Musings on the Beader's Stash

Sep 23, 2012

While perusing some of the forums on Beading Daily, I noticed that "the stash" seems to be a popular topic. A reader posed the questions, “Do you buy beads more often than you use them up?” and “When you create, do you use the supplies in your stash?”

I found it interesting that several readers confessed they have beads that are too special or prized to use in a jewelry design:

"I like having the beads, but sometimes don’t like using them, because I won’t have them anymore."

"I have some wonderful beads that I love so much, I like to sit and just look at them or touch them, almost afraid to use them for fear that what I create WITH them won't live up to THEM."

"I know well the feeling of not using beads for fear of using them in a project 'unworthy' of their beauty! I'm really trying hard to break free of that kind of thinking. I can always take what I make apart later."

A portion of "the stash" here in the Jewelry Stringing offices!

So my question to you is: What is your prized bead/pendant/whatever that you’re hesitant to use, and why? Where did you purchase (or otherwise obtain) it? Does it hold sentimental value?

It's nice to have an assortment of clasps and other findings readily available before starting a new design.

My second question is: Though you may have a large and varied stash, is there something that you find you never have enough of?

More than one person on the forums said they never have enough clasps and have trouble locating one in their stash that is just right for what they're designing.

We've recently reorganized our stash here in the office (see Chloe's blog from last Friday) and found a few things we'd forgotten about. I'd love to hear about your stash: The size. The contents. All of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or in this case, the beautiful! Please leave comments below.

Happy beading!

Debbie Blair, Managing Editor

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TashaMc wrote
on Sep 24, 2012 3:00 AM

The stash... good topic. Mine's technically supposed to be confined to "The Bead Cupboard" but in reality is starting to take over the house. It's mostly seed beads with the odd box (or two) of vintage Swarovski. Oddly enough, though, the one thing I've not yet dared to work with is a piece of sea pottery I found in Wales last year - it's beautiful white stoneware with a blue glazed unicorn, polished smooth by the sea. I'm thinking bead embroidery, but can't get the design right!

JaneMichael wrote
on Sep 24, 2012 10:32 AM

The beauty of beads is that they can be used over and over again.

I have been collecting beads my whole life and making jewelry with them since 2002. Recently I strung a long necklace of seemingly random beads... they are all the beads they were "too nice" or unique that I couldn't fit them into any design. I get compliments on the piece everytime I wear it. It's my "bead savings account" :)

As for the rest of my stash.... I recently moved into a 2 bedroom apartment so the beads could have their own space.

hkurzman wrote
on Sep 29, 2012 4:22 AM

I was able to raid my stash last week & make 3 (yes, 3) flat spiral bracelets. I now have 3 beautiful new pieces of jewelry, & I didn't have to spend any more money. When digging to find the supplies for the bracelets & came across many goodies I had forgotten I had --including a few that came under the heading of "what was I thinking whenI bought that?!

on Sep 29, 2012 5:28 AM

i have the HARDEST TIME organizing all my stuff.. i just keep buying and envision the most beautiful things.. then when i have the desire to make it ..guess what?? i cant find it again. or i cannot find SOMETHING that is important to it.. and i have boxes of mixed everything that i stuggle every day to sort.. then i have BOXES of beads already organized that just fall on my head when trying to get them off the shelf!! i look like a "horder" in my studio :(:(:( i have just not found the right way to store these things i guess :(:(:( any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!!

leallyson wrote
on Sep 29, 2012 9:43 AM

My jewelry stash just keeps growing.  I even make jewelry and sell it online through my Etsy shop.  But I keep buying more beads.  Another of my favorite things is to find jewelry at garage sales and estate sales, take it apart and use the beads.

I could bead all day for 50 years to use all this up.  Meanwhile it takes a lot of time to try and keep it organized.  I use plastic boxes organized mostly by color, then I have some boxes just for crystals, some boxes just for lucite flowers and leaves, some for pearls, some for lampwork,  some for polymer clay, then sterling silver, silver metal, brass metal, gold metal, gunmetal, and copper.  Seed beads get a couple of drawers in a plastic stack of drawers.  Yikes, when I write it all down it is huge.

