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Beading Tips and Advice

Other Tips and Advice for Beading

Bead Storage

So you see some beautiful bead colours and you want to get them all! Don't worry it happens to us all. I am here to tell you that its really not a great idea to hoard a huge selection of Delica.

I am a professional beader but my bead collection takes up a very small space. I have taken some pictures to prove it! I will put my hands up and say its not the most instagramy picture you will ever see.

For the last 15 years I have been storing all my finished beadwork AND beads in one cupboard with 2 drawers. I brought this cupboard for about £20 to go in my bedroom when I was still living at home, it was an ugly dark brown unit but well made. I stripped and waxed it and changed the handles all by myself. I am quite fond of it, its my favourite piece of furniture.

When I left home and and got my own place it became my bead cupboard, and as you can see there is a lot of room left it in! In the top drawer is my bead graveyard of unfinished designs, threads and findings (I will never show you in there - its a mess! lol). The second drawer holds all my bead mats and trays (travel, spare, etc). And the cupboard underneath holds 15 years worth of finished designs AND my beads. I don't keep any beadwork for myself, but ThreadABead requires me to keep one of every finished design for reference, photography, help etc.

Over the years I have, to some frustration, learnt that it is really not a good idea to keep a large stash of delicas. I prefer to have a constant turnover of beads, only buying what I know I will use. The main reason for this is dye lot changes.

Sometimes a delica colour can change its colour quite drastically over time. This is not the fault of Miyuki, its just one of those things - processes and chemicals change. The same happens in knitting and cross stitch. It is so frustrating to choose a colour, design something and then either run out halfway through (because you never have enough) or realise that design will not look the same for my customers.

I tend to work from a fairly small colour palette. When I first started this was out of necessity, I couldn't afford more. As time went on I realised customers appreciated that they didn't have to keep rebuying different colours to do my designs so I always tend to keep to my original colour palette. That is unless I feel a design would really benefit from a more rarely used colour. This is not a decision I take lightly, I will never introduce a colour the sake of it.

For the colours I do use a lot, I have a small set of drawers made for A4 papers. I lie the tubes (which hold about 50g) on their sides in rows in the number code order. This works for me because I am so used to the colours I know the codes by memory.

For colours I don't use a lot (of which I only tend to keep a few grams), I store these in a A4 box on top of my drawers filled with little boxes. Each little box has a label with a colour on, e.g. Red, Yellow etc. In this box I organise the beads by colour, so all red beads go in the red box etc

I find this method works well for me. For the most part I am using my main colours of which I keep a fair amount but there is a high turn over of them so no dye lot issues. When I decide that for a particular design I don't like my standard green, I then get out my box of greens and choose a colour from within that. I find that sometimes I will end up considering a different green I may not have considered initially. I do check this matches up to the bead colour ThreadABead is selling just in case, but as I only hold a few grams of them it is not a huge deal if it has changed colour, I can buy myself a new tube if needed.

I should also note that my set of drawers is not full of delica, there is plenty of space and I have a drawer dedicated to Fire polished, Bugles and other crystals. For these I organise by type AND colour and in the case of fire polished not by size. So I have a tube containing all orange fire polished beads in all sizes. This might seem a bit strange but I do rarely use firepolished and I don't have that many. I find it very quick to tip them out onto a bead tray and pick out the sizes I need, I am usually unsure of the size I need and tend to try out different sizes.

And finally something else I should let you know, as pretty as it may seem to store your beads out in the open, it is not a good idea especially if it is a sunny room. Some delica bead colours are UV sensitive so you will find the colours will change over time if left exposed, you are creating your own colour issues.

Looking After Finished Beadwork

For most of their life my finished beadwork sits in my bead cupboard.

The beadwork gets packed away in acid free tissue paper or small grip seal bags and bubble wrap with a few silica packets to absorb any moisture (changing them every so often). I store all beadwork in labelled plastic boxes or jewellery cases.

To ensure I can easily find designs I store everything for the current year in one box (as I may need them more often for reference) and then every January I distribute them into their categories e.g. Christmas, ornaments, pen toppers etc. This seems to work well for me, and keeps the beadwork looking as new.

