6 Color Theory Tips to Enhance Your Beading Designs

We have had countless Potomac Bead customers express their frustration with choosing colors for their jewelry projects.  We hear things like “how to choose colors, it’s the hardest part of making jewelry” and “could you help me?  I don’t know where to begin.” As an artist and former art educator, I always enjoy helping people choose colors for their projects. Color happens to be my favorite part of design in general as you can tell from my colorful arm tattoo.


As The Potomac Bead Company continues to grow and evolve into potomacbeads.com and potomacbeads.eu, so does the way we share our knowledge and inspiration with you.  Therefore, I want to share with you some color theory tools that will help you to create new, interesting, and exciting designs.  This will help you get out of the rut of using the same colors over and over. For these tips I will be using a color wheel I made as the main tool in helping choose colors. If you do not have time to make your own, you can purchase a detailed color wheel from us online!

COLOR TIP 1: Primary, Secondary, Triads

The Primary Colors (Red, Yellow, Blue) are “primary” because they are the only colors that can not be made.  When mixed together, the Primary Colors create The Secondary Colors (Orange, Green, Purple).  These colors form the basis for the color wheel.  They also are great examples of Triadic Colors.  Both the Primary Colors and the Secondary Colors create a Triad or triangle with equal sides on the color wheel.  When you want to use three colors in a design consider three colors that form a triangle on the color wheel as depicted.


COLOR TIP 2: Analogous Colors

The color wheel forms a continuous circle of colors that blend from one to the next.  Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel are called Analogous Colors.  For example: If you really enjoy the color Violet for instance but want to use other colors with it, you could choose colors on either side of it (Blue Violet, Blue or Red Violet, Red) to create an Analogous Color Harmony as depicted.


COLOR TIP 3: Complementary Colors

Colors that are directly across from each other on the color wheel are Complementary Colors. For example:  If you want to create a piece of jewelry using mainly blue colors, you may want to

complementaryuse it’s complement orange to add some small pops of color throughout your piece. Every color on the color wheel has a complement, as depicted. What is the complement of your favorite color? Here is a sample of a YouTube video in which we used two complementary colors.



COLOR TIP 4: Split Complementary Colors

The Split Complementary Color Harmony is a twist on Complementary Colors. Instead of choosing the color directly across from another color you choose the two colors on either side of it.  For example:  The main color you are using is Red.  The Complementary Color of Red is Green.  In a Split Complementary Color Harmony you would choose Yellow Green and Blue Green which are on either side of green instead of just green.  Like the Triadic Color Harmony, this gives you three interesting colors to work with.

COLOR TIP 5: Warm and Cool Colors

The color wheel can be divided down the middle into Warm and Cool Colors.  Warm Colors are colors that remind us of things that are hot or warm such as: fire, light, the sun, etc like the SuperDuo mix Autumn Fire (below).  Likewise, Cool Colors are colors that remind us of things that are cool such as: water, ice, rain dripping off leaves, etc. like the DiscDuo Mix Blue Skies (below).  Using a combination of Warm Colors or Cool Colors in your designs can give your piece more depth and interest.

COLOR TIP 6: Neutral Colors

So, what about all the colors you don’t see on this color wheel?  When many colors are mixed together, a Neutral Color can be made such as brown, black, grey, etc.  These colors can be warm or cool depending on the ratio of warm to cool colors used to make them, but they are still considered Neutral.  Neutral Colors are great because they can accent or go with just about any color.  In beading, Neutral Colors can also be gold, silver, and other metallics along with black, grey, brown or white. All these colors can be added into your designs without taking over the whole piece. They can also be used together on their own to create a classic look.

Flexible Colors.jpg

I hope these 6 color theory tips are helpful and that you can add them to your design “toolbox” to give you more confidence in choosing colors and enhance your jewelry projects. If you need more help in choosing your colors, check out Tereza’s blog on choosing colors for your next beading project.   We look forward to gathering your bead orders and seeing your project color selections!  Share your finished projects with us on Facebook! We love to see your work!
– Ashley Krzanowski

What is the ideal necklace length?