Oh, and I do have some favorite beads that I haven't used in a design.  No design seems just right for them.

on Sep 29, 2012 9:49 AM

1) The glass turtle bead I bought at a Bead Fair is so sweet and a favorite. I had not used it yet because I just didn't know how I wanted to use it. Recently, I learned bead crochet, and I think I'll make a bracelet with complementing colors and use the turtle bead as my focal bead.  Or... maybe a necklace.  See, I just can't decide.  Like you said, I can always take the piece apart and begin again.

2) I do have a huge stash, which is still not organized (getting there slowly), but my seed bead stash is always missing the color I need for a project.  When I go to my local bead shop, I get more of what I THINK I need and still come up missing a color I need.  My wish for someday is to have one tube of every color and style of seed bead.  Hmmm, maybe I should just buy the bead shop? At least it might be more organized.

This is so fun.  Please ask some more fun questions.

gragglou wrote
on Sep 29, 2012 10:11 AM

Ironically I sit reading this article at my dining room table with my bead stash, or part of it, spread out all over the table!  For the things that seem too precious to work up, I have some beautiful lapis round beads, garnet beads, and lots of Tiger's Eye.  I keep a good stock of crystals just because they are so sparkly, but I really have to stop the bargain hunting and get to work!  Instead I tend to spend a lot of time reading things on the computer like this article!  Organizing is not keeping up with the new purchases, but somehow I find that bead I am looking for.

on Sep 29, 2012 10:47 AM

So far, my bead stash fits in a tote that is about 9" x 9" x 18" and I have a lot of seed beads or the smaller sizes. Mine are mostly intended for quilt or quilted clothing embellishment. I have several items that I would be rather reluctant to use, although they were purchased on a whim. I bought them at G Street Fabrics in Washington, DC, and as I live in Washington state, that distance is more than an hour's drive ( ;} ).

What don't I have enough of? Skills comes to mind. I have the stuff (in pieces and parts) but not the skill sets to put them to use in jewelry making. I tell myself if I made something and grew tired of it or didn't like it, I could always recycle all the parts.

grannybead wrote
on Sep 29, 2012 11:52 AM

I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who keeps certain beads unused!!!  I don't really have a stash as such, but I keep specific beads to eventually make something for myself.   Most of what I make I intend to sell but I don't have enough yet for that.  

There are also other beads that I don't use because they're a bit expensive and the budget is limited so I can't always buy them, but hope to someday.   So I suppose my 'personal' beads and my expensive beads could be call my 'stash'.

I'm from South Africa - Cape Town.

on Sep 29, 2012 2:33 PM

I have a Stash... Mostly consists of High end Gem stone beads.. But recently signed up for The BeadSwapUSA forum and Nicole Weltch(Administrator) has now opened a DE-Stash facebook page for all members to sell their stash or buy a new Treasure.. It has been a GREAT time and I personally have sold alot. So my Un-used stash is getting smaller..

wdb5252 wrote
on Sep 29, 2012 2:49 PM

Omg!! Thank you so much for this topic. It's so easy to think of yourself as the only one with crazy beading habits. It is so good to know that I am not alone. My bead stash is totally out of control! I have enough beads to either open my own store or create jewelry for the next year without buying a thing. I have bought beads at bead stores, bead shows, thrift stores, yard sales and estate sales. This hobby has definitely made me become an obsessive compulsive person because I absolutely must have every item associated with any piece of jewelry I plan to make. I own almost every tool, seed bead, finding, crystal, wire, thread, needle and publication imaginable. Subsequently I have bought hundreds of bead boxes, cases,They containers and bags I could find to house all of my precious finds. I have made few pieces but I must admit I am very attached to my beads. When I do make a piece I either give it to a family member or friend of keep it for myself. Thanks for allowing me to share.

BeadPassions wrote
on Sep 29, 2012 6:58 PM

I spent time in the sixties (1965-1968) beading daisy chain necklaces and other stringing methods -- going to love-ins and trading love beads with other barefoot hippies with flowers in their hair.  Very great memories!

