Bead Basics

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Beads can add amazing pop to your finished work and they are easy and inexpensive to come by.  While there are wonderful options for purchasing beads in local craft stores, bead shows and online - don't overlook the very best bead source:  your own jewelry box!  Take apart jewelry you no longer wear - this not only is the best type of recycling, it gives your new projects special meaning and history.

Here are a few basics about beads, whether you are working with wire or with yarn:

Basic Bead Types:  Not an exhaustive list, but we show some of the typical bead types specified in our patterns.

Seed Beads:  Seed beads are glass beads.  They are either opaque or clear, and may contain a metallic-lined bead hole for extra shimmer.  They come in an amazing array of sizes and colors.  The sizes of seed beads are expressed in size numbers - the higher the number, the smaller the bead.  The following table describes seed bead sizing:

Size number Approximate size (in mm)
11/0 2.1 mm
8/0 3.1 mm
6/0 4 mm
5/0 4.5 mm
3/0 5.5 mm
Metallic Beads:  Metallic beads are made of metal as the name suggests and the size is typically specified in millimeters.
Tear Drop Beads: Tear drop beads are elongated round beads.  The bead hole will either be drilled across the narrow top of the bead or down through the entire length of the bead.  Sizes of tear drop beads are specified in millimeters.

Crimp Beads:   Crimp beads are metallic beads that are meant to secure the end of a wire or string around a finding such as a clasp, ear hook or other component.

See our crimp tutorial to learn more on how to use crimp beads.

Prestringing Beads When you pre-string your wire with beads, you string them in the reverse order that you will actually use them.  This means that those you stitch with last will be those that you load onto the wire first.