What is the ideal necklace length? This is a question that many of us who make jewelry may wonder.  Sometimes a design lends itself to be long or choker style while other designs might have you perplexed. If you are making a piece of jewelry for yourself, the simple task of holding the piece up in front a mirror may lead you to realize what length you want to create.  However, what if you are making the necklace as a gift?  People come in all different shapes and sizes and finding the right necklace length can be difficult.  So, with the help of the chart below, let’s go over different lengths of necklaces and where they may fall on the female body.

Necklace Length Where it sits on the body
14” Necklace -35cm Fits like a choker above the clavicle bone
16” Necklace – 40cm Hits at the base of the neck like a collar
18” Necklace – 45cm  Just below the throat at the Collarbone
20” Necklace – 50cm  Falls a few inches below the Collarbone
22” Necklace – 56cm Often hits between the chest
24” Necklace – 61cm Lays on the neckline
36” Necklace – 91cm Hangs at the base of the bra

A 14” necklace length is known as a choker.  Caution, this is a very small measurement and will fit most adult women “like a choker” – hence the name.  If you are creating for someone, and want to achieve a smaller fit,  it is better to go a size up to the “princess” length necklace which is 16”. Many high-end retailers, such as Tiffany’s, will sell this size as their shortest available measurement.  On a plus size woman, this will mostlike fit as a choker.  However, I am a 5’5″ female with aspirations to stay around 135lbs. and I love the 16″ length.  I prefer this length to wear with many of my clothes and make most of the designs that I create (those featured on the Potomac Bead Company YouTube Channel) 16 inches (40cm) long.  For many this is too short and the shortest length they will wear is an 18” or what is commonly referred to as “the standard” necklace length.  An 18” necklace is a great option if you are adding or considering to add a pendant.  This length fits nicely over most crew neck shirts, but is not so long that a pendant will get lost at the base of a V neck shirt — between the ladies ;). At potomacbeads.com, most of the pre-finished necklaces we stock are available in the 18″ length since that is the most popular necklace length.

necklace length

Now we get into longer lengths.  20-24” necklaces will fall right at or below the neckline and look the best when worn with low plunging shirts/dresses or over turtlenecks and sweaters.  I tend to like the drama of a long or short necklace and do not have many that I have created or wear at this in-between length.  More often, many of the accessories that I create are “opera length” and are 36” or longer.  These longer lengths have been very popular in the boho style which is featured in many of my videos including the “Boho Druzy Necklace”.  Many of the designs that are longer than 36” can be worn long or doubled around the neck to create the illusion of two necklaces. I love to create or add a tassel on the bottom of these long necklaces to give movement to the look.  Long, opera necklaces are also a great gift since the length will fit every body type and size. Additionally, many of these do not require a clasp and can easily be put on over the head.

What about male necklace lengths?

In addition to the standard sizes listed above for woman, there are also standard necklace lengths for men.  Keep in mind that men, just like woman, will vary in size. Your male model (wearing the piece) maybe average, small, or more the size of Fabio or better yet, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson which will affect the fit of the necklace.  Below is a chart like the one above to help create the perfect male jewelry fit!

Necklace Length Position on the Body
18″ Necklace – 45cm Sits at the base of the neck (for smaller neck sizes).
20″ Necklace – 50cm Reaches the collarbone (most common length for average men).
22″ Necklace – 56cm Falls a few inches below the collarbone.
24″ Necklace – 61cm Reaches just above the sternum.

Before testing the length for a male neck, also ask if the male will actually wear the necklace.  There are very few designs that men, my husband included, is willing to sport around town.  Most male jewelry and specifically necklaces, tend to include leather and metal and are geared to fit at the collarbone.  If you want to see some “male approved supplies” you can check them out here! 

Kids have necks too!

