How to Bead Comfortably

Apr 17, 2013

It's not often that I get a long stretch of hours to sit and bead lately, but when I do, I take full advantage of it. Most of the time, I only get a few minutes here and there to sit down and bead, so when an opportunity for a marathon beading session presents itself, I take advantage of it! The trick to getting the most out of the time spend beading is knowing how to bead comfortably.

When I first started learning how to bead, I'd plop myself down on the bedroom floor, cross-legged in front of the television, with my beads spread around me. While it wasn't the best setup, it worked for me for a few years, until I started getting serious about beading and found myself spending more and more time in front of my beads. After I injured my back doing something completely unrelated to beading, I discovered that knowing how to bead comfortably for long periods of time was more important than I had previously thought.

Do you find yourself suffering from an aching back and tired eyes when you spend long hours with your beads? Here are a couple of ideas to help you learn how to bead comfortably!

Setting Up a Place to Bead

Before sitting down to bead, do what the great chefs do and make sure that all of your tools and materials are easily accessible!
There are three basic things you need in order to set up a comfortable place to bead: a sturdy table or work surface for beading, a comfortable chair that provides plenty of support to your lower back, and proper lighting and magnification if needed.

  1. A sturdy table or work surface. My bead surface of choice lately is one of my favorite Bead On It Boards. These nifty bead boards are perfect for setting in your lap or on a table. The high, rolled edges mean that beads can run down to the sides of your work area, but they won't disappear off the edge of your board. And, yes, when you give it a gently shake, all those seed beads really do land with the holes up for easy beading!
  2. A comfortable chair. Your chair should be your best friend when you're beading. Make sure that your feet touch the floor, and if you need to, don't be afraid to sit on a low pillow to provide extra support for your back.
  3. Proper lighting and magnification if needed. If you have to squint to see your beads, then chances are, you need to improve your lighting or magnification when you sit down to bead. For over ten years, I've used the same trusty Ott-Lite task lamp when I sit down to bead. It's portable and light, so I take it with me on the road, too, when I'm traveling to classes or workshops. And since last summer, I've found that using my CraftOptics telescopes are indispensable for my bead embroidery projects or any beading project where I'm using size 15o seed beads!

My favorite place to bead lately is at my computer desk. Since I have a laptop and don't use the keyboard tray, I keep my bead tray there so I can just roll it away under the desk when I'm finished! (But don't be fooled -- I'm also just as comfortable setting up my bead tray on the couch or outside on the back porch when the weather is nice!)

Another great tip for setting up a comfortable place to bead comes from one of my favorite bead artists, Carol Cypher. She recommends that beaders imitate what great chefs do, and set up their work areas in a "mise en place". This means that you have all of your tools and supplies set up where you can easily reach them.

Ergonomic Beading Tips

They might look funny, but my CraftOptics are a very important part of staying comfortable when I'm beading!
Once you're set up in a comfortable spot for beading, it's important to pay attention to your body while you're working. I know it's all too easy to get lost in the meditation of bead-weaving, but sitting in one spot without moving for hours and hours will leave me with an aching back, tired eyes, aching wrists, and even a headache.

There are lots of beading tools that you can use to help you be more comfortable when you bead, including ergonomic gloves and easy-to-handle jewelry pliers. More tips for learning how to bead comfortably:

  1. Take a stretching break. This one is the hardest for me, but it definitely makes a difference. Set a timer, watch a movie, or do something to remind yourself to get up out of your chair about once an hour to walk around, stretch your legs, and stretch your arms. You don't have to do a lot of stretching, either -- just a lap around the house or raising your arms above your head and taking a few deep breaths will help you stay limber and comfortable.
  2. Try an exercise band. Some beaders keep an exercise band handy while they're working to use throughout the day. Just a couple of easy pulls can help keep your arms, shoulders, neck, and upper back happy for long periods of time!
  3. Don't forget about your lower back. Speaking as someone who has dealt with low back pain, you can never be too kind to your back! If you're feeling achy or sore at all in your lower back, make sure you have a comfortable pillow or cushion to provide support while you work. A couple of years ago after a particularly bad episode of low back pain, I invested in a special chair that's actually an exercise ball set in a frame. When I'm not 100% comfortable in my office chair, I can easily switch over to the ball chair for some relief!

The best part of learning how to bead comfortably? You'll find that you can get more beading done! More beading means more beautiful beaded jewelry for gifts or for yourself, right?

Now that you're ready to sit and bead in comfort, check out 8 Favorite Beaded Bezel Projects. Taken straight from the pages of Beadwork magazine, these eight beading projects will teach you everything you need to know about creating beautiful (and secure) beaded bezels. Learn how to capture your favorite gemstones, donuts, and crystal stones with these eight fabulous beaded bezel projects! Download your copy of 8 Favorite Beaded Bezel Projects and test out some new ways to help yourself bead comfortably.

