wrote
on Dec 27, 2012 8:10 PM

Oh so late but a couple of huge tips...

Buy a good variety of neutrals and metallics with any of your fav colors. Black, white, silver, gold, clear, brown, copper, etc... you will find that with all your fav colors, you wont get a great looking piece without a good contrast color and if you are limited on colors you can always go to a neutral...

Spice rack jars, old 35mm film containers, empty pill bottles, even small ziplock bags... great for storing. A fishing tackle box or tool drawer organizer for small screws/nails also is great for carrying around with you if you don't want to get an actual bead tote

YES! Get quality, uniform beads! If you buy Czech beads keep them separate from your Japanese beads. Use Czechs for free-form embroidery or free-form weaving when mixing with other beads. If you are working a specific pattern keep to the quality uniform beads. Many great sources for Japanese seed beads online. Michael's has an okay selection in 11s and you can always use coupons.

Unless you use lots of other type beads in your projects keep innmind that you should try and have at least 30 grams of each color... you may not use all in one project and in other projects you may need more but 30 grams per color will give you a good amount to work almost any project.

Graph paper! Whether you work on or off loom, graph paper is a must for designs. You can get free graph paper specific to seed beads on line. Peyote stitch, brick, RAW, etc (I also keep color pencils handy to work out color combinations also).