We have covered women and men but I thought, being a mom, I would also take a look at average kid size suggestions.  If you thought men and women were hard to size, try sizing a necklace for a child.  Children vary soooo much in size that these are just as stated above, suggestions.  I used my 4 children to test these lengths which hit below the throat.

Child’s age Necklace length
0 – 1 years 8 to 12 inches (20-25cm)
1 – 3 years 10 to 12 inches (25-30cm)
3 – 7 years 12 to 14 inches (30-35cm)
7 – 10 years 14 to 16 inches (35-40cm)

Also, it is no surprise that kids grow quickly! You may want to add chain at the end of the design to make an extender so the necklace can grow with them.  Also, keep in mind that stretchy string may be a good option!

So what length is the right length?

Above all else, make and wear what feels comfortable and is a compliment to your current fashion status. If you are still struggling, make a couple samples to get the look and feel of the different lengths.  In our Ocean City, NJ location they have samples ready to try on to get a better idea of the desired measurement before beginning a design. Additionally, if you are creating your own piece, a bead board with measurements may aid in your length making decision.

OC Necklace Lengths

Also, fashions change.  When I was 16, chokers where all the rage.  If you looked at a runway model or even a mom with 4 kids hustling to get out of a grocery store, they were wearing chokers.  But that was 1999.  For the last 15 years only teenagers and goth enthusiasts seemed to wear necklaces tightly around their necks.  But like all things fashion, the trends come back!  I currently writing this while wearing a 14” natural turquoise necklace that I love and only took minutes to make since it is short!


So with all of this in mind, how do you decide?  Try it on!  Even if a piece is purchased or designed with a friend, husband, or child in mind, the charts above are suggestions.  Think about the person the necklace will be worn by and their body size and shape. What is the most flattering necklace length on that person and do they already have a tendency toward one length over another?  Woman that are older tend to gravitate toward a longer necklace while a teen will more likely wear a choker or princess length. Finally, keep in mind that a chain, beaded necklace, lanyard or other piece may have started at a specific length… but you can always lengthen or shorten it!  There are several YouTube videos I have created to show you how to fix a broken chain and shorten a necklace! If you make your own jewelry, making a piece the exact length and size you desire is part of the joy!  Relish the process and do not stress about the length!

Allie Buchman 



The Top 18 Beads of 2018

Potomac Bead Company discusses which brands and shapes of beads were most popular at the end of 2017, and beginning of 2018.

Each year we are asked at www.PotomacBeads.com “what are the most popular new products?”  Fortunately, we have a lot of data that helps to answer this question.

While these products are going to be based on sales volume, keep in mind that customer preferences still vary significantly.  What one person likes and uses might be completely different from what another individual might prefer.  Still, this information is drawn from the meta data from the past 12 months.  Some of these shapes might become even more popular in 2018, while others may dwindle… we will take a look again in 2019 at how things have changed!

1) AVA Beads
First produced by Potomac Bead Company in December 2016, this totally new bead shape has revolutionized creative shapes.  Each bead is hand pressed to create the thin and delicate profile.  Each AVA bead has 3 holes, size 10mm, and available in packs of 20.  Even in 2018, popularity for this fun AVA shape is still growing, and we expect AVA Beads to stay at #1 or 2 through 2019.  Browse here for projects using the AVA Bead.  In Europe, get AVA beads here.

2) ZoliDuo Beads
The paisley shaped ZoliDuo bead began making waves in the beading market in early 2018.  With both a left and a right version, this 2-hole bead offers some fun varieties of projects that you will love to make.  Each bead has a flat side and a puffed side.  5x8mm ZoliDuo right and left beads are sold in tubes of approximately 50 beads. In Europe, get ZoliDuo beads here.ZoliDuo Beads

3) IrisDuo Beads
IrisDuo beads were first produced by Potomac Bead Company in July 2017.  (In Europe get IrisDuo here).  This fun marquise 2-hole shape plays well with an incredible variety of other two hole beads, including each of Potomac’s other exclusive shapes.  One side is flat, and the other side is puffed.  Each bead is size 7x4mm, and contains approximately 50 beads per tube.  Need IrisDuo inspiration?
Slider - IrisDuo Launch

