Stitch Pro: Breaking Bad...Beads

Jan 17, 2013

My son has tried to get me hooked on the show Breaking Bad ever since it appeared on Netflix. I'm always happy to have a new show to bead by, and since I beaded through a couple seasons of Weeds, he probably thought I'd like it. But after I watched the first episode and found myself unable to shake the image of a rather trouserless science teacher stumbling from the meth-making fumes he produced in an R.V. in the middle of the desert, I figured I was done contributing any more of my brain power to such drivel.

You're probably wondering why I'm telling you this. Well, while I was watching that first episode, I was so spaced out and made so many mistakes in my beadwork that I found myself breaking many badly placed beads to straighten out my stitching. Breaking Bad, indeed! The irony of the situation made me laugh, helping me forget my frustration.

Yes, breaking a seed bead now and then is just something we beadworkers do...on purpose. In one case we may have added too many beads in a stitch, In another, we've placed the wrong color of bead. There's a point at which you have to make a decision whether to rip out, start over, or just break a bead and clean up the stitching, and many times the best thing to do is that final choice. Breaking a misplaced bead is pretty easy, but what's the best way to break a bead? Here are two of my favorite ways:

Chain-nose pliers: Put on your safety goggles (we're going to be breaking glass, you know!). Isolate the offending bead as much as possible by loosening the threads around it. Grasp the bead with chain-nose pliers, cover the area with your hand, and squeeze the pliers to break the bead. Note: Only use this method if you're using a braided beading thread like FireLine. The broken glass is very abrasive and can cut the thread.

Awl: Again, put on your safety glasses. Place the point of the awl into the offending bead and, taking care not to stab yourself, gently push the awl into the bead until the bead breaks. Note: This method is a little easier on the thread than the chain-nose pliers technique, but you'll still want to be careful about thread abrasion and flying glass.

Do you have other favorite ways to break beads that you'd like to share? Or maybe some television shows you like to bead by? We'd love to hear from you!

Happy beading-

Jean Campbell, Senior editor, Beadwork magazine


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Anni Magpie wrote
on Jan 17, 2013 10:00 AM

Jean - so loved this advice, BUT ... I sure would love some ideas of what to do with the empty space now?

on Jan 17, 2013 10:15 PM

Anni- Usually when you break a bead it's because you added too many in the first place (i.e. 4A instead of 3A, for instance), so there's nothing you need to do. If, though, it's for some other reason, you may need to "fudge" a little in that spot, making a new stitch over the old one, or tightening up a stitch that might be loose now that you've broken the bead out of the work.

RED_Beads wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 3:45 AM

I bought my first beading awl recently, and already love it for breaking beads, as well as untangling knots. It  breaks the beads so that the shards are pushed outwards away from the thread and thus the thread is less likely to be damaged.

It has found a place amongst my favourite beading tools!

RED_Beads wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 3:46 AM

I love the science fictions shows for beading by. Have you ever tried Chuck? Amusing and fun and the beading goes quickly.

on Jan 19, 2013 6:39 AM

"The Walking Dead" is a really good show to bead by LOL

on Jan 19, 2013 7:32 AM

Thanks for the tips. I did some bead breaking and have a small tip to share. In order to avoid those flying tiny pieces of glasses, I normally squeeze it inside a plastic bag which is big enough for my both hand to work inside. That works perfectly for me to prevent the small particles to spread around. I use this way to trim small piece of wire and button shank too. It helps my work place clean and safe.

Dbraunst wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 7:47 AM

The round notch in a crimping tool works great to break a bead.  It puts just enough pressure to break the bead with less chance of smashing the broken pieces of bead against the thread.  I learned this tip years ago from a beading magaine.......don't remember which one.

LynneW@25 wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 11:17 AM

Sometimes the glass shards from crushing a spare bead with chain nose pliers will cut the thread (even with Fireline).  Safest way is to insert a beading needle into the seed bead to take the pressure of the "crush" off the thread and you have averted the risk of a fireline (or other type of thread) being cut by the crushed bead fragments.

on Jan 21, 2013 12:00 AM

Best tip I ever got for not cutting the thread is to make sure your pliers are grasping the bead you're breaking on its sides (next to the holes, parallel to the stringing direction) rather than squishing it from the top and bottom like in your picture. It takes more pressure but I haven't cut my thread once since switching and it's still quick and easy.

on Jan 23, 2013 3:38 AM

And now, do we call those things we wear around our wrists, breaklets?

Personally, I enjoyed the whole Breaking Bad series.

Carol S@3 wrote
on Jan 23, 2013 2:44 PM

I use this method I read in a magazine years ago.  Put your needle into the bead and use the tips of your chain nose pliers to break the bead.  Saves the thread and you can select just that offending bead.  

ladynocturne wrote
on Jan 27, 2013 8:10 PM

I have to object to your description of "Breaking Bad" as "drivel." It's is actually a fascinating, complicated show; it's part black comedy and part personality study. It's the only TV show where characters grow and change, just like real humans. That's not to say it's not disturbing or sometimes creepy, but it's never drivel. Less-challenging sitcoms are probably better to bead to.