Beadweaving Tips and Suggestions

These suggestions are provided as general instructions and tips for making your project easier and more professional.

Always wax your thread, it strengthens and lubricates. Beeswax is very common and available in any craft store. However, I prefer to use white candle wax or paraffin (normally used for sealing jelly) as beeswax has a tan color to it and has a tendency to make your work look 'dirty'. There is now a wonderful product out called 'Thread Heaven', which is a great thread lubricator, but I find I have to recoat my thread several times during a project. I now use both wax and 'Thread Heaven', which works very good.

Don't knot your thread if you don't have to. If necessary, use a spare bead loosely tied about 6 inches or more above the end of your thread for a 'stop bead'. When your work is done you can take out the bead and weave the 'tail ' back into your work. For adding thread, simply weave the end of your current thread back into your work until it is secure (usually through 5 or 6 beads going in different directions). Weave your new thread into your work in the same manner, making sure you come out at the same bead and direction as the last thread ended.

Use clear nail polish to seal work such as brick-stitch earrings, it will help them to stay firm, and will also seal the thread ends so they don't work their way out. If the polish gets dirty or yellowed, simply soak the item in polish remover, wipe off the old polish and put on a new coating.

If you have made an error and need to eliminate a bead from your work but don't want to pull out a bunch of finished work- break it carefully. Many times you can weave your needle back through to the spot, carefully hide the exposed thread and add a new bead. Breaking can be accomplished by:

Break the bead with your needle-nose pliers placed on the top and bottom of the bead. Do not break with the pliers across your thread - your thread will break.

Insert a regular sewing needle into the bead and push or pull it through using needle-nose pliers - if the needle is large enough on the 'eye' end, the bead will break easily without damaging your thread.

Use both methods at the same time - insert a large needle into the bead, then break the bead across the thread with the pliers. The needle will help protect your thread from breaking.

Seed beads come in many sizes and types. For beginning beadweavers, I suggest a size 11 bead. They are the old standard for looming, peyote, brick, and right-angle weave. Delicas are more square shaped with larger holes than the standard (Rochaille) beads, and more consistent in size. I don't recommend using Delicas for right angle weave, due to the sharp edges, they don't make a very good 'nested' circle, and may even break your thread. They are good for other types of weaving, especially if you want a stiff, rather than supple, finished product (i.e., like the difference between a brick wall and a mesh fence).

When purchasing standard seed beads, be picky!! Due to the way these beads are made, they are not consistent in size. This is especially true with beads purchased in tubes from a craft store. I prefer to buy my beads in 'hanks', then I can see how even they look when strung. Beads by the hank are readily available in bead stores, and in general are less expensive than tubed beads.

When working on a project, select beads that are 'truly' the same in size. If you pick up a bead that is too big - put it in it's own 'pile', and do the same with beads that are too small. When you are finished with your project you will have sorted many of your beads. Put the different sizes in their own little storage containers and the next time you use them, you will have less sorting to do.

The best thread for weaving is Nylon thread, which can be purchased in small spools or large cones. You will need to pick the proper size based on the type of weaving you will be doing and the size of beads you will be using. The size of thread determines the strength and smoothness of your beadwork. You may want to use anywhere from a size 00 (extremely thin) to a size G (about the size of darning thread). For example, the largest thread you would want to use for a brick stitch earring in size 11 bead would be size D. If you use a size 00 thread, you work will be looser, but your fringes will be more 'supple'.

Nylon thread is available in many colors, too, but I have found that many of the colors 'split', and black is actually much stiffer and thicker than white. If you think your project really needs a colored thread, a good idea is to use white and pull it through the tip of a felt pen in the color of your choice, then wax it.

The length of the thread you use is very important. If it is too long, it is hard to pull snugly through your work and has a tendency to untwist and split after being passed through too many beads. The best I have found is to use a length equal to 1-1/2 times the distance from the center of my body to the tip of my fingers. Thread this on your needle and bring the needle a little under halfway down the thread and you will be able to pull your thread snug through your work in 1 arm stretch. Keep moving your needle on the thread as needed and you won't have the problem of wearing any one place on your thread thin.

There are also many other types of thread available these days, even elastic. The other thread I've personally used a bit is Silamide, which is essentially a 'wound' nylon thread that's pre-waxed. It's pretty nice to work with, although I haven't used it enough to give details.