4) RounDuo® Beads
RounDuo® beads are one of Potomac Bead Company’s original shapes, released in 2014.  The RounDuo® is among the most useful 2-hole beads on the market, because it can be used with almost ANYTHING.  Each pack of RounDuo® contain 75 beads, and you can also get factory packs of 600.  You can find many dozens of patterns and tutorials with 5mm RounDuo® beads here.  You can also get RounDuo beads in Europe here.Slider-RounDuo4

5) DiscDuo® Beads
Potomac Bead Company’s 2-hole 6mm DiscDuo bead offers a puffed coin/disc shape that also makes a great replacement for any other 2-hole 6mm bead design (honeycomb, 2H Cab, etc.).  This popular bead has been produced by Potomac Bead Company since 2015, and is available in tubes of 50, or factory packs of 600. Get DiscDuo jewelry patterns here.  Find DiscDuo beads in Europe here.Slider - DiscDuo

6) SuperDuo Beads
SuperDuo beads are among the original 2-hole beads that re-launched multi-hole bead weaving in 2011/2012.  This fun oval shape is pinched at both ends, allowing for a wide variety of flexibility in any design.  You can find thousands of patterns and tutorials using SuperDuo… particularly given how easy it is to use them with a wide variety of other bead shapes.  Each tube of SuperDuo beads contain approximately 175 beads.
Slider - SuperDuo

7) RounTrio® Beads
RounTrio® beads are another Potomac brand.  The RounTrio can serve like a larger RounDuo® bead, but also offers a third center hole should that be required for designs.  The RounTrio® also features both a smooth and a faceted RounTrio® (fire polished) version, making it the only fire polished multi-hole Czech bead.  RounTrio® beads are available in both packs of 50 & 300, and offer a wide variety of patterns.
Slider - RounTrio Beads
8) O Beads
Czech O beads make the perfect spacer for nearly any type of projects, whether you are stringing or beadweaving.  These beads have been available since 2013, but continue to be a favorite each and every year.  Each tube of O beads contains approximately 285 2x4mm beads.
Slider - O beads
9) DiamonDuo® Beads
The DiamonDuo ® bead has been very popular in recent years because it offers a faceted look to a 2-hole Czech bead.  This 5x8mm shape comes in tubes of approximately 56 beads, and you can find a wide variety of DiamonDuo® patterns here.
Slider - New DiamonDuo
10) 2-Hole Cabochons (Cabs)
Flat on one side and domed on the other, this 2-hole cabochon shape gives you a lot of flexibility in designs.  You can also use RounTrio beads in nearly any design that would call for a 2-hole cabochon.  Keep in mind there are 2 different sizes of 2H Cabs from two different suppliers.  The original cabochon is 6mm, and comes in tubes of approximately 30 beads.  The later 7mm Czechmates cabochon comes in packs of 25.  There is also now a 7mm “Baroque 2-Hole Cabochon,” also available in packs of 25.
Slider - 2-Hole Cabs 2

11) Arcos® Par Puca®
Arcos® Par Puca® are a unique 5x10mm 3-hole curved shape with a moon/macaroni/telephone shape.  Each tube of Arcos® contains approximately 34 beads.  Have fun with this unique Czech glass shape with all of these Arcos® jewelry-making patterns.
Arcos Par Puca
12) Tiles
CzechMates 2-hole 6mm tiles are another essential building block for dimensional beading.  Tiles are often used as base elements for a variety of bead weaving techniques.  Tubes of tiles contain approximately 42 beads.
Slider - Czechmates Tiles

13) MiniDuo Beads
MiniDuo beads are the smaller version (2x4mm) of the SuperDuo bead (2.5x5mm).  See this video that highlights the differences.  Each tube of MiniDuo beads contains approximately 190 beads.  Here is also a list of MiniDuo patterns.
MiniDuo Beads 180 Colors