I became a "real" Beader in 1997 after an unwanted and unexpected medical retirement left me with way too much time on my hands.  I went to a bead store to make some earrings to match a necklace I had purchased.  I NEVER LOOKED BACK!  That was it for this chickie.

Ahhhhhhhhh.   The Bead Stash.  I LOVE MY BEADS.  I had to take over one whole room of my townhouse to support my bead habit and my bead collection.  This includes two bookcases with bead books, videos, and downloads that I've printed out and bound, as well as a high ledge around the room with all my bead binders with projects, and  the magazines I've collected over the years.  I have every single BEADWORK magazine ever printed, and (dare I say) every B&B as well.  I like some of the other magazines available through interweave, but I am crazy about beadweaving and bead embroidery.  Beadwork is the BEST magazine out there for this type of beading.

OKAY, now to the beads.  They have a life of their own, as we all know.  After already filling the closet with beady stuff,  I was inclined to have a cabinet (half the wall!) made on the other side of the room with shelves exactly where I want them.  It's all labeled, color coded, and stashed by size, shape, color, style and type of bead. Crystals, square beads, triangles, seed beads by size AND color, delicas, twins, magatamas, vintage, turquoise, coral (not real), hematite. hex, cloisonne, alphabet, nailheads, focal beads, cabachons, faces (I do a lot of totally encrusted beaded dolls), sequins, charlottes, tilas, dichroic... you get the picture.  I like everything sorted and easy to find.  Gold findings in one area, silver in another, copper in another -- each with a container for connecters, clasps, beadcaps, charms, spacers earring posts and wires, chain, etc. Sound confusing?  It works out terrifically for me.

My problem is that from time to time I don't put something away, and it goes in a big trunk of "to be sorted beads."  Well, that trunk just got joined by another big tall tray.  I have all the containers purchased, and am ready to start sorting... but life has really gotten in the way this year.  Alas...  So the piles get bigger and I LOVE LOVE LOVE putting my hands through the beads, feeling their weight, admiring the colors, brainstorming projects, thinking about having to start new subject containers as all these new beads keep flooding my magazines, my head and my heart.

I went to my local bead store today for sterling crimps and two feet of gold chain... and walked out spending just under $100.  THIS IS MY PASSION!  I will probably never use every bead, but I do share with my beady friends, and am teaching my daughter-in-law to bead between babies.  She's mastered stringing, clasps, the color wheel, and much more -- and made many pieces for herself and  her sister. We are having our peyote stitch class next week.  I've totally set her up with everything from tools and rolling bag, to findings, threads, neeles, wire, and yes -- BEADS!  LOTS OF BEADS!

For me "beading" is about the whole package, from the purchase, putting things in order, fondling the beads, reading bead books, blogs and magazines, playing with the color wheel while holding up different beads -- EVERYTHING about beading is absolutely wonderful!

Didn't mean to go on and on....   Thank you for letting me get this off my chest.  Time to cancel the therapist.  HA

Lindy from Northern California

Valbeads wrote
on Sep 29, 2012 10:34 PM

Question Number One: I would have to say my most prized possession right now is this beautiful Swarovski crystal golden shade avant garde drop I purchased a while ago.  It really looks like a little shield to me.  I love to look at it.  Only problem is, I haven't quite figured out exactly how I want to design around it.  Do I want to go contemporary?  Retro?  Antique?  Urgh!

Question Number Two:  I'm actually rather living out of storage boxes right now.  My apartment is undergoing a complete renovation; however, once completed I'll have a beautiful little studio area with a display cabinet for my jewelry busts, my work desk and plenty of light.(happy sigh!)

on Sep 30, 2012 11:01 AM

Oh, the stash!!  Just when I'm all smug about using a slug of stash beads, I come across some spectacular something that I MUST HAVE---so my stash doesn't stay busted for long!

grannybead wrote
on Sep 30, 2012 11:52 AM

I'm so interested in this 'stash' idea and to realize I'm not alone!!!   I'm still quite new at all this and love all the help I get on line.   I previously wrote a few days ago, that I have expensive beads and personal beads which I see as my stash, so they don't get used.   But I also have other stash beads that I've collected from all over the show and very often they're not enough to make anything like a necklace.

