Micro Seed Beads

Nov 7, 2013

Recently as I worked on an earring project featuring size 15° seed beads, I wondered how some of the tiniest micro seed beads could be used in beadwork. I found a few samples online of beautiful Native American beadwork such as dolls, horse collars, tapestries, and clothing adorned with the antique Venetian beads.

These Barbie-sized beads, which are smaller than size 15°, were made mostly in Czechoslovakia and Venice, Italy, from the 1800s to around World War II. Now they are rare, but can be found in a few bead shops. Heather from The Beadin' Path sent some my way, and I'm thrilled to try them out.

The red seed beads on top are size 11°, and the beads below are micro seed beads.

Heather sent size 16°, which are easily incorporated with size 15° in projects and are somewhat easy to stitch with. She also sent a lovely mix of several sizes, and I'm unsure exactly what size is the smallest bead. I lined 34 of them up into 1 inch on my needle, which tells me they may be close to 34°. I've only just begun using the beads, but a here are a few things that I noticed right away:

1. Culling the beads is of utmost importance. So many of them have such tiny holes that my needle and thread cannot get through them once, let alone for a second pass.

2. Use a small needle. The smallest I have in my office is size 12. I can use the size 12 for some of the beads, but some of them are just too tiny. So my next step is finding a smaller needle.

3. Use thin thread. I began using a nylon 2-ply Japanese beading thread, but it is still too large for some of the tiniest beads. I didn't wax my thread for fear it would clog up the holes.

4. Beads break. There is a reason to take your time and take great care in using micro beads in beadwork. One pass too many through one bead and it's gone.

Have you used micro seed beads in any of your projects? Do you have any tips and tricks to share? We'd love to hear from you in our comments section below!

Bead chic!

Kate Wilson
Project Editor

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Comments

D.M.Z wrote
on Nov 7, 2013 2:36 PM

Use a stitch that doesn't involve many passes...........like peyote. If you are having trouble finding size 15 needles, think about hardening the very tip of your thinnest thread (Nymo O?) after cutting it on a slant, with nail hardener and using it as the needle. I haven't worked with many micro beads, but the smallest I know of that were in general production were 24/o..... Hubby saw some at Harlequin Beads in Eugene Oregon and was amazed at them. I just strung some as garland on small delica holiday trees..........had to mix them with 13/o charlottes to weigh them down.......LOL. This is a good thread, hope more folks have tips. Donna

alexa951142 wrote
on Nov 8, 2013 5:07 PM

good quality beads, even tiny ones like 15/0 and 22/0 have big holes so unless you use a very thick thread, you shouldn't have much trouble working with them. I love 15/0, they make everything so delicate!

on Nov 8, 2013 5:19 PM

Call me crazy, but I love working with 15/0's! I started using them with one of EllaD's bracelet designs, (which led me to buy size 15 needles and 1 lb Fireline, a good combination) but when I really lost it was when I started using the 15/0's to do a brick stitch inside a 12mm jump ring! I make beaded disks to create earring dangles. I  even incorporated peanut beads into them to make more texture, and bought oval jump rings because I like ovals...

I've seen the beads smaller than 15/0, (I live near an Indian reservation and they use a lot of the tiny beads to create their incredible beaded regalia) but can't imagine using such a small needle/thread. 15/0 is small enough for me!

ShelleyG@13 wrote
on Nov 8, 2013 7:16 PM

I have quite a few, but I have never used them. there are some yellow ones that I swear a hair wouldn't go through let alone a needle and thread! they sure are fun to look at though...

Ann T2 wrote
on Nov 8, 2013 7:45 PM

I've bought some that I think are in the size 18-22 range from some folks at the American Indian Exposition that's part of the February Tucson Gem shows. Useful when you need just that one step tinier bead for finishing a bezel, for example. If you go to the Tucson shows, check it out: They've had quite a few colors at a reasonable price. (I'm in no way affiliated with them, BTW.)

Jiofront wrote
on Nov 8, 2013 10:29 PM

The same Japanese company that makes delica beads also makes some of the most uniform micro beads I have found to date. I use them routinely in beaded mosaics for fine detailed pictures. They are easy to work with, and have a very consistent hole size for thread work also. For the price, they can't be beat. The color assortment offered is great also.

on Nov 9, 2013 6:39 AM

Kate, thanks for the interesting topic.

I Like 15/0 and I have used and "played"  with them a lot of time.

I made also a project of mine with 15/0 and bi cones 2,5 mm: link is:

ibijouxdelsole.blogspot.it/.../tutorial-stella-quinquefolia.html

I think that we must be very careful and use good quality beads. I used 0.16 mm nylon (lb 4.19) and 12/0 needle.

I'm crazy too 'cause I love working with 15/0's !!!

A nice day. Laura from I Bijoux del Sole

patblu wrote
on Nov 9, 2013 11:57 AM

I started using these tiny beads years ago and the one of the best sources I've found is Bead Cats, Virginia Blakelocks site. She was one of the first to bring these beads to attention and her work is just incredible. www.beadcats.com/.../baby.htm

on Nov 19, 2013 9:53 AM

For size 16/o and smaller beads ( like 20's and 22's) use size 16 beading needles - not that easy to find and kinda pricey, and size 00 fine beading thread - these are designed for these type and size of beads and needles.

Kate Wilson wrote
on Feb 6, 2014 4:23 PM

Thanks for the advice and encouragement, everyone! I work with size 15s often and I like them--but the micro seeds beads are even smaller than 15s! I had to have my reading glasses on to work with them! I'm trying to decide if I can find the time to work an entire project with size 20s! :)

BevM@17 wrote
on Feb 22, 2014 4:53 PM

I actually started beading using micro seed beads, for a full 12 months the largest bead I used was a size 13, but mostly I used sizes 15 to 24.   I am a miniaturist and wanted to make a 1/12th scale replica of a beading shop - not a shop that sells beads but one that sells products made from them.  So I set about learning each stitch one by one and created my own patterns because there aren't any patterns out there for miniature beadwork (or only a few very simple ones).  Anything smaller than a size 15 Czech bead is no longer manufactured, but there are online sellers of vintage micro beads (many in limited quantities and colours).  I would advise the use of the finest thread and needles available - John James size 16 beading needles, Nymo 00 and 000, some threads like C-Lon go down to 5/0.  I am extremely myopic so I have better eyesight very close up so don't usually use magnification but use it if you need it.  A very steady hand helps.  If you would like to see photos of my miniature beading shop they are on my website at www.miniatureneedlework.com/MyMinismainpage.html  - bear in mind the whole thing is only measures 15 inches wide by 10 inches high x 12 inches deep.