14) Crescent Beads
Crescent beads are an incredibly fun orange slice/crescent moon shaped 2-hole Czech 3x10mm glass bead from CzechMates.  The Crescent was launched in February 2015, and we have loved creating beading patterns with this shape.  Each tube of Crescents contains approximately 75 beads per tube.
Slider - Crescent Beads 2

15) BowTrio Beads
Potomac Bead Company just launched the BowTrio in December of 2017, and within just a few months it had already become one of the fastest selling beads in company history.  A whole entire fun new line of metal beads is currently under production, and each will offer incredible opportunities just like this 3-hole 18x4mm shape.
Slider - BowTrio

16) Cali Beads
Cali beads offer a marquise shaped bead with the holes through its thicker profile.  These 3x8mm beads just came out in early 2017, and contain approximately 50 beads per tube.
Slider - Cali Beads New Colors

17) Kheops® Par Puca®
Kheops® beads and designs have been available since around 2013 (we don’t remember the exact date) and feature a 2 parallel holes through the equilateral sides.  The 6mm Kheops® shape is also available in a version called the “SuperKheops®”, which features a 3-sided pyramid style of pointed profile on one side.
Slider - Kheops New

18) 2-Hole Bar
The Czechmates 2-hole bar is another fun 2-hole staple that provides a great spacer or base component in beadweaving designs.  Each 2x6mm 2-Hole bar is approximately 1/2 the thickness of a brick, and 1/4 the thickness of a tile.   Like many of the top 18 shapes before it, you can find many tutorials and patterns that utilize the bar.
CzechMates 2-Hole Bars

In addition to the most popular current shapes, we are projecting that most of the following beads will rise in popularity through the rest of this year, and will likely make the top seller lists in 2019.  If you like to be on top of the latest trends, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of these awesome new shapes before anyone else!  In no particular order:

This will be Potomac Bead Company’s first exclusive shape of 2018, and is scheduled to become available in April.  Lots of designs are in the works, and we predict that this will be a top 3 shape by the end of the year!  StormDuo beads will be available in tubes of 80 beads, or factory packs of 600 beads.  For EU, get them here.
StormDuo 3
A 2-hole drop shape bead available in the 3x6mm regular version, and a larger puffed, 4x7mm rounded top version.  Many of these colors have just arrived in the past week.
Slider - DropDuo Beads 2

Amos Par Puca
Like the DropDuo, the Amos is a 2-hole drop shape, but both flat and larger than either DropDuo style.  This size is 5x8mm and tubes contain approximately 45 beads.
Slider - Amos Par Puca

DiamonDuo Mini
The smaller version (4x6mm) of the DiamonDuo bead (5x8mm) is now here.  Not only does it work well with the original DiamonDuo, but the new size gives you a lot of flexibility with approximately 110 beads per tube.
Slider - DiamonDuo Mini

2-Hole Spacer Bezel
This Potomac Bead Company 2-hole metal bead has a setting for SS24 chatons.  You can quickly add beautiful crystal bezeled looks to your projects with these awesome beads.
Email - 2-Hole Spacer Bezel

S-Shape Snake
This of Potomac Bead Company’s new metal bead shapes being developed.  These fun high quality Zamak metal beads add a beautiful and wear-resistant metallic look to your projects.  We have generally been producing these metal beads in shapes that would not be possible with glass.

What shapes are your favorites?  As always, it is the customers and designers that determine what shapes become popular, and which do not.  Hopefully this list helps you determine what to prioritize when you are shopping for new supplies.

Happy beading!

-Nathan Buchman
Co-Founder, Potomac Bead Company

Bead Weaving Supplies 101

You may be new to beading (jewelry-making) and wonder what you need to to start beading as a hobby.  Perhaps you are an experienced beader but would like to share this knowledge with a friend… in either case, this article is just for you.