So those end up as part of my stash.     And I do buy stuff and have bought, that I haven't used yet and constantly feel that I don't have enough!!!  My intention is to make a part time business from it, but I need a ton of stock just to start selling.    So I've ended up making a ton of non-jewelry decor stuff including pet charms/necklaces! for all those lil cuties, but the real jewelry stuff is 'neglected' because I feel I don't have enough!!   Though I've learnt to make dozens of earrings from leftovers as well as bracelets.

And there are some things that I've also not dared to work with yet.   It's great to know I'm not alone - thanks to you all for sharing!

CJLevesque wrote
on Sep 30, 2012 12:25 PM

Great questions!  I too am obsessive in my passion for beading and it's compounded by the fact that I'm also a lampworker.  When I found out I could learn how to make my own beads then my passion took on a whole new life of its own.

I do have those beads that I have yet to use, either I just can't come up with the right design that I feel is worthy of the bead(s)  or they are just so beautiful to me I fear I can't replace them, particularly lampwork beads whether they be my own or someone else's, because they are such a one-of-a-kind creations.

My guest room is also my beading/crafting storage room and the room itself is fairly neat and organized but don't open that closet....  I have several dozen plastic boxes (mostly fishing tackle boxes) all organized by bead type, ie: gemstone, lampwork, Swarovski, seed beads, findings, tools etc.   I also work with PMC (Precious Metal Clay) so there's more boxes of "stuff" that goes with that.  I think that half the enjoyment I get from beading is just handling them - sorting them and organizing them after the purchase.  More often than not, I get inspired what to make with beads when I see them, rather than have a plan in mind before hand.  And, like so many of the responses here, I often find that with all the beads I do have, I always seem to be missing that 1 perfect element to go with the current creation I'm working on.

Thanks to all for sharing their comments and experiences -  it's good to know I don't need therapy for my 'stash' habit!  :~)

vilcat wrote
on Sep 30, 2012 1:22 PM

Hmmm, bead stash.....I have a "bead room", the walls of which are lined with furring strips (1x2's) having cup hooks every 2". Each hook holds as many bead strands as will fit, between 6 to 10. Then there are book cases that hold a couple hundred compartmented bead boxes, 30+ shoe boxes, and some larger tubs and totes chock full of every bead imaginable. But the sad part is....I bead at my dining room table and the table and surrounding floor has become choked with more shoe boxes, bowls, trays, and bead boxes overflowing with new purchases and "most often used" beads and findings. Trying to find a certain bead that I KNOW I have becomes a lesson in futility, as organization is a concept that alludes me.  On the other hand I find treasures that I forgot I had and end up making an entirely different piece than I originally envisioned. .......Now for the special beads......I have two strands that I have not used, one is a strand of long red coral branches, and the other is a strand of graduated faceted pearls. Some day I will come up with a design for them...but not in the near future.

vilcat wrote
on Sep 30, 2012 1:22 PM

Hmmm, bead stash.....I have a "bead room", the walls of which are lined with furring strips (1x2's) having cup hooks every 2". Each hook holds as many bead strands as will fit, between 6 to 10. Then there are book cases that hold a couple hundred compartmented bead boxes, 30+ shoe boxes, and some larger tubs and totes chock full of every bead imaginable. But the sad part is....I bead at my dining room table and the table and surrounding floor has become choked with more shoe boxes, bowls, trays, and bead boxes overflowing with new purchases and "most often used" beads and findings. Trying to find a certain bead that I KNOW I have becomes a lesson in futility, as organization is a concept that alludes me.  On the other hand I find treasures that I forgot I had and end up making an entirely different piece than I originally envisioned. .......Now for the special beads......I have two strands that I have not used, one is a strand of long red coral branches, and the other is a strand of graduated faceted pearls. Some day I will come up with a design for them...but not in the near future.

