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 Company (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 from 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 here 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 tool 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.) 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 can be used to cut a variety of threads and cording.
- GLUE: Super New Glue is perfect for adding a drop to a knotted 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 necklace 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!
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:
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