While there is an extensive range of excellent products available at The Potomac Bead 2242-2TCompany (www.potomacbeads.com and www.potomacbeads.eu), this article will help you to understand key items for beginners below.  Even if you ultimately choose to purchase one of  our pre-assembled beginner kits, it is essential to understand what these items are, and why we chose to include them.

In the vast world of jewelry making, the term “findings” is a comprehensive and  historical term, encompassing the multitude of components used to create finished jewelry.  The actual manufacturing and production of these findings is an entirely different and precursory step involving skilled artisans and tradespeople, blowing glass, shaping raw metals, and numerous other crafts.  Finally, the art of finished jewelry creation itself can be subdivided further; major types include wire working, leather working, stringing, and bead weaving.  Weaving can be done by loom or freehand (off-loom).  My passion is for off-loom bead weaving, so we will discuss those supplies here.

While one may spend hours browsing the endless supply of beads including our Potomac Exclusives, the other findings for a “basic starter kit” for beading should be simple and brief to gather.  Please note that when following one of our PBC video tutorials  or PDF patterns additional, specific materials may be required such as a particular size, width or color.

  • Bead Mat: the surface you will work on which literally helps keep your materials from1380-1 rolling away.  A common simple rectangular piece of felt will suffice.  These come in a variety of random colors like white, cream, blue, yellow or pink.  Bead Mats folds easily and without wrinkles for transport.  Potomac Bead Company also now stocks handmade Bead On It Boards 

    in various sizes, shapes and fabric designs.  The traditional grey plastic tray can also be  helpful for laying out and measuring design patterns.

  • NEEDLES: All needles are not created equally especially the size of the eye.  The important point here is to have a good quality beading needle that has enough flexibility for the novice hand but will not bend enough to warp the shape permanently.  It should also be long enough to firmly grasp anywhere but the sharp point.  As far as stringing,

    it will take some practice but size 10 is a good place to start, especially if avoiding the tiny 15.0 beads at first (requiring the thinner and more delicate size 12).  These days here at PBC we are fond of Pony needles, but we also stock and use other reputable brands, like Tulip Needles, John James, Big Eye, and Beadalon. Large eye needles do exist, but can be difficult to use and often produce more minor blood-letting  (aka finger pricks).  You will be better served by learning to thread needles, even if that requires some patience!


  • THREAD: There are many brands and types and we carry a wide selection here10407-2 at Potomac Bead Company. However, for the beginner, Beadalon Wildfire .006” (.15mm) is a versatile, yet hardy choice — one that fairly easy threads a size 10 needle.  It is thermally bonded and, for most basic projects, does not require waxing.  Aside from the standard black and white (usually known as frost or crystal) that are found in many stores, we also carry red, blue, grey, and green. Along with the different colors, there are differing lengths as well (50 and 125 yards).  We suggest starting with a 50 yard spool of white, black, grey, or green and testing to see how you like it.  Other thread choices will include Fireline, KO/Miyuki Thread, Hana Thread, One-G, Sono, and S-lon/C-lon.


  • BEAD SCOOP: The Scoop Eez an essential tool1381-1 used to easily gather, scoop, and control the beads on your mat.  Tweezers can usually wait beyond the beginner stage.


  • TOOL TO CUT WITH: Scissors can be quite small and portable (like the Slip-N-Snip.)1470  Thread cutters with covers are inexpensive but may lack the smooth and precise cutting blade/edge.  More experienced beaders may use a handy tool called a Thread Zapper  which cThread Zap IIan be used to cut a variety of threads and cording.


  • GLUE: Super New Glue is perfect for adding a drop to a knotted2927 end when finishing a project. It dries rapidly; just beware of its other adhesive properties if it ends up on skin (think Crazy or nail glue).  I would not recommend other types of craft adhesives on thread.


  • CLOSURES (CLASPS/TOGGLES/BUTTONS): Unless you plan to make a continuous Product Spotlight - New Cup Buttonsnecklace to fit over your head, some kind of connection  is needed between the two ends of your beading project when worn.  I would start with our 2-hole Cup Buttons  which come in many colors and hues.  You can even start with a variety pack of colors that will give you a lot of flexibility in your designs.  Cup buttons can also be used as beads.