Always use needles that are specified as beading needles, they are extremely thin and have very small eyes. They are generally sized to match bead sizes; for example, size 11 bead takes a size 11 needle. However, I prefer to use a size smaller, even though it is harder to thread the needle (using a size D thread) as it allows me to pass through a bead more often without splitting my thread.

The type of weaving also determines the preferred length of your needle. The standard beading needle is 2" long and works for most everything. If you are doing wide loomwork, though, you may want to try to find a 3" needle. These are harder to come across and are more expensive, but well worth it. I have also found that the 1" needles work nicely for most weaving, but are hard to handle if you have long fingernails. I have also seen round needles, although I've never used them.

If you are making fringe of a single color, use a long needle and you can pull the beads directly off of the hank string, a great time saver if you have fairly consistently sized beads. Also, instead of counting beads when making fringe, measure them!! 10 beads are not always the same length, and can make your fringe 'off-kilter'.

Bead Blanket TraysA beading tray should be shallow and lined with a layer of soft cloth. A shoe box lid lined with felt will work fine. I've used an old tin tray and had a piece of suede on it. I can pick up the suede and shake it out after each project. If you want the best tray for beading, try my Bead Blanket Tray - you won't be disappointed!! Click on the image of the tray to learn more about them.

Pour your different bead colors that you are going to use into 'piles' to make them easy to 'scoop' your beads onto your needle. This eliminates the need to pick up each bead with one hand to thread it on to your needle. This is also why your tray needs to be shallow.

Keep a small ruler on the upper portion of your tray and you can readily measure fringe lengths before weaving them into your work.

Here's a great tip from Chris Manes, of www.amuseink.com , check out her site - she has some fabulous work and patterns for sale! :

Try using Rubbermaid sheet cake holders for trays, line with your favorite bead fabric. When taking a break you can put the lid on it and store it away. You can use several of these when you have several projects going at once (waiting for the UPS man to deliver those much needed beads to finish some fringe). This is also a way to keep kitties out of things when you have to answer the door etc. These trays are also good for taking with you when you want to work on one particular thing. Another option for trays is having a small roll cart that has several drawers designated to different on going jobs. When you take a break the drawer/tray just goes back into the roll cart, no muss, no fuss. This one does not allow you to go traveling with it very well but some jobs are meant to be done at home, at a table with good lighting.

There are many ways to store your beads, after all, they are very small. If you purchase your beads by the tube or similar container you can just keep them in there. However, if you are 'sorting' the large and small beads, you will need additional containers. Small Ziploc-style baggies are available in many sizes, can be found in most bead stores and are inexpensive. They take up very little room when empty and a 2" by 3" one can hold an entire hank of beads.

Sporting goods stores are also great places to find storage for beads and findings. Just go to the the fishing department. There is a vast array of small containers for holding fishing flies, lures, hooks, etc.

After you have become addicted to beading you will want to purchase a container to hold all of your small containers. Back to the fishing department. . .get a tackle box. These have many different compartments in many different sizes and can hold all of your tools and accessories, too. I have a tackle box that holds 3 covered trays, each 7" by 11" and divided into sections, which slide out of the front. The top of this box has a huge compartment with more sections. I can carry this anywhere I go (but it's very full . . .time to get another one) because the entire box is only about 8" by 12" by 14" high and it has a handle. In general tackle boxes are less expensive than the cutesy organizers you find in craft stores. /p>

You will find your work easier if you keep some basic tools on hand. Good tools are expensive, but my husband refers to tools as "an investment in yourself". In addition to the obvious tools such as needles, you should have:

Small sharp scissors - these will help you 'snip' stray threads from your work.

Tweezers - an amazing number of miscellaneous uses for these

Needlenose pliers - if you don't want to invest in crimping pliers these will work just fine. Bending wire is probably their most obvious job. They are also very useful for breaking beads.

Roundnose pliers - these are wonderful to have for shaping wire and jump rings. You will alway get a perfect circle.

Magnifying light - I have found this to be my most useful tool. It makes threading needles much easier in addition to being great for looking closely at your work without eye strain. My light has a circular flourescent tube around a 5" diameter magnifying glass. The base swivels and stretches so you can put it anywhere. It was expensive, but after I moved my beading to a different room, my husband insisted on buying another one for him to use to read maps and all sort of things.

Patience - Beadweaving takes a long time, especially if you want to do a good job. Beads are small and do not add up to a large project very quickly- so if you are a beginner, start with something small. It is truly an under-appreciated art form, and you must love doing it.