What's your best tip for helping yourself stay comfortable when you get the chance to bead for hours at a time? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your advice and tips with us!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

Amybeader wrote
on Apr 17, 2013 8:44 AM

This is a great article! A good number of years ago I learned the hard way the importance of taking breaks and stretching. I was working on a necklace I wanted to wear to a gala for a high end craft show in San Francisco. I was determined to get the piece done in time, so I was working long hours on it, sitting at the kitchen table. What I didn't realize is that the longer I worked, the more I was hunching over and tightening up my muscles. My right hand is my beading hand and my left hand is my support hand. Suddenly there was this SNAP up along the left side of my neck, and I was in pain. Long story short: I eventually went to the doctor for the pain, which would subside and come back. It turned out I'd put my left trapezius into spasm (all that tensing up and no stretching) and I ended up in physical therapy. There were two good things: one was finding out it was a muscle spasm and not a pinched nerve like I'd thought and two was learning about stretching and taking breaks!

tiger0429 wrote
on Apr 17, 2013 9:04 AM

Where can I get a Bead On It Board?

teridann wrote
on Apr 17, 2013 11:34 AM

I find that the most important thing for me when I am marathon beading is to exercise my eyes.  I try to get up and look out a window and do some "far focusing."  I also try to look at things that are in a different color pallet from what I am working on.  

BeadPassions wrote
on Apr 17, 2013 12:23 PM

I loved reading this common sense (but often ignored) advice.  So so true!  My eyes get very tired, even though I use an Ott Lite and magnification.  So I try to remember to focus on something about fifty feet away every twenty minutes or so to shift my eyes into another task.  This keeps me focused, literally!

BeadPassions wrote
on Apr 17, 2013 12:25 PM

Oh, I forgot to mention how much I love my Bead on it Boards!  Do a simple search, beady buddies.  This is a wonderful tool.

on Apr 17, 2013 12:45 PM

I break all the rules.  My most comfortable place to bead is sitting on the couch with my legs up and my beading tray on top of a pillow in my lap.  I can't imagine sitting at a desk to bead.  lol  

jeankloss wrote
on Apr 17, 2013 2:26 PM

I have found that a high quality fabric covered office chair with multiple adjustment options is by far my best choice for beading.  It has arms for a mini-break, a seat cushion that adjusts downward in front(not on all chairs), can set me at the right height no matter what table I'm at, and swivels so I don't have to twist my back to pick up a dropped crystal.  I bought this chair after I crushed a vertebra more than 20 years ago.  It has survived 2 cats claw sharpening, one cat who regularly jumped on the back from the floor with no notice to me, four moves (including one to the Caribbean) and other abuses and neglects.  I paid about $400 for it (on sale) and it is by far the best tool I own.  JCKloss

MaryH@172 wrote
on Apr 17, 2013 5:26 PM

Great article!  

To be comfortable, I switch places once in a while.  I migrate from the dining room table, to the work table, and to the couch.  Helps my body aches and eye strain with different angles & views.

on Apr 18, 2013 3:14 AM

An Ott light has made all the difference for me.  Good magnification is also important; I wear cheap reading glasses from a local discount store.  I have them in many different strengths to use with different size print and different size beads and for different degrees of eye-tiredness.  I'm not good at  sitting still for long periods of time  (even when I love my project) so I get up periodically and walk around and change my focus to different distances.  It also helps with designing to take a few steps away from my work to look at it differently.

becf wrote
on Apr 20, 2013 6:28 PM

hi I have a stable table (which is a tray) with a beading mat on it. I used teatowels or pillowcases for a while &didn't know how badly I needed a beading mat until I got one. I don't have an ott light but a large floor lamp with an adjustable neck and a daylight globe. I used to watch a lot of documentaries but that got annoying coz as soothing as David Attenborough's voice is it's not that interesting for hours at a time so now i watch talky movies or listen to books on cd.

my main prob is having space for the cat and the tray on my lap and sometimes the cat gets frisky when I'm waxing the thread. I have carol cypher's book and i find it much easier to have a "mise en place" setup. It's a portable little sewing bag-thing that has lots of pockets kind of like a beadybag but only $5.

Rose King wrote
on Apr 21, 2013 3:00 AM

I agree with all the comments, especially about exercising the eyes, mine are blurred for hours sometimes after a tense beading session.  I find having the television on makes me look up when something interesting catches my ears.  Sitting at the dining table on a dining chair is my favourite place, the light is excellent and is handy for the kettle.  In the living room, I have a laptop table from Ikea, their name for it is Dave, (do you have Ikea in USA?), which is adjustable in height, the base slides under a sofa or easy chair to bring the beading close to you.  Another point, beading at arms length is uncomfortable and slows you down.  

RMBO wrote
on Apr 23, 2013 8:49 AM

I tell my students to have water handy to drink often and not to just maintain hydration.   If you mentally feel that you cannot leave your project, your body will certainly tell you!

BevM@17 wrote
on Apr 26, 2013 8:31 AM

I bead on a chaise (sofa for one) with my feet up.  It has a high back which gives me good support.  I have an ordinary plastic food tray on my lap with a bead mat on top.  I use a daylight lamp with an adjustable arm so I can position the light exactly where I want it.  Best of all, I don't hunch over to pick up beads all the time because I devised a way of holding a small container between the first and second fingers of my left hand (actually the container is a shallow lid of a bead container about an inch wide).  The container holds a reasonable amount of beads, but the hold I use means that I can still hold the beadwork with my left first finger and thumb, and my right hand is free for the needle.  So I can sit up nice and straight and bead for ages without having back problems from stooping.

JadedMyst wrote
on Dec 27, 2013 12:27 AM

I too would like to know where I can find a Bead On It Board. I have searched every forum and using every word mix I can but I cannot find the Bead on it boards anywhere. Can someone post a link of where we can buy them?? Please?