  • BEADS: Once you have all of the basic tools, beads choices become the rest of your decisions.  I would recommend starting with a few colors of size 8/0 and 11/0 Miyuki Seed Beads.  Other simple one holed beads are the Czech Pearls or Faceted Rounds, which come in many different colors and finishes.  Sizes 3mm, 4mm, and 6mm will be most commonly used in patterns.  Likewise, Swarovski/Preciosa bicones will come in similar sizes and are also used in a lot of beginner projects.  Multi-holed beads are also extremely popular, but you might want avoid them as a beginner, until you feel more comfortable with the needle and thread.  Once you do, there are hundreds of patterns and tutorials from which you can choose which beads to start with!czech fire

                                                                                                                                          STITCHES: You may also wonder “what stitches are best for me to start with?”  There are a variety of different weaving stitches, and many projects will use multiple ones.  To start, we recommend you learn the following four stitches:

1) Flat Spiral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTopJQR4fME
2) Peyote Stitch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHEmbuoneiM
3) Flat Herringbone Stitch:

4) Right Angle Weave (this is a good start project for RAW):   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWwwhEjmxns

When you have mastered these four stitches, you can begin experimenting with variations on each of them, including tubular versions.  The sky is the limit now, and you will love growing as a jewelry-maker.

Remember, we are here for questions and advice. Happy beading!

-Kimrie at Potomac Bead Company

Seed Bead Sizing in the 21st Century

Recently, in the Potomac Bead Company’s private Facebook group, someone asked “What does the number mean when referencing seed beads?” So I set out to answer the sizing question in depth during a Facebook live session…

I work with these little marvels of glass every day and still had to do some research before having a detailed answer to provide fellow beaders.  Traditionally speaking, the number associated with the size of the seed bead has been explained to me time and time again as the number of beads per inch.  For example, in the 1800s when the sizing was loosely standardized, an 11/0 seed bead meant that there were approximately 11 tiny glass beads per inch, 8/0 has 8, ect.  However, that was in the 1800s.  Today production has become much more technologically advanced and precise, so these classic figures are no longer accurate.

In the pictures above, you can see the early 1900; Vintage strung seed beads (left) versus the Japanese, Miyuki 11/0 seed beads (right) in current production.  Notice how the vintage seed beads are so inconsistent in size and even in shape compared to the modern Japanese beads. Obviously, this will affect the actual size of the beads even though they may both be labeled as 11/0 seed beads.

After sharing this information, I had a comment on the Live video (https://www.facebook.com/PotomacBeadCompany/videos/10156140203078578/) that stated the measurement should be done with the beads lying hole side sitting up.  I have never heard this as a measurement standard but thought I would look into it and do a little testing myself.  I could not find any historical information that verified this point of view, BUT, when laid on their side, the seed beads did have the number per inch closer to their size descriptions.  This is still not an accurate number.  For example, the Miyuki brand size 11/0 (which I tend to prefer) have 13 beads per inch when measured this way.  There is also historical thinking that the actual size of seed beads may have been named after the size of metal rod being used to create them.  Again we do not have significant data to determine this one way or the other.

For all design purposes however, I prefer to know the number of beads per inch when strung… after all it is the thickness of a bead that will generally determine how it works in a pattern.   Determining these measurements will answer the next question, “are different brands of seed beads interchangeable in patterns?”

With this in mind, I set out to determine how accurate are the numbers associated with the sizing of seed beads — How do different seed beads vary by the most popular manufactures?  I took a head pin and grabbed a tube of each of the post popular sizes, and further the different sizes across brands.  The cart and pictures below show the results of this stringing.  Obviously, there was a difference in the number of beads per inch by sizes, but also by manufacturer.

