The popularity of seed beads is astounding. They are used to create more than beaded flowers — bead artists use them in loomwork, jewelry, weaving …. the list is endless.
Seed beads are simply tiny glass beads. The name ‘seed beads’ is fairly generic, and is often used to describe several shapes of beads made by extruding glass into a tube which is then cut into beads. The quality of the beads is partly determined by uniformity in size and shape, though, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for.
The size of these beads is indicated by a number, the higher the number, the smaller the bead. Sizes range from 1.5 mm (size 15/0) to as large as 5.5 mm (size 3/0). Be aware that the actual size of the bead can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so again you need to be familiar with the offerings you’ll find. For beaded flowers, size 11/0 works best, although slightly smaller or larger sizes can add interest. The shape of seed beads will vary, too, as will colors and finishes.
Sound confusing? Sure it does …. so here’s some information to help you.
The most popular beads are either Czech or Japanese. Seed beads made in the Czech Republic are a little less uniform in size, although this usually will not detract from the appearance of your work. Indeed, some bead artists prefer these imperfections as they add a lovely texture.
Most beaders feel Japanese seed beads are of a higher quality than the Czech beads, and are more uniform in size and color. Seed beads with a more cylindrical shape, well suited for patterns and loom work, are called Delicas or Treasures, among other names. The more rounded beads are great for free-form stitches or circular stitches such as right angle weave. Beads from Japanese manufacturers also have larger holes, making them easier to work with if you make several passes through them.
Various shapes, but still considered seed beads, are:
Bugle beads – long thin tubes, sizes vary from 3mm to as large as 25mm or more
Triangle beads – triangle shapes in the most common sizes of seed beads, these give your work lovely texture
Cube beads – this cube shape also offers wonderful texture, and are available in slightly larger sizes than other shapes
Hex beads – hexagonal in shape, these beads add lots of interest as their surfaces reflect light beautifully
In A seed bead primer – part 2, we’ll talk about colors and finishes of seed beads. For now, let’s go make a pretty beaded flower!