TiP2 wrote
on Sep 30, 2012 5:14 PM

first question.  I had 2 necklaces that i bought at a garage sale when i was a kid & I of course took them apart LOL  I had the beads for over 25 years before finally using some of them earlier this year & I was afraid to use them cuz they were so special.  But I made a bracelet with one set & the others I am still waiting for inspiration LOL maybe It will come within the next 25 years LOL.  2nd question, I never have enough seed beads!!!  love my seed beads.  Also I have been going thru my bead stash & started to use alot of what I forgot about or hadnt decided to use yet.

btrimble wrote
on Oct 1, 2012 10:19 AM

Wow, where to begin!  My husband calls me a Hoarder but reading the posts, I see i'm not alone.  Most of my beads are organized, crystals, gentstones, shell, glass pearls, wood beads, etc... all in their boxes.  Then I buy more, and for awhile I'll just have a pile of mixed stuff.  With my obsessive nature, when I see something I like I want it now.  Never mind what I'm gonna do with it.  I'll figure that out later!  Then add to all of my beading stuff, I decorate gourds besides!  Then you have the woodburner, gouges, pine needles, weaving materials, dyes, paints, colored pencils, sealers, whew!  Currently I'm in the process of moving from my living room to my recently married daughters bedroom, YAY!  Hopefully then I'll be able to get a little more organized instead of spending half my time looking for stuff.  My name is Belinda and, I am a Beadaholic...there, I said it.

FruitySpirit wrote
on Oct 1, 2012 12:56 PM

Stash! I call it my retirement fund! I am reorganizing this time by shapes and size. I found so many that I forgot I had that I have duplicates of my duplicates. I have been working on this 'new' organizing for over a month now and hope to start actually beading soon!

As for prized pieces I finally broke down and made some pieces that I wear regularly instead of looking at them in their box. More satisfying that way.

As for never having enough of I can't say other than I never have time!!

on Oct 2, 2012 6:07 AM

I became interested in beads, beading and associated media roughly three years ago.  I have an e-e-enormous stash [and a patient husband] but have yet to produce anything meaningful .......... or finished.  

I have an increasing library of books and DVDs which I watch/read in bed [remember that patient husband?] and now have a whole room devoted to making jewellery.  I KNOW how to do so many things but have yet to challenge myself.  Other interests include crochet, sewing [dressmaking and covering sofas/chairs etc.] writing and cooking all of which I have actually CARRIED OUT!

I must organize my stash pretty soon otherwise I will no longer have a patient husband.  Maybe no longer have a husband?  However,  imagine the pleasure of unwrapping ananymous packages, opening tiny polythene bags or miniscule cardboard boxes to explore the various contents - glittering, glowing and wholly hypnotising.

I'll start making something next week.


Claire@55 wrote
on Oct 4, 2012 1:56 PM

Yes, there are some favourite beads that I've also not dared to work with yet.

I buy more beads for a project and then find I don't use these because they aren't quite the right colour (& sometimes size) so I have to purchase even more.  Also I'm always missing that  perfect element to go with my current project.

As regards my stash I too like everything sorted and easy to find.  In clear plastic boxes by type of bead; crystals, cube beads, triangles,drops,  flowers, leaves,etc and seed beads by size.  I have gold findings in one box, silver in another, copper and gunmetal in another & each with a division for split rings, clasps, beadcaps, charms, spacers, head pins and wires, chain, etc.  And I have a small tall tray of "to be sorted beads."  


Unfortunately I spend such a lot of time looking through all the magazines, reading these articles, looking for that one element on the computer and organizing, rather than the ultimate storage,... the perfect necklace!

GloriaD@14 wrote
on Oct 24, 2012 1:45 PM

Ahh, my beading stash (and my beading magazine/DVD/binder stash)!  I have small trunks for each color of beads, along with one for pearls, one for really nice gemstones, another for special pendants, one for wire, one for chain, and one for other findings.  But often I can't find a particular string of beads and end up buying more!  I have tools in a file cabinet, on a bookcase, and in other places, mostly close to my work area.  I confess to having some "special" beads I haven't used yet (like a miser!) but I really, really will use them someday!  I agree, though that it is really difficult to find nice clasps, and also nice earring posts or hooks.  Anyone know of a good source?