Chapter 1 Beading Supplies

[sam id=2 codes='false']
[sam id=12 codes='false']



Beads come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Sizes can range from 8o to 25o ( o is pronounced “aught”). The larger the number, the smaller the bead size. In this age of technology you can get any color or hue of the spectrum, especially in the smaller sizes. This can be useful in larger projects or where you would like the color change to be subtle. Smaller beads allow you to go into more detail in your designs.

Beads come in various types and shapes. Bugle beads are cylindrical in shape and range from 3/8 of an inch long to 2 inches. These beads are very useful for brick-laying stitches, fringes, and a variety of other stitches. Seed beads come in many different varieties. As the name implies they are round like most seeds and some are actually made by drilling a hole through a seed. Nowadays, they are made of many different materials, but usually out of glass. These are just two of the more common types of bead.

Make sure you buy enough beads to finish the project that you are working on. Just like yarn and thread, the dye lots change to varying degrees and the shade of blue you bought one week may not be the same the next time you go. How many is enough? When you buy beads, buy two or three hanks of the same color. A hank has 8 to 12 strands on it. A strand is a single string of beads, 12 to 24 inches long. The number of beads per inch on a strand will vary depending on the size of the beads. Never buy beads in tubes if you can help it. Tubes cost more and have fewer beads than a full hank. If you do run short of a color, string up the color you need and take it with you when making the rounds to the different bead shops. Sometimes you will get lucky.

Thrift shops and garage sales are also great places to find beads. You can find lots of good antique beads that way.



Thread comes in a variety of sizes and waxed or unwaxed. Waxed thread is recommended because it makes working the beads easier. You can buy beeswax and a beeswax holder and wax the thread yourself, but buying the thread already waxed is easier and cheaper in the long run.

Thread comes in sizes: AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, E, F, FF, G. The higher the letter in the alphabet, the thicker the thread. Triple A is very thin. It is good for use on the smaller beads. Size G is really thick, good for use on the larger beads. Often you will want a thinner thread because of the number of times the thread must pass through the beads.



Beading needles come in sizes 10 through 16. The larger the number the thinner the needle. These are the gauges you should work with. Companies gauge their needles differently, so when you buy your beads, you should actually pass the needle through a bead to make sure it will work.The best way to thread the thinner needles is to cut the thread at an angle, then wet the angled end of the thread and the eye of the needle. Use very good light. The best time to thread needles is during the day when the sun is out. Thread all your needles at the same time and stick them in a pin cushion to use later on.


What are findings? They are: bead tips, barrel clasps, hook and eye clasps, spring-rings, jump-ring clasps, and earring hooks. These are attached to your work so that it can be worn.

To attach a clasp to my work, you should usually attach a bead tip to your piece first. The clasp can be added to the bead tip later with a pair of pliers. To attach a bead tip to your piece, position the needle in the main body where you want the clasp to go. Pick up a bead on the needle and pass the needle through the bottom of the bead tip (the hook should be on top). Pick up another bead. Pass the needle through the top of the bead tip, down through the bead and into the main body of the piece. Remember, this is where your piece will take the most stress, so pass the needle back and forth a few times.

Findings can be found in most any bead shop where you buy your beads. Try to get bead tips and attach your clasps to them. It looks more professional that way. Add a drop of jeweler’s glue to the bead resting inside the bead tip for extra holding strength.




This is useful in securing bead tips (see Findings). It should be used as sparingly as possible. Do NOT use Krazy-Glue as it is too runny. A good jeweler’s glue, which can be found at most craft stores, is best.


Use graph paper to work out some of your more complicated designs, especially fringe. My theory is if it can be drawn, it can be done in beadwork. Scientific graph paper works very well for this.


These are useful with graph paper for working out designs. Try to get a wide range of colors.


Useful for holding beads, thread, findings, and needles.


Can be purchased in any five and dime store, or craft store. It is useful for holding your work to the table when you are doing fringe work.


Line the tray with either velours or velvet to help avoid chasing runaway beads.


These are very handy to have around for attaching findings. They can reach into a piece and grab a very short thread end. Although I don’t recommend it, they can also be used to break a bead for removal from a piece.


These should be small and sharp. Manicure scissors work very well.


These are optional. If you don’t have small slender fingers, you may find them handy for picking up beads.


This item works fine for the larger needles but is pretty useless for the smaller ones. It is not really necessary.


This is a nice item to have if its possible. Get the kind that mounts on the side of the table and has an adjustable arm if you can.

Return to Table of Contents

[sam id=7 codes='false']