Czech Seed Beads Matubo Beads & Miyuki Delicas Sizing

Toho 8/0 = 13 beads per inch
Toho 11/0 = 17 beads per inch
Toho 15/0 = 22 beads per inch
Toho Demi Round 8/0 = 21 beads per inch Toho Demi Round 11/0 =
26 beads per inch
Miyuki 8/0 = 13 beads per inch
Miyuki 11/0 = 19 beads per inch
Miyuki 15/0 = 24 beads per inch
Miyuki Spacer 8/0 = 21 beads per inch Miyuki Spacer 11/0 = 27 beads per inch
Czech 8/0 = 15 beads per inch Czech 11/0 = 19 beads per inch Czech Charlottes 15/0 = 28 beads per inch Czech O Beads = 21 beads per inch
Matubo 8/0 = 12 beads per inch Miyuki 11/0 Delicas = 20 beads per inch

The difference in the number of beads per inch varied enough for me to conclude that there is not an actual industry standard, rather a manufacturer standard for each size.  Yes, an 11/0 seed bead is roughly the same size across the board, but there are slight size differences.  In additional to a slight difference in the size of the beads and number per inch by manufacturer, the hole sizes of the beads also differ based on brand.  Across all of their sizes, Toho seed beads have a larger hole then the competitor brands, (Miyuki and the Czech seed beads). This means that the wall of the seed bead is generally more cylindrical on a Toho seed bead vs. a Miyuki seed bead of the “same” size.   Additionally, due to this larger hole, the Toho 15/0 seed bead is much less rounded then the Miyuki 15/0 and looks more cylindrical.

Miyuki and Toho Seed Bead Sizing Per Inch

The biggest variation of the size is actually in the smallest bead.  The 15/0 size seed bead has the greatest variance in the number of beads per inch based on the manufacturer.  Why does this matter? For most projects, Toho and Miyuki brand seed beads size 8/0 & 11/0 can be used interchangeably with very little impact on the final look of the piece.  However, I have found that the difference in the shape and the size of the 15/0 seed bead can impact the design.  Therefore, if a pattern calls for a specific brand of 15/0 seed, this will make a significant impact on the design of the piece.

Also, while testing out the size  8, 11, and 15 sized seed beads I also grabbed a tube of the newer, thinner, Demi Rounds by Toho and the Spacer Beads by Miyuki.  These two beads are a slimmer versions of their most popular sizes, the  8/0 and 11/0.  They are essentially, the original seed bead sliced in half.  Fortunately in this case, the sizes are almost identical.  This makes it very easy to use a Demi Round in place of a Spacer bead or vice versa.

O Beads Demi Round & Spacers Sizing

Similar in shape to the Toho Demi Round and the Miyuki Spacer bead is the Czech O Bead.  While measuring and testing which beads are interchangeable, I also examined how many of the O beads stack in an inch to compare it the Japanese versions.

I also tested the Miyuki Delica bead in 11/0.  The Delica bead is, in my option, the most precise bead manufactured and has little to no imperfections in a tube.  The Delica bead is tubular in shape vs. the more rounded shape of a standard seed bead.  Miyuki Delica does not have a real replacement option when a pattern calls for it to be used.  Do not attempt to use any other 11/0 seed bead because it will not have the same look and may not work for many patterns.

Overall, finding out how many seed beads where in an inch across the major brands and sizes is incredibly helpful. While the number of beads per inch may not be exactly 8, 11, 15 ect. the sizes across the brands is fairly consistent.  In many patterns, designs or ideas, Toho, Miyuki, & Matubo (Czech) seed beads will be fairly interchangeable.  Regardless of how the idea for seed bead “8/0” “11/0” “15/0” sizing evolved over several hundred years, I am very happy we have sooo many styles of seed beads today.  These tiny beauties are the fuel to our creativity, and the bead world would not be the same without them!

Happy beading!

-Allie Buchman



Miyuki Bead Sizing Chart:
Miyuki Beads

Toho Bead Sizing Chart:
Toho Beads