With all antiques and heirlooms, the worst things for beadwork is light and moisture. I have beadwork many years old that is still in immaculate condition, so I guess what I am doing must be working.

I never put beadwork in the sun (windowsill, conservatory etc) or anything that has extreme temperatures (attic, conservatory, over a fireplace, on a radiator etc). The sun will fade beadwork and extreme temperatures can crack the beads (especially beads under a lot of tension). I also avoid putting beadwork in rooms with too much moisture like a bathroom, kitchen, garage etc as this can affect the thread and the finish of the bead (like plated ones).

I also don’t display the items for long (a couple of months at most), preferring to rotate. By changing the position when I come to display the beadwork again it doesn’t “fade” in the same spot each time.

When I do display beadwork I always keep it under a glass dome or in a display case to stop any dust getting on the beadwork. You can dust the beadwork with a make-up brush, but I am a bit lazy and prefer not to, so I keep it under a cover.

Additionally, it’s probably best not to handle the finished beadwork too much as oil on the hands is not good for beads. Only handle with freshly washed and dry hands. In summer weather I also apply this when beading, if I find my hands are getting a bit greasy and sweaty from the heat I will wash them before continuing to bead.

Having said that, don't worry! Delica beads are quite hardy and they will put up with a lot, I am taking so much care as I want to keep the beadwork in immaculate condition, just a little bit of care will keep your beadwork in good condition for many years.

Do's and Dont's

  • Do not get beadwork wet or keep in humid conditions.
  • Do not spray perfume or get beadwork in contact with sprays, oils, chemicals etc as this can damage the colour and weaken the thread.
  • Do store out of direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.
  • Do Remember beads are made of glass and whilst they are very strong, hard knocks or pressure can break beads.

What do you do if you give someone beadwork and they don’t appreciate it?

Remember beading is your hobby and something you are doing for enjoyment. Everyone is different with different tastes, and whilst we can look in wonder at a piece of beadwork and appreciate the effort that has gone into a design, other people, especially if they are not very crafty, will just see the piece as a whole and if it is not to their taste they won’t value it.

It happens to us all, you spend hours making something thinking that someone will like it, only to find you perhaps don’t even get a thank you. But don’t let it get to you, just remember never to make something for them again, there are plenty of people that will appreciate your work and share in your joy of beading.

So if you are planning to give beadwork as a gift here is some advice:

  • If you want to give someone a piece of beadwork and they haven’t expressed an interest in your beading before, don’t put in a large amount of work unless you let them know your intentions first and how much work you need to put in. They may have suggestions of things they would like instead, or ask for different colours.
  • When it comes to jewellery, this is a very personal thing. See what sort of jewellery they are currently wearing, is it similar in style to what you are planning to bead? Is it of a colour that would go with the clothes they wear? Will they have opportunity to wear it and enjoy it?
  • The same goes for home décor, is what you are making something that they are likely to display in their home? Will it go with their other décor? It is something that reflects their personality and interests and do they have somewhere to display it or a use for it?
  • I always find seasonal items are great for gifts as they are something that don’t always have to be on display. At Easter, Halloween, Christmas etc its more a case of “anything goes” when it comes to décor so people are usually happy to have a little beaded seasonal display out or a new bauble on the tree, even if it is not quite their taste. I always think its nice that each year they can unwrap the beadwork and remember the friend who beaded it for them.
  • You will find that a gift that is given with thought is usually the most successful and well received. When I am beading something I usually know who the recipient will be, who would appreciate it the most, but sometimes I make something that I don’t know who would like it. Then I put it in a little box until I find just the person or sometimes I let someone take a look in the box and pick something out for themselves. (They sometimes pick out something you would not expect them too which is quite fun, and as they really like it they treasure it all the more.)

Above all, remember this is your passion and you have enjoyed the process of making an item. Don’t dwell too much on the journey your beadwork will take after you have given the gift, it will end up in the hands of someone who will appreciate it